Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bye Bye Mama!

Just a little over a week ago I had what I thought would be a daunting task of weaning. I had fretted for weeks prior to my intended "weaning weekend" and hoped that all would go well for both mama and baby. Rio is scheduled to compete Labor Day weekend in the Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association's (PQHA) Classic Show in the futurities. Since her breeding was purchased through PQHA's QIP program (http://www.pqha.org) she is eligible for the futurities for the next three years. I wanted to wean her far enough in advance of the show but not too soon.

Tia and Rio their last day together.

I began preparing her for this inevitable day when she was just a few weeks old by taking her mama away for 30-40 minutes to ride. At approximately one month old she started eating small amounts of grain, and had already been nibbling hay and grass. She also drank water as well. I then began taking Rio from her mother for short amounts of time so each of them would be familiar with being apart. I consulted an article that ran in Horse & Rider's July 2007 issue entitled "4 Ways to Wean (Which is Best for Your Foal?)". I used a combination of "gradual weaning" and "proximity weaning". Since I board I also had to check what would work with the owner's schedule. I will not be selling either of my horses so they will always be at the same location. This presented a small challenge when it came time to weaning. Fortunately where I board there is a smaller, two-stall barn perfect for foaling and weaning. Another boarder graciously offered to let me use Tucker, her aged Appaloosa gelding as Rio's "babysitter". Two to three weeks prior to weaning we put the three of them out together in pasture. I wondered how Tia would react to another horse being around her baby since Tia had not been pastured with other horses since she was a yearling. This was always my choice since she's a show horse and I never wanted to run the risk of her being injured by a pasture mate. To my surprise and relief there were no problems!

When the weaning weekend arrived I took Friday off of work so I could be present and I separated Tia and Rio into adjoining stalls that morning. This way Rio would still have mama's comfort but wouldn't be able to nurse. Tia took this very well! Rio was a little agitated at first but calmed down after a short while. I got just a bit teary-eyed since it was the end of one stage of her life and the beginning of a new stage. By Sunday we moved Tia back up into her old stall in the upper barn and brought Tucker down next to Rio. I really expected her to holler and scream but it went much smoother than I expected. I could breathe easy, I hadn't ruined Rio for life by weaning her too soon!

A little over a week later Tia and Rio appear to be fine. My little girl does seem a bit quieter than usual but she is eating and drinking well. I'm thinking she maybe misses her mama just a bit and we have been having hot and humid weather. I'm hoping after a little more time she is back to her perky self. But for the time being I will just enjoy the time I get to spend with both of my girls!
Rio and her new best friend Tucker.


At August 7, 2007 at 10:21:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful entry! The pictures are great! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Good luck at the show on Wednesday. Sorry we can't be there. I will think of you while we are on the beach!

At August 8, 2007 at 9:45:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 2nd picture is adorable!!

At August 11, 2007 at 12:06:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with lori, good luck in the show! I'm glad your weaning went so well, Tucker and Rio look adorable together!

At August 12, 2007 at 8:17:00 PM EDT , Blogger Michelle M. Smith said...

Thank you all. Rio's first show went very well. She was an angel and received two second place ribbons! Look for a blog entry as soon a I have pictures to post.

At August 15, 2007 at 11:50:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad all went well with the weaning and the show. You have two beautiful horses!

At August 19, 2007 at 9:37:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Michelle its Brianna i almost cryed seeing rio and how much she changed!! our babys look sooo cute together!!!!

At August 20, 2007 at 2:46:00 PM EDT , Blogger Michelle M. Smith said...

Thanks Brianna. Yes, it's bittersweet watching your baby's grow. Just ask your mom I'm sure she'll agree! Congrats on your district placings.

At July 27, 2008 at 9:15:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for leaving your comments. Verry Helpful in just hearing the good things about breeding and how all can go well with a little time and understanding. I am actually having my marae bred for the first time on August 20th. This is not her first foal but it will be mine so we wiill see..

At September 4, 2008 at 2:29:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reading some later entries where you were concerned about Rio's growth you can probably attribute that to weaning her at ( if I understand right by your dates) 3 1/2 months, which is way too early. The foal still needs mom for so much at that age , comfort, stability, companionship, nuture and yes food. She won't get that from the gelding, but he will keep her less lonely. Seems you could have put her best intrests ahead of your "showing goals". There will always be more shows and why couldn't you have taken mom along?

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