All About Foals

A foal is a term used for an equine up to a year old. Male foals are called a colt while the female is referred to as a filly.

Many people confuse the term foal with a pony, but a pony is simply a small horse that will never grow to be any larger.

What You Should Know

The foal is a horse under the age of one. It’s too young to be ridden and can’t be used for work. They look different than a full-size horse because of their smaller bodies and long legs. Their heads also exhibit characteristics of youth and are slender.

Foals can walk and trot shortly after birth, though they might seem weak-kneed at first. During the first week of its life, the foal only nurses. After then it might taste some grass.

What Sound Do They Make?

A foal neighs and makes the same noises that a full-size horse does. The mother and foal communicate without sounds and form a close bond.

If you enjoy listening to horse sounds, there are pages of them available at this site:

Group Characteristics

The mare carries the foal for about 11 months, but that varies by a few weeks. The foal gets up and starts nursing within two hours of birth. Often, the filly gets up faster than the colt. Within 24 hours, most foals are galloping.

The majority of foals are born during the night and birth occurs fast. In captivity, many owners report taking a bathroom break or getting a drink only to find the foal waiting when they come back. In the wild, this quick birth helps protect the newborn from predators.

Foals can be weaned by three months, but it’s generally expected that they stay with the mother longer. If the foal begins growing too fast, it’s wise to slow the weaning down. Otherwise, they start to experience trouble with their joints.

How Many are There?

2 million people own horses. As of 2016, there were more than 9 million horses in the United States alone. Also, 4.6 million people are involved with horses as either an owner, service provider, volunteer or employee.

Pop Culture

The majority of horse movies start by showing the main character as a foal. Then, the story follows them into adulthood. Other than that, there are few films dedicated to telling a story about this young horse. Popular movies such as Black Beauty, Secretariat, and Spirit all have foals as a part of the story line.

Interesting Facts

The foal’s legs don’t grow much larger than they are. They measure about 90% of the total length that they will be when they are full-grown.

Foals require more sleep than an adult horse. This helps them to grow. It will take them several months before they learn the art of sleeping on their feet.

Mares never leave the foal while it is sleeping. It’s a way of protecting her young from danger. If the mare must leave, another mare babysits the sleeping foal. The foal also sleeps much more soundly than an adult horse. Still, if danger arises, the mare knickers to alert the baby. Then, the foal springs to its feet in an instant, much faster than an adult horse can because of its lower bodyweight.

Foals learn about the world around them by tasting, licking and chewing. This is why they are often seen tasting fences and chewing unusual objects. They also learn some skills from the herd. If a foal is born to a tame mare, it usually grows up tame just because it acquires the same habits.

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