Part of morning feeding in my largest pony paddock is tying the mares to the fence to give them their feed buckets. When I have foals in the paddock, this routine is a little more challenging because I have to make sure the foals don’t become entangled in their dam’s lead rope. I once had a foal and mare who were a near-lethal combination in this regard. The foal would put its head over the lead rope, the mare would lift her head and then lower it, circling the foal’s neck with the rope, then the mare would back away, pulling the rope tight around the foal’s neck, at which point both of them started panicking, pulling the rope even tighter. I obviously quickly learned not to leave those two unattended, and I was fortunate that the foal didn’t suffer any physical injury or emotional trauma around ropes.
My current foals don’t seem inclined to mess with their dams’ feed buckets, but as a safeguard I’ve been putting hay out close by to entice the foals away from the mares. I did watch one of the foals move towards her dam, though, so I quickly began moving in that direction to intervene before catastrophe struck. Imagine my relief then, when the mare dealt with the situation on her own. She made a protective move that kept her foal from getting between her and the fence and becoming entangled in her lead rope. I have no idea if the protective move was just luck or intentional, but mama got a treat in appreciation!
I surely won’t assume that that mare will always watch over her youngster’s well-being as she did that time, so I’ll continue to watch carefully when the mares are tied and their foals are loose. Before long, when weaning time arrives, the routine will change and the foals will start to stand tied, too. Then I become watchful in a different way!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2017
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