Expert advice on caring for foals

By: Horse Deals

Expert advice on caring for foals
Expert advice on caring for foals

Like their human equivalents, raising a happy, healthy foal takes knowledge and commitment - the efforts you put in early on, will pay off in bucketfuls in the future!

So you’ve waited anxiously for your foal to be born, he arrives safely and mother and baby are doing well – correct handling and management during the next few weeks and months are key factors for future development.

Sandra Low Mitchell (, who owns and runs the well established Balcormo Stud in Fife, is one of the leading breeders and producers of top class show jumpers and eventers.

Sandra, who breeds on average 12 to 15 foals a year, has a tried and trusted method of raising strong and healthy offspring, who will go on to become proven competition prospects.

"Once a foal is born, it’s a good idea to have human contact straightaway if you can in the first few hours –rub him all over and keep an eye on him to make sure he’s had a drink. Correct hands-on treatment with stay with them."

For foals born in a stable, Sandra likes to get them out into paddocks, weather permitting.

"As long as it’s not very far, they can have a wee wobble out; you are just there to help guide him with your hands by providing a framework front and back.

"If the weather is bad, then we prefer to keep them in our nice big foaling boxes until it improves the next day. We don’t tend to use any form of headcollar until at least a week old – I think it’s a big mistake to try and make this a form of control, it’s more a case of letting them get the feel of a light headcollar.

"Once they are two or three weeks old, we use a ‘bum rope’ which supports them front and back. This is a nice soft cotton rope or a bit of webbing with a loop and clip which is fully adjustable and one size fits all!"

Sandra aims those who are ready for the grading in September and Scottish foal show in November and later as two-year-olds they will be aimed for the Royal Highland.

"It’s important to remember they are all individuals – some are sharp and some less confident and need more time. You can pick out the good ones very early on as they will be confident and ‘up there’ and in your face. Like people, the confident kids generally grow up and get on in life – foals are the same.

"Ours are raised in a herd environment, so when they are taken away from that they need to have time to settle and acclimatise. It’s all about reading their character and adjusting their education. Keep it simple and respect them as having a mind and a brain.

"Unfortunately, so many get a bad start in life and people don’t realise how much difference that can make.

"The weaning process can be traumatic, but it doesn’t have to be. We tend to wean in groups of seven or nine – if they are left on their own, it can be traumatic and often results in them developing ulcers, which will affect them in later life."

According to Sandra, the most common mistake people make in raising youngstock is to rush the process.

"The more time you spend at this stage the better. In the backing process, we spend a lot of time long reining out and about and let them see things. At our farm, they get to see tractors, livestock and dogs running about – the more they see, the better.

"Take your time," she advises, "the more you put in, the more you will get out."