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Reducing Weaning Stress

Weaning poses a substantial risk for the development of stereotypies – chronic, invariant, ritualistic behaviours that appear to serve no useful purpose.

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By: Antonia Henderson |

Weaning, whether occurring in nature or in a managed system, is evolutionarily designed to be stressful, as it is in the youngster’s best interest to maintain proximity to his mother for protection, comfort, and nourishment. It is also in the mother’s best interest to provide this safe haven to ensure the survival of her offspring, at least until she makes way for the next youngster. Our managed systems have done much to exacerbate this stressful event, putting foals at increased risk for numerous, chronic, and mostly unnecessary physiological and psychological lifelong problems. Under natural conditions, foals are weaned at anywhere from eight months to a year, usually coinciding with the arrival of the next year’s foal. If the mare did not conceive, the yearling may continue to nurse up until two years old. The integral social bond between the mare and foal does not end abruptly with the cessation of…

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