Minimizing Foal Stress Levels in the Breeding Shed

What would be the best plan for handling a foal whose dam is being covered by a stallion?

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Minimizing Foal Stress Levels in the Breeding Shed
Leaving a foal on the trailer or in a stall outside the breeding shed can work for some mare and foal pairs. There is some research suggesting that having a person stay with the foal can reduce its signs of stress. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Q.What would be the best plan for minimizing foal stress levels in the breeding shed when his dam is being covered by a stallion? Every farm seems to have their own way of handling the foal during live cover.

In one facility I worked at the foal was kept in a padded pen in the corner of the breeding shed. That was pretty good in that you knew it was safe and contained, except that the foals I saw in that setup fussed the whole time, mostly calling and trying to climb out of the pen. And when the stallion mounted the mare, some foals seemed to become frantic. And then everyone got upset. Another way I’ve seen is to have a person hold the foal off to the side of the breeding shed. That also was usually okay at first, but it was difficult to calm the foal after it got upset about the stallion jumping on the mom.

Both ways seemed pretty upsetting for the foal, and it could not be helpful for the mare to be concerned about her stressed foal. Some farms say that’s why they like to have the foal in the trailer or in a stall far away from the breeding area or even leave it back at the mare’s farm

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Written by:

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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