How to Handle a Newborn Foal

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Newborn Foal

Dear Cherry:

     I have a week old TWH. I have handled him from birth but he doesn't  really like for me to pet or scratch him. Should I restrain him (while I still can) to show him that I'm not a threat? This is my first foal and I don't want to make any major errors.

Leanna


Hi Leanna:

    If you scratch a foal where he wants to be scratched, not only will you show him that you are not a threat but he will enjoy it!  A foal loves to be scratched just in front of the tail (called the tail head).  Most foals will allow and solicit this while they are loose in a stall, pen or pasture.
 
    But foals have many reflex reactions to touching in other parts of their bodies, that they don't automatically like petting and scratching.  You need to over-ride their natural sensitivity to touch in some areas and let them learn it is not a threat and can be enjoyable.

    A week old foal would rather be petted with the flat of the hand along his neck, hindquarters, and forearms.  Scratching or ticking in those areas might make him squirm at first.

    Many foals display curling, rounding of the back, bucking, head shaking etc. when you scratch along the spine, under the neck, along the ribs, on the belly, or on the head.   Start with what feels good to the foal to gain his trust and show him you are not a threat.  Then, keep gradually adding areas.  He will tell you what feels good right off the bat and what areas require more time to become desensitized.

    About restraint, I assume you mean foal restraint which is one arm in front of the chest and one behind the rump.  Yes, I do that from the day the foal is born to show the foal he can be restrained and that it is nothing to fear. And, as you say, while the foal is still small enough to hold.  Be sure you don't KEEP a grip on the foal once he is standing still.  If he is standing quietly, keep your arms in place but don't exert any pressure.  This way the foal will learn to stand still on his own, not with you "holding" him in place.  Once he learns that lesson, you can add petting and scratching in the more sensitive areas.

    No other restraint is appropriate for such a young foal.

 

 

  1999 Cherry Hill 

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