Six months to two years old六個月到兩歲大
After about six months the foal should be a great deal more independent and we should continue to build up its confidence in people and other animals. In the wild the youngstock would learn from siblings and the older members of the herd, interacting with them and learning their role in the herd hierarchy. The domestic animal has got to become part of the human “herd” in the same way. We are fortune that these young animals will be reliant on us for food and perhaps company, so the process of imprinting desired behaviour on them should not be too difficult as they look on us as both provider and friend.
Throughout the first two years, the bodies of these young colts or fillies will be growing tremendously quickly. It is important that we do not put too many extra strains on them, either physically or mentally, which could impair their natural development. As owners, we should be there to support their needs. By adopting a more natural system of care, we can help them in their development. By this I mean by providing equine (and human) companions to teach them their place in the herd and allowing them time to play and rest so they can both build up muscles and grow without putting too much strain onto their weak frames.
A weaned animal will not have the tailor-made natural diet it previously received from the mare. So it is important that adequate levels of calcium, minerals, and protein are included in the feed intake. The diet of youngstock is a contentious issue as overfeeding or an incorrect diet can lead to problems in later life.
We must aware that horses and ponies mature at different rates depending on their breeding. So while a Thoroughbred’s genes determine that it will be more or less fully development by the age of two years, it is certainly a risky business (and one that may have detrimental effects in the longer term) to overfeed a lanky two year old for the purpose of accelerating its growth for the showing. You must allow sufficient time for the muscles and bones which support the structure to mature.
As an owner, it is far better simple to give adequate forage and a hard feed designed to prevent deficiencies in youngstock and permit ad-lib grazing if at all possible. Turning the animal out to exercise itself is all that is necessary for muscle development. In this way, we are not trying to force the young animal to resemble and perform like an adult horse. Exercising an immature animal, by lunging for example, can put strain onto the joints and cause deformities such as splints.
The hooves should be regularly trimmed every six weeks by the farrier. This will probably minimize problems when fitting shoes becomes necessary.