seeing foals kept in stalls/small paddocks hurts my spirit
sometimes it’s necessary just fyi
Except in cases of very serious illness or injury (in which case the arrangement would be temporary and the foal would be returned to 24/7 outdoor time afterwards) I…
people in countries that have like bears and wolves and other larger predators wandering around. Do you take extra measures to keep foals safe from predators? Like I’d imagine this would be one of the main reasons they’d be kept in… it’d be mine if I were a breeder… not saying I disagree with letting foals be outside in large paddocks, growing and exploring both physically and mentally… I’m just curious on any techniques/ equipment/ security you’d use
I’ll chime in here since I’m in a predator heavy environment.
For the last few years in this area, the coyotes and the wolves have started interbreeding. They’re bigger, smarter, they’re hunting in large packs and they don’t have any fear of humans on farm lands.
I took this photo, on my own land, while standing within a stones throw from my indoor riding arena and my paddocks, in broad daylight. They had taken down a full sized deer. They look like a large, strong jawed coyote and all the ones I’ve seen have been a variation on this colour. They sound like coyotes, they call around my house almost every night, especially in the winter, and will come up to the lawn. I’ve counted and the pack is usually large, 10, 15, 20 voices depending on the time of year.
In the past few months my neighbours have lost several calves and lambs. And about a month ago not too far from here they took down a yearling. Predators like this are absolutely a threat to your livestock, and not one to be taken lightly.
I’m very anti-gun, anti-shooting-natural-predators whenever possible. I make exceptions when wild animals are obviously sick or suffering, and I’ll be real with you here: I’m a pretty tough Canadian woman and I’ve been living in the wilderness alone for the past 5 years, and these guys terrify me. I’m seriously considering getting a rifle, for my own protection. My friends 12-year-old children were surrounded by a pack a few winters ago and they were almost killed. They sharpened up some sticks into spears and managed to keep the pack at bay until they made it out of the woods. A friend of a friend of mine was on a walk by herself in Nova Scotia and she was killed by coyote. And I just talked to another friend of mine who says her boyfriend caught a cougar on his crittercam not too far from here. I just heard on the news the other day that wild boars were spotted east of Ottawa. We all have stories, us Canadians living out in the middle of nowhere.
I mean, you guys don’t often hear about this stuff but it happens. The coyote interbreeding is actually decimating the timber wolf population as well. I’m not well versed in conservation but I have friends who are and every time I talk about it with them they make it clear that it’s a real concern.
So, non-lethal alternatives.
Keeping the young and frail in at night is a time tested and very pacifistic way of keeping them safe. I’m an advocate for holistic management, on a PP 24/7, and I completely understand that it’s not always a manageable scenario.
Heavy duty electrified fence enclosures work well. Even small ones that you can turn into at night instead of going the stall route. They aren’t 100% predator proof but they’re a viable solution. Not great for newborns, though.
Protective animals. I keep at least three large dogs at all times, two of which are +100lbs, and a clever border collie that they take their cues from. At least one male dog, and make sure the recall cue for all of them is very strong. They take stupid risks when their blood is up.
I make sure that all of the herds are intermixed in terms of size/aggression. The smaller or more frail animals are kept closer to the house, where the dogs can help raise the alarm if they hear stuff happening.
Chi is very canine aggressive. If you have a gelding like this who will fulfill the stallion role it’s ideal. He’ll help the mares protect the foals, and if they’re kept together he’ll teach them to protect themselves. My own dogs aren’t even allowed in the paddocks with Chi. He’s raised Xen to be the same. Those two will try to kill anything smaller than them that isn’t human or equine.
A donkey! Donkeys are very popular with cattle farmers in this area. They’re relatively easy to keep, will move with the herd, and they can be incredibly aggressive. Also the bray will scare the everloving bejesus out of just about any predator. I know of a mini donkey named Murray who terrorized a fully grown black bear right off my friends property! Clearly no one ever told him how small he was.
I keep lights on at night. I have two big streetlights in the barn yard that are on sensors, and they’ll come on when it gets dark enough. I also make sure it’s not too quiet, I frequently have loud music playing and there are power tools running. This does nothing for these wolf hybrids but it keeps the bears/cougars/normal wolves at bay.
That’s all I can think of for non-lethal prevention off the top of my head. During the summer months when foals are really small and helpless it’s usually not that bad, because the smaller animals are out of hibernation and the packs seem to break up a bit to hunt the smaller prey. But last winter was long and harsh, and this winter is forecast to be just as bad if not worse. That’s usually when the hybrids start grouping together to take on bigger prey, and that’s when you really need to worry.
Before the hybrids came I didn’t have any problems with the natural predators in this area. My dogs would actually go out and play with the transient timber wolves! And the bears would sooner race for cover than let you get a good look at them. I only ever saw one large cat, and it raced off too quickly for me to tell you what it was.
Now I’m too nervous to take a walk in the woods in winter by myself. I certainly don’t blame anyone who lives in a predator heavy environment for wanting to protect their foals by bringing them in at night.
Yay I’m so glad you responded to this, because you live in a MUCH scarier predatory environment than I do. We have coyotes and bears, but nothing the mama mares can’t fend off - the Icelandic horsepeople I’m friends with here keep the mares and foals out 24/7 in pastures that mimic Iceland as much as possible, and no one has ever had any sort of trouble - I also think there are enough small animals for the predators to eat here, as (knock on wood) they’ve never bothered my small dogs or kitties either. But you’re in a much more rural environment with much bigger predators and in that case, of course I wouldn’t object to bringing them in at night - but I also know that you keep your horses out in enormous outdoor spaces with a lot of different kinds of challenging terrain and interesting places to explore, which keeps the horses alert and moving. My original post was referencing people who keep foals in stalls or in flat, boring paddocks ALL THE TIME, which we all know is a thing that people do quite often (sometimes the foal only has the mare for company!) and I seriously object to that unless the mare or foal is sick or injured and MUST be confined. For horses like yours that are outside running around and exploring all day, of course I don’t think it’s a bad thing to bring them in at night for safety. My own horses come in at night in the summer months, because of the small biting flies that imported Icelandic horses are so often allergic to (because Iceland doesn’t have such bugs, domestic bred Icelandic horses don’t have the allergy, yadda yadda) and they LOVE running into their stalls at night - I think that, after a day of being outside and moving around, they actually like having a quiet, secure place to sleep at night, but I know that wouldn’t be the case if they were kept in a more boring environment. Horses should be outside moving around as much as possible, especially when they are young and growing - when I breed the Queen Bee, I plan to build her a deluxe shed with fans so she has a place to get away from the flies at night, and let the horses stay out 24/7 with the foal (and hopefully a friend of mine will send her pregnant mar too so that there are two foals to play together). But who knows, maybe I’ll chicken out about the coyotes and bring them in at night. As long as they’re out all day running around in the big, steep pastures which loop through groves of trees and other interesting places to explore, I don’t think it matters if they come in at night. What hurts my soul is seeing foals kept in unsuitable, confining environments all the time.