Caring For & Feeding Your Yearling
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How do I approach my yearling?
Your yearling will naturally be inquisitive. Every time you approach your yearling, extend your arm out and let them touch their nose to your hand. This is the equivalent to shaking hands. As your yearling becomes more confident they will want to smell you all over. This is a good thing as long they are not pushing, rubbing, biting or turning their rump to you. You want your yearling to be completely at ease around you but they also need to be respectful of your personal space and understand that you are the leader.
What type of fencing should I use?
This will be the first time your yearling has been away from home, so they will be frightened. Until you can walk up and catch your yearling, keep them in a confined area with at least a 5ft. high fence around the perimeter. Steel fencing works best but board fencing or "non-climb" wire fencing is also good. Make sure there are no sharp points sticking out or places for your yearling's legs, feet or head to get caught. Barbed wire is very dangerous and should never be used to confine a young horse. Your yearling will be more comfortable if they can see other horses nearby or better yet, touch noses through the fence. Until they are accustomed with one another, do not put your yearling directly in with an older horse.
What should I feed my yearling?
First, your yearling needs constant access to cool, clean water. Second, in a feeder, a good way to start out, is to keep high quality alfalfa or an alfalfa mix. Never feed on the dirt. Over the top of the hay, add a weanling ration with grain that has been rolled or pelletized that includes vitamins and minerals and isn't too high in fat, preferably no more than 8%. We encourage you to feed your young horse well, but please do not misunderstand and feed "too well". It is wise to feed a good balanced growth ration, but over feeding high protein supplements can cause growth problems. Getting your yearling "hooked" on grain as soon as possible will also make it easier to catch them when you move them to a larger pasture.
Keep in mind that as your yearling grows so will their requirements for feed. A good rule of thumb is 2% of its body weight in forage. So, a 1,000 lb. horse needs a minimum of 20 lbs. of good quality hay or pastures a day. Concentrates or other supplements may be necessary for lactating/late pregnant mares, young growing horses, older horses, hardworking horses, each of which has its own special requirements. Ask for advice from experts.
What vaccinations should I give my yearling?
You should give a combination, intramuscular (in the muscle) vaccination, which contains West Nile, Sleeping Sickness and Tetanus. We also recommend a Rhinopneumonitis (Rhino) immunization. Just like puppy shots, these vaccinations are given in a series. Using sterile techniques, and proper placement, the shots are easy to give and can be purchased from your vet or a feed store. For Streptococcus Equi, (strangles) there is an intranasal (in the nose, no needles required) immunization which is very easy to give however some vets still prefer the intramuscular strep vaccine. There is also a Flu vaccine which is an intranasal immunization.
Our mares are all given Strep, Sleeping Sickness, Tetanus and West Nile vaccine while they are pregnant, so their foals have some passive immunity. There have been some studies that suggest immunizations should be delayed until the foal is 8 months of age. Many vets, however, still say immunizations should be given earlier than 8 months of age, especially if there is a chance of exposure.
What about worming my yearling?
First, understand that young horses are very susceptible to damage caused by internal parasites, so be diligent. Once settled in, we recommend worming with a paste wormer indicated for weanlings and yearlings which can be purchased from a feed store or your vet. We worm all of our foals in January with Ivermectin and again in March with PyrantelPamoate so you should consider worming again in late May.
When should I start tying my yearling?
If not done correctly, tying a young horse can be a dangerous and traumatic experience for all involved. Your yearling has already been shown how to tie using a specially designed high line but may still protest the next time they are tied. Before tying your yearling at home, be sure it leads well and is used to it's surroundings. Tying a stable mate nearby helps keep them calm and a little grain in a rubber bucket will make your tie spot a happy place. Be aware that when tying your yearling hard and fast to solid object, there is a possibility they may flip over, hitting their head and causing serious injury. On the other hand, tying your yearling to a flimsy object that can break away easily lays the groundwork for a horse that "sets back". Choose your tie spot very carefully!
What about trimming my yearling’s feet?
Your yearling has been trimmed but may protest when you pick their feet up at home. If you have the necessary skills to trim your yearling's feet, please be patient. Standing on three legs takes some getting used to. Proper hoof care is always important, but it's especially important in the case of a young horse, so be sure to enlist the help of a qualified farrier if you need assistance.
When should colts be castrated?
We strongly encourage you to geld (castrate) your colt! Geldings are considerable more docile, safer around other horses, and easier to control. Geld your colt sooner rather than later. The procedure is a lot less stressful on a young horse.
If you are considering leaving your colt intact, please understand stallions require special training to keep them manageable. Stallions require stronger fencing, so you will need to make a significant investment in your facilities. You will need a handler with extensive experience working stallions.
What about training my yearling?
Have you ever heard the saying, "You only get one chance to make a first impression"? Well, the same is true with your yearling. Do your very best to make each lesson with your yearling a success. If you run into trouble or are uneasy about teaching a particular skill, get someone with the knowledge and a calm disposition to help you. When your yearling senses a lack of patience and confidence from you, they stop thinking and start reacting. If your objective is a willing equine partner, you must have a clear mind and all the time in the world.
We hope you find these guidelines helpful. Raising a young horse is a big responsibility, an experience you should not take lightly, but you will also find it's one of the most rewarding. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about Caring For Your Yearling.