Weaning our Foals
As the days start getting shorter and the leaves fall from the majestic trees on the Kylemore Estate our thoughts turn to preparing our foals for the weaning process. This Spring three foals were born here, two colts and one filly, Peaceful Pascal, Peaceful Reailtín and Peaceful Alfie, all purebred Connemara Ponies. Generally, when foals are about six months old weaning takes place. Weaning is the process of separating the foals from their Mothers. Up until now the foals have been suckling their Mothers but they have now reached the stage where they are less dependent on the mares milk, the quality of which has lessened since Spring and Summer.
The young foals learn by copying their Mother’s behaviour so we have started feeding meal to our mares and foals. The foals quickly learn that this meal is a lovely treat and look forward to feeding time. Feeding the foals also allows them to get used to human contact. Even though our foals at Kylemore are well used to human contact due to the large number of admirers they get every day and they will quite happily pose with visitors for a “selfie”.
Over the coming weeks as the foals become more independent of their Mothers we will start the gradual weaning process. This involves taking the foals away from the mares for a short period of time initially and then gradually increasing the length of time each day. Using this weaning process ensures everything is done in a stress-free manner for both the mare and foal.
When the foals are completely separated from the mares, they will be stabled at night time for the Winter. During the day they will be let out to play together in the sheltered paddocks, where hopefully they will get to enjoy some winter sunshine. Ponies are herd animals and enjoy company. They will be fed a balanced diet of coarse mix and haylage which was produced here in the meadows on the farm in Kylemore. The educating of these foals will continue over the Winter and they will learn to stand quietly to be groomed, have their feet lifted, to walk and trot in-hand and to load in a horsebox. This education will ensure these foals grow up to be kind and well-mannered ponies and in time will make the breaking process a lot easier.
What about the mares? After the weaning process when the mares’ milk has dried up, they will live outdoors for the winter in their natural environment. All our mares are safely scanned in foal for next year so the care of these mares over the Winter will be paramount to give them the best chance possible of delivering a healthy foal in Springtime.
Over the Winter months at Kylemore, we will be busy developing our outdoor pony area with new informative signage so visitors can learn about our Native pony during their visit to Kylemore. If you are visiting Kylemore Abbey and Gardens when we reopen, make sure to call by the Pony Paddock in front of the Tea House at 12 noon on Mondays or Fridays to see our mares and foals being fed. Also, keep an eye on our social media where we regularly post photos of our Connemara ponies.