Why a horse rejects a foal?

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By Rachel

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First-time mother mares are more likely to reject their newborn foals due to various reasons such as lack of maternal instinct, negative experiences, illness, stress, and environmental factors. Signs of rejection include refusing to nurse, aggression, ignoring, and moving away from the foal. To encourage bonding, a stress-free environment, nursing assistance, treats, praise, and spending time with the mare and foal are recommended. So, if your mare is rejecting her foal, don’t panic, try these tips to help them bond.

Why a Horse Rejects a Foal: Understanding Rejection Behavior in Mares

As horse enthusiasts, we all know that the bond between a mare and her foal is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned, and a mare may reject her newborn foal. This can be a heartbreaking experience for horse owners, but it’s important to understand that rejection behavior is most common in mares that are first-time mothers.

What Causes Rejection Behavior?

There are several reasons why a mare may reject her foal. One of the most common causes is a lack of maternal instinct. This can happen in mares that are first-time mothers or in mares that have had negative experiences with foals in the past. Other factors that can contribute to rejection behavior include illness or injury in the foal, stress or anxiety in the mare, and environmental factors such as a change in routine or surroundings.

Recognizing Rejection Behavior

If you suspect that your mare is rejecting her foal, there are several signs to look out for. These include:

  • Refusing to allow the foal to nurse
  • Aggressive behavior towards the foal
  • Ignoring the foal completely
  • Moving away from the foal when it tries to approach
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If you notice any of these behaviors in your mare, it’s important to take action as soon as possible to ensure the health and safety of the foal.

What to Do If Your Mare Rejects Her Foal

If your mare is showing signs of rejection behavior, there are several steps you can take to try and encourage bonding between the mare and foal. These include:

  • Providing a quiet, stress-free environment for the mare and foal
  • Assisting with nursing by holding the mare still and guiding the foal to the teat
  • Offering the mare treats and praise when she shows positive behavior towards the foal
  • Spending time with the mare and foal to encourage bonding

It’s important to remember that bonding between a mare and foal can take time, and it’s not uncommon for it to take several days or even weeks for a mare to fully accept her foal. If your mare continues to show rejection behavior despite your best efforts, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a veterinarian or equine behaviorist.


Rejection behavior in mares can be a difficult and emotional experience for horse owners. However, by understanding the causes of rejection behavior and taking steps to encourage bonding between the mare and foal, it’s possible to overcome this challenge and ensure the health and safety of both animals. Remember to be patient and persistent, and seek professional advice if necessary. With time and effort, you can help your mare and foal develop a strong and loving bond that will last a lifetime.

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