That Dream In which You Buy a Foal and Bring It On to Take on The World

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Do you think it is safe to say, that at least once in a life as a horse person we thought about buying a foal and train it by ourselves to create the perfect equine friend just for us? I certainly remember my 13 year old self having such a want and had I the conditions to bring on a foal I would probably succumb to my teenage dream at the earliest possible moment 😉

Fetas

Fetas, my super boy on a training trip in the summer 1995 (I think!)

There was a time when I was very much into breeding knowledge. I loved reading everything about genetics and studied various lines, mostly jumping ones at the time, wanting to know what crosses created what offspring. I owned a licensed Trakehner stallion in my teens (the perfect schoolmaster I learnt a lot from) and was a member of regional club of Polish Horse Breeding Association that met quarterly and chatted about all things, well, breeding.

I always looked through the photos of the mares thinking which one would make a good match for Fetas and as he was an older horse, my plan was to breed a youngster by him to keep and compete.

Alas, my knowledge hunger moved from breeding to actual husbandry and I realised very quickly that I had no conditions in a sports oriented stables to rise a healthy, well socialised foal.

Interestingly, Fetas did go on to a stud to breed but proved infertile. I was somewhat surprised as he covered a mare on a yard I was at one day (due to stupidity of youth and two girls letting a mare and a stallion go for a “run” in the same field – “since they always travel to shows together just fine”…yes, I know..we were severely lacking common sense it seems!) and she did breed a foal (she didn’t accept it and it died a few days after he was born).

But I digress.

My fascination with training of young horses got me to various dealing yards where I backed and ridden different breeds and witnessed handling of weaned foals and yearlings. Those experiences taught me that to bring on a foal so he/she becomes a great adult horse requires few basic elements…

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1. The best mare we can afford to get…

By this I don’t mean she needs to have a Grand Prix/top record in whatever discipline we want to flourish. Taking on the World means something different to different horse people and the mare needs to shine the qualities we are after. Good stallion is important but the right mare is the key.

Personally, I want the mare to be strict but caring, patient but confident in what she likes and what she doesn’t, people friendly and brave. I will say here though that I once took on a mare with her 2 year old filly and an unborn foal. The mare disliked people immensely. It took me 4 months to even be able to groom her without having to constantly monitor her front and back…

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She disliked being touched or even looked at. However, her 2 year old filly was a dream to handle, became friendly very quickly and was the easiest horse I ever backed. The later born foal also grew into a confident, extrovert people oriented youngster so nervous and distrusting mare could have become so due to her previous environment rather than her real make up.

Oops, digression again. Exceptions aside, I prefer a mare with friendly outlook and level headed approach to life. Good conformation and movement are high on my list too due to soundness that usually goes with both.

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2. The right place for the foal to grow up in

My preference is rough but safe lifestyle for a foal and youngster. The manicured lawns for thoroughbreds look fabulous on the photos but I’d rather see youngsters being challenged balance and movement wise. There is a place I go to in Cheshire where I see foals grazing on hills and on different terrain – that’s what I would be personally after. Sand, grass, woodchip, gravel, unlevel ground – all this develops proprioception and athleticism both of which are the key to a good riding horse whose muscles, ligaments and tendons are to be ready to carry the rider safely and in a healthy manner.

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3. The right company

The best weanlings and youngsters I have worked with came from breeders where mares graze together with offsprings of similar age. I do believe this is vital for how our relationship with the horse develops later in the horse’s life. There are of course exceptions where hand reared and single kept youngsters grow up without any issues but on the whole, I prefer that the horse learns his equine etiquette from the herd he is in. He can get reprimanded, accepted, rejected, played with and groomed by and all this shapes character and trainability.

Many cocky youngsters who disrespect personal space and don’t accept “herd rules” come from environment were they did not experience those vital first lessons.

bacco and foals

There is also the play factor. Playing is learning, training, stimulation and contentment all rolled into one great activity. Interaction with others of the same or similar age can rarely be matched by addition of other animals like goats or donkeys.

So there, I look forward to breeding or buying my own foal one day when I can fulfil those 3 key factors . Do you? 🙂 What’s your take on buying a foal to bring on?

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14 thoughts on “That Dream In which You Buy a Foal and Bring It On to Take on The World

  1. You already know that I want to do this 🙂 I don’t think I want to breed my own: I think if I did that, I would have enormous expectation of the genetics of the foal, and would constantly be watching it as it grew to determine whether it would reach my gold medal-winning aspirations or not. My hope would be to produce a well-mannered and pleasant horse that I could enjoy riding, rather than a jumping machine due to who their parents were.

