Thursday, 19 July 2012

Kids and Foals Don't Mix

What isn't cute about that, right?  Kids with foals are adorable, I think we can all agree on that.  However, I don't think a lot of people really realize the dangers of letting a kid mess around with the foal.  And I'm not talking about a foal, I mean the mare.

Mares, like most mothers, are extremely protective of their babies.  They will defend their foals against any percieved threat. 

I've owned Socks since she was a yearling.  I like to think my horse trusts me.  She trusts me, and I trust her.  She also respects me.  She gives me space.  She's had two foals of her own, Cassidy and Artemis.

It doesn't matter how well trained your mare is, or how long you've had her, she is never safe when she has a foal.  Her mind is no longer on you, it is solely on her baby and her baby's safety.  I personally don't think we can expect anything different.  We can only ask them to go against their instincts so much.

Mares with foals are basically unpredictable.  You don't know what they will percieve as a threat.  And you never, ever get in between them and their babies.  Honestly, think of them as Grizzly Bears but slightly less carniverous.  You wouldn't get between a Grizzly and her cubs would you?  So don't get between a mare and her foal.  Chances are, she'll be fine.  But at the same time, she's just as likely to panic and hurt you trying to get back to her baby.

Enough adults get hurt when dealing with mares and foals, so I don't think it's right to allow a child to mess around with a mare and foal.  As mature as a kid may be, you can't always expect them to remember to always pay attention to the mare.  You can expect the cuteness of the foal to help them forget about watching out for momma. 

Children should never be left unsupervised to handle, even pet, a mare and a foal.  And by unsupervised I mean that the parent standing outside the fence doesn't count.  The parent should be right beside them at all times.

Socks was great about allowing us to handle her babies and work with them.  She always just stood, watching, but never was a problem.  That didn't mean I trusted her.  I always worked so I could see where she was.  If she got upset then we stopped what we were doing, just as we did when Artemis or Cas would get upset. 

The stable owner's kids were very rarely allowed in the pen with Socks and Artemis, and only when their parents allowed it.  Then they had to stay right beside us at all times and be subjected to us dragging them away if we felt that Socks or Artemis were not alright with the situation.  It only happened the day Artemis was born because I was not comfortable with it.  After that they were only allowed to pet Artemis if she was in the barn and Socks was tied up, a safe, controlled situation.

I'm not going into details, but this comes about from someone suggesting a child go into a pen with a mare and a foal.  I truly do not believe it's safe for them.  Especially if the mare isn't familiar with the child.

The day Artemis was born, Socks struck out at the stable owner, a man she knows quite well as he'd been checking on her multiple times a day for weeks.  He wasn't hurt, but would a child have been cautious enough and quick enough to escape unscathed?  Socks never had a problem with the stable owner's children, but then again, we never let there be a chance for her to be upset or feel like she had to protect Artemis from them.

That makes a cute picture but I can't help but cringe when I see it.  Did you know that many mares will bite the foal on the back and tail while they nurse?  I do.  I learnt that standing in between Socks and Artemis as Artemis nursed.  That's the only time my horse has ever bitten me and I can't blame her.  She went to do what came naturally and I was in the way.  I also hate that, as far as we can see, there isn't an adult standing beside her.  It doesn't matter what horse it is, Socks, Jimmy or Artemis, the kids are not allowed to stand near them without us there.  I don't want them to get hurt.  The quietest, calmest horse can always panic at something. 

Supervision is something I didn't have a lot of, growing up and training Socks.  I have a lot of falls and injuries to show for it.  Maybe I'm a little crazy for it now, but I think kids absolutly need to be supervised at all times when dealing with any kind of horse, but especially mares and foals.  And supervising from over the fence never counts.

1 comment:

Wolfie said...

Totally agree with you. A very informative and educational post. Sometimes common sense does not prevail when people see baby animals. A foal was born in May where I board and I couldn't believe how people invaded the space of the mother and baby, just to touch or look at the youngster. The mother has had 3 other foals and she is very relaxed in our barn environment, but she still pinned her ears when people reached into the stall trying to pat the baby. I think it was extremely lucky that no one got hurt.