What methods are commonly used during weaning (mare removal) and why? A pilot study

Catherine Williams, Hayley Randle

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The behavioural effects on the foal and dam during weaning are well documented and it is commonly agreed that both mare and foal are likely to suffer from stress during this procedure. However, a wide range of different weaning methods are employed worldwide. The aim of this study was to determine frequency of weaning method versus type of breeder in order to understand common practice. A questionnaire comprising a mixture of closed and open questions was designed and piloted before being issued to breeders. Information sought included the types of weaning method used (METHOD), age of foals at weaning (AGE), stud size (SS) and number of foals bred per annum (FBPA). Questionnaires were sent to various breeders from all over the world with 10 questions in total. The questionnaire was distributed by social media and equine academic societies’ distribution lists. 440 responses were obtained, of which all (100%) were usable over the 30-week period that the questionnaire was open for completion. Data were collated and statistically analysed using SAS v9.4. The gradual method was the most popular method used (40.5%), the abrupt method was second most popular(30.9%), ‘other’ method was third most popular (15.2%), paddock method was fourth most popular (8.6%), and barn method was least popular (4.8%). Frequency tests clearly show that AGE is much lower for the abrupt method and much greater for ‘other’ method than all other methods. Chi-square (likelihood chi-square) statistics of 146.75 (135.92) are both highly significant. OLS regression results showed that METHOD was positively associated with AGE(t=9.04; F4,435=22.72, p<0.0001; Adj R2=0.165) with younger foals more likely to be weaned using the abrupt (t=4.31; p<0.0001) and barn method (t=2.17; p<0.034) and older foals more likely to being weaned using the ‘other’ method (t=6.97; p<0.0001; F4,435=-21.29; Adj R2=0.244).AGE is significant and negatively associated with annual breeding (t=3.22; p=0.0014) and FBPA(t=3.49; p<0.0001) and positively associated with METHOD (t=9.04, p<0.0001; F4,435=31.18; AdjR2=0.215). Annual breeding is significantly positively associated with FBPA (t=2.82, p<0.01) and SS (t=5.47, p<0.0001) and negatively associated with AGE (t=3.22, p<0.01 F4,435=29.08, AdjR2=0.205). Inspection of respondents data suggest that large studs and those who breed many foals are more likely to breed every year and tend to remove foals from their mother earlier. Using objectively measured data, this study demonstrates that current weaning practices vary broadly in terms of method used and age at removal, but shows significant trends according to stud size and number, and frequency of foals bred per annum. Lay person message: Understanding the effect of mare removal on foals is a very important consideration in an ethical approach to general foal husbandry. Safeguarding during key years may reduce negative associations and behaviour, and enhance positive training and ultimately performance in later years. Understanding appropriate weaning method may help reduce stress during this key period.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational Society for Equitation Science (ISES 2016) - French National Riding School, Saumur, France
Duration: 23 Jun 201625 Jun 2016


ConferenceInternational Society for Equitation Science (ISES 2016)
Internet address


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