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What Is a Foal?

A baby equine under the age of one is considered a foal.
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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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A foal is a baby equine animal, less than one year of age. The equine group includes the horse, donkey, and zebra — however the term is most commonly used to refer to the offspring of a horse. A male is called a colt, while a female is referred to as a filly.

These animals are normally born after being carried by their mothers, or mares, for approximately 11 months. They are usually born very quickly. They are also typically born at night rather than during the day, especially if the mothers are not domesticated. This is because this group of animals is often prey for larger animals in the wild.

At birth, this animal's legs are almost as long as that of an adult. The newborn is very wobbly at first, but may quickly gain control of its limbs. A foal can normally stand up less than an hour after it is born. Within a few hours, this baby can trot a small distance. It can often gallop quickly within one or two days after its arrival.

A mare usually nurses her foal for around four to six months, if she is in captivity. In the wild, she may do this for as long as one year. This can sometimes cause complications if she becomes pregnant again during this time. A baby typically stands when it is nursing, which is another reason it will try to rise shortly after being born.

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After a foal is weaned, it is then referred to as a weanling until its first birthday. After that time, it is called a yearling. The animal is referred to as such until it reaches sexual maturity, which is around three to four years of age. At that time, a female is called a mare, while a male is deemed a stallion.

This baby usually needs more rest than adult equines, especially while it is still being nursed. It might also need to wear a small horse blanket to protect it from the elements. Shortly after it is weaned, a domesticated foal can require its hooves or hair be trimmed by a professional groomer.

A yearling is typically too small to be ridden by humans. It should also not be used to perform work, such as carrying heavy loads. A young foal can, however, be trained to wear a halter or bridle and to walk while being led. Animals who are trained by people while they are young are often gentler than those who are not handled early.

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