How Does A Horse Raise Its Babies?

Maybe you have seen a horse and foal on a farm or have taken an adventure ride through an area where wild horses run. Either way there are many similarities between a mare raising a baby horse in the wild and in captivity. It can be a beautiful experience but there can be hardships if not careful or in the wild.

mare and foal

So how does a horse raise its foal? A Mare’s parental duties start right after birth with cleaning the foal. They produce and feed milk for the first few weeks then the foal will transition to eating grass. This will continue for the first 6 months with the mare watching over their baby at which time they will be weaned. 

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Captivity Versus Wild Horses

Foals can go from standing up to walking in a very short time which helps them out in the wild more then anything.

In captivity horses are provided with much of their food. Where in the wild they will be immediately on the move and foal is born to keep up with. Mother’s milk contains antibodies to help their immune and build their strength quickly.

In captivity depending on where the horses are a foal won’t eat much grass for the first few weeks. In the wild foals will start eating some grass by a week old. At 2 months the foal will have to be eating other then mothers milk since it will not be enough to keep up with the nutrition they need.

Foals are born with about the length of legs they will have when they are full grown this is so they can run fast and keep up with the herd. You can actually determine about how tall a horse is going to be when they are babies.

In captivity foals are weaned anywhere from 3-6 months in the wild this lasts up to a year where the mother actually pushes the baby horse away until they keep their distance.

Mare’s watch over their young in captivity and in the wild so be sure to watch yourself around the mother at first as she will want to know you are not there to hurt her baby. They are much more protective in the wild as they should be.

Related Questions

How Long Do Baby Horses Stay With Their Mother?

Foals stay with their mother for around 6 months when they are in captivity. If out in the wild it may be about a year or until the mare has another baby horse.

How Do You Know When A Horse Is About To Give Birth?

The horse will become irritable and restless when it is becoming time. A lot of the time the mare will try to find seclusion in a quiet area to give birth. Their water will break just like with a human as well which means it is go time. Labor can last many hours depending on whether it is the mares first offspring or if it has had a few before it.

Will A Stallion Kill A Foal?

What is called infanticide is actually quite common amongst different species of animals unfortunately. This is no different with horses. It is a matter of survival of the fittest most of the time. Meaning the stallion senses the foal is weak and will weaken its herd so they kill the foal. It is never a good idea to keep a stallion with a mare or other horses anyway.

In the wild a stallion will also kill a foal if it thinks it is not his own. This will happen even if the foal is the actual stallions because he thinks it is not his own. It is a tough event that happens in the wild.

How Long Does It Take For A Baby Horse To Walk?

Usually within minutes a baby horse will be up and walking. They may seem clumsy at first but will pick up on walking and running quickly.

Do Baby Horses Drink Milk From Their Mom?

Yes they do right away and for the first 3 weeks or so is all they survive on. If the mother dies in childbirth or rejects the baby for some odd reason there are other options. That includes hand feeding and adopting another milk mare to take on the foal.

How Do Horses Protect Their Babies?

Horses a born to run and they will run away from danger. Foals are born in the same way mere minutes after being born most of the time they can get up walk and run right away. It is an amazing thing to watch. There have been stories of mares circling their babies when they are cornered.

When a wild herd is on the move you will see a tendency to have the foals toward the middle of the herd. Mares will bite and kick at any threatened subject that is encountering their foal that includes other horses.

Why Do Horses Attack Foals?

This is the wild nature of the horse which is still there even if they are dead broke. They have a wild spirit and surviving is still instilled in their brain. This comes to fruition with the birth of a foal and the herd mentality. When a foal is born and doesn’t look in the eyes of the other horses as strong the horses will kill it. Their wild spirit is telling them this foal will slow them down and puts them at jeopardy. Unfortunate natural order of things. This goes for most animals with males being separated from the offspring.

What Do Baby Horses Eat?

At first they only eat mothers milk. They may mimic their mother eating grass and within a few weeks after birth they will start eating grass. Their mother at that point will start cutting the foal off from milk until they are completely transitioned to finding their own food. Also you can supplement them with horse grain just make sure it is for foals. They need to get the proper nutrition at this age just like most babies do.

How Long Is A Horse Pregnant?

It takes roughly 11 months before a foal becomes developed enough to be welcomed into this world. This is a rough estimate as they can come a couple weeks early or up to 4 weeks late. Once they get within a few weeks of the born date make sure you pay extra close attention to that mare. Most of the time breeders try to time it so mares give birth during the springtime. One reason being so the foal can be active and develop correctly.

Do Horses Produce Milk?

Mare’s do produce milk and will do so for about the first 6 months of the foals life. The milk will diminish as time goes on.



I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

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