Is There a Season for Foaling?
QUESTION: What I'd really like to know is
if there is a season for foaling. Like maybe spring
or something? Is it different in Northern states
than in the more southerly climates. With cattle,
they tend to breed the cows so that they calve
a certain time each year -- a slightly different
time depending on the area. Also, how long is
a mare's gestation period? (Note: author is working
on a Western set in the 1880's.)
ANSWER: Yes, there is a foaling season, and it
usually is about the same as calving season. This
isn't by accident, especially in the Northern
states. Babies born in the dead of winter usually
don't make it unless they have good care and a
warm place (which wouldn't have been prevalent
in the 1800s--they were expected to be outside).
To reduce the costs required for babies now, the
calves are also born in early to late spring.
This also reduces the mortality rate.
Our horse farm was in Minnesota. We had an indoor,
heated section of our main barn, but this is where
we kept the stallions and show horses that we
planned to take south (Arizona) and show. The
babies were always born indoors, but not in the
heated part, or their mothers would lose their
winter coats. An exception would be if it was
below zero at night. If we expected the mare to
foal that night, we'd move her into the heated
part just until the baby was born and dried off.
Our foals were planned to be born between end
of January and April/May. The earlier the better
for show horses, as all horses have the same official
birthday if you are showing (January 1). So, a
foal born in May actually turns a year in January,
and will be much smaller than a foal born in January,
and this is a disadvantage if you are showing
weanlings and yearlings.
A mare's gestation is 11 months. We didn't breed
young stock until they were at least two years
old (on the real birthday, not on January 1).
So a mare born in June would be at least 2 and
a half before being bred the first time. Mares
with foals are "bred back" either on
the 10 day foal heat (10 days after the baby's
born) or on the 30 day foal heat (30 days after
baby's born). If you miss these cycles, then the
mare will come into heat generally about every
30 days. Mares are in heat three to five days.
Foals were weaned (taken away from the mare)
at between four and six months of age. The mother
will eventually wean the baby herself, but it
gets hard on the mother to have the baby nurse
so long (she'll lose weight and her coat will
usually be "dim").
One more tidbit that may interest you...before
the mare has a foal, she'll "sink in"
right above her tail on both sides...her hips.
It's the muscles loosening up to make way for
baby. Also, she'll "wax up," get waxy
deposits on her teats. Once a mare waxes up, the
baby is usually there within 24 hours.
Why Are They Called Foals?
The Latin root word is FOLA, which is akin to
PULLUS, which means young of an animal.