Weaning time. There comes a time when it needs to be done. None of the participants look forward to this. The mares make you feel guilty. The babies make you worry that they will get too stressed and do “something stupid” like crawling over a fence or not eat. Stressful time for everyone. Even the other horses in the herd dislike it.
This year we were ahead of the game. The babies had been “on feed” (eating the hay and oats they would be getting when weaned) for a few weeks now. Things were going well.
We always have great intentions of bringing the babies in everyday and separating them from their moms for a few minutes and giving them some of the second cut hay and oats they will be dining on when weaned. Usually all the fall work intervenes.
This year Josie, our oldest broodmare was having trouble keeping weight on. All the rest were plenty fat so we knew it wasn’t a food issue. Hauled her to the vet and got 3 loose teeth removed. Apparent injury.
Of course she needed extra feed to get her weight back up. She was also nursing a colt who could use a little extra fat too. So every day we would bring Josie and Levi in to eat some extra calories, specifically the nice second cut hay and some oats that were already in stock in preparation for weaning, a bit of senior horse ration and some oil.
Laredo and Lucy, the other colt and filly figured out in a day or two that they wanted in there too. Josie is the boss mare and would be standing at the gate in the morning with 3 foals. No other horses dared push too close to Josie in the corner so it was a simple matter of opening the gate and letting them in.
So we did an amazing job of getting the babies used to their new diet this year and were feeling pretty good about weaning time. They had become independent, so independent in fact that they would come and visit if I was working in the barn without their moms. They were coming home from the pasture with other herd members than the broodmares. They were ready. The weather was about to change. Best to do this deed in good weather.
Decided to put Josie and the babies in the weaning pen for a few days or as long as Josie wanted to be there. They hadn’t been in this pen since they were tiny babies in the spring.
They raced about happily.
They climbed the mountain.
Checked later. Pretty quiet. Lucy and Laredo were answering their moms’ calls but really pretty calm. We were already labeling this one of the best weanings ever.
Maybe I should have been suspicious when I saw Laredo was buddying up to his “foster” mom but it was nice that everyone was settled in so nicely.
Checked at dawn. Pretty quiet.
Went to feed after breakfast. Very quiet. Except for the slurping noises as the two foals who don’t belong to Josie were having breakfast. Yup Lucy and Laredo were lined up on each side of Josie sucking away while her own colt Levi stood in the background. She looked really proud about how well she could look after all her charges.
Just what the old, underweight mare needed. More babies sucking her. Well, luckily the babies spent a good part of their time this summer being babysat by the yearling Oreo. She is really good to them. They like her. Pretty sure she isn’t going to like them sucking on her so they will actually get weaned. She is moving in and Josie is moving out.
Josie is demanding that we put her back with the colts and we are carefully slinking around the yard so she doesn’t see us. I feel like a kidnapper. LOL