There are many ways to wean foals. Bob Coleman, MS, PhD, PAS, an equine extension specialist at the University of Kentucky, says there are basically two methods–abrupt weaning and gradual weaning.
"Whether you put the foals in a pen and take the mares away, or take mares one at a time out of a herd, this is abrupt weaning," says Coleman. "The mare is removed, taken out of sight and sound. In a herd, however, a foal still has the security of his herdmates, so it’s not as stressful as putting him by himself."
Traditional Pen Weaning
The Pitchfork Ranch near Guthrie, Texas, has 80 broodmares, raising foals for cattle work on the ranch. Manager Bob Moorhouse says they wean foals about the same way the ranch has done it the past 100 years. Foals are born in April and May and weaned in January, and mares are placed in breeding groups in early summer. When stud bands are rounded up in July to take the stallions out, foals are handled and halter broken.
"They’re about two months old and easy to halter break at that age," says Moorhouse. "We play with them about two weeks, then brand them and turn them back out. The mares and foals are put together in one big pasture for the rest of the year.
"We take more time with the halter breaking than we used to, and we do the branding gentler," he adds. "We used to throw the foals down and brand them, but now we sedate them and let them stand in the chute. It’s easier on them and leaves them with a better memory. You don’t want branding to be their final memory about being handled."