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.