    I agree with you regarding the environment a foal should be weaned in, and that it’s more important for the dam to impart knowledge and personality in terms of manners than it is for her to be a beauty queen of a mare. I think that’s where breeding has recently taken several steps forward: it’s now possible to create Super Foals, due to embryo transfer – so the genetic parents are of the highest quality in order to hopefully produce a champion, but the foal is grown inside and then raised by a surrogate dam who is the traditional good mother, a horse who hopefully won’t reject the foal, and also so that the biological dam can begin her reproductive career whilst maintaining her competitive career – she’s too posh to push 😉

    I’ve always wanted a foal more than I want children, and although I’m sure there is the potential for it to be a heartbreaking and frustrating experience, I also think that it could be incredibly rewarding.

    • “Too posh to push” – that’s a good one hehe

      Yes I remember your goals and I see no reason why you can’t go ahead 🙂
      I agree with the potential for everything to go very wrong though. Have seen friends dreams being crushed from various issues with the foals, heartbreaking.

      I do think that in the right circumstances and with the right help on hand rising a foal to a career of choice would be a fabulous training/education
      journey 🙂

  2. I bought Bella at just under a year old, no-one else has ever even sat on her, she is all my own work and she is my dream horse – in fact she’s exceeded my dreams and they’ve got bigger because of her. I bought my Andalusian youngster at 7 months old and he is showing every sign of following in Bella’s footsteps (so far anyway – he won’t be 3 until August).

    I’m very lucky though as I have my own yard and plenty of choice as to turnout, stabling and company for my youngsters.

    I don’t think anything can ever beat the satisfaction of training your own horse right from the start!!

  3. All the cute pictures of foals playing made my day. First, I am chuckling at you turning out your stallion with a mare. Oh my! Also, my second horse was an Appaloosa weanling I won through a 4-H essay contest. I didn’t have the experience to start a young horse, but thankfully my farrier was a retired cavalry officer from World War II and suburban cowboy. He got her going very nicely. I don’t know if I would ever have another foal. If my life circumstances were different, maybe. They’re definitely more work than puppies!

    • They are fabulous aren’t they? 🙂 It’s a horse that a young instructor who works with my Aspire programme in Poland has in for training 🙂 He’s 4 years old now, we must take a then and now photos!

      We were bonkers with mare and stallion indeed. We hand grazed them having them on lunge lines but then thought oh well, we are just here and they barely look at each other…so we unclipped the lines 😉 They spooked at something and ran to the other side of the turn out behind the indoor arena. They were literally gone from our view for 5 minutes but it was enough for them 😉

      I can’t believe you actually won a horse in an essay contest!

  4. The ignorance of youth!!! That is funny. I won the horse through my 4-H club. I think what happened was a woman who was really into Appaloosas bred her mare. She did not have the $ to pay for two horses, so she donated the foal to 4-H, thereby getting a tax break (giving to a charitable organization). I’ll have to post a picture of Chassy one of these days. You’d never guess she was an Appaloosa. Dark chestnut with a really pretty blaze. She looked more like a Quarter Horse. Good times! 🙂

      • Like a Pony Club but more for farmers. So you can be involved in their horse club or maybe you raise goats or pumpkins. Every year there’s a county fair in the summer and kids bring their projects. It’s a nice group across the US. You earn a blue, red or white ribbon (everyone earns something). My horse group was headed by Western Quarter Horse people. I wish I could say it was a warm family of fellow horse lovers helping each other, but my leaders were so QH focused I felt like they kind of ignored me. But I also got involved in horse judging competitions. These are conformation events. Not for the horse, but for the kids to analyze various horses and have a deep understanding of ideal anatomy. So horses were brought in to our ring and we had to determine the order of strongest to weakest conformation and give oral justifications for our picks. Pretty cool.

  5. As you know I had Otis from an 18 month old and he has exceeded all my expectations. He was kept at a livery yard which also had youngsters so he had all the play time and socialisation he needed. I can remember the saddler complaining, in jest I think, that he could never fit saddles because our horses all had such big shoulders … I think that was because they lived on the side of the mountain with a really steep hill. It hasn’t done him any harm though 😀

      • There was one field, aptly named “The Bank Field” which was soooooooooo steep. Used to kill us walking all the way up. And typically the horses used to be at the top. We`d turn down the lane for the yard and could identify which horses were on the bank then try and draw straws as who would go and catch 🙂 It was great for sledging though 😉

      • I’m working in Cheshire this week and can see a lovely sloping field out of my window with horses on the very top of it 😉 The owners sure have a good fitness routine fetching them!

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