Baby horses or foals as they are correctly known as, have to be the cutest, most gorgeous creature's in the whole animal kingdom, or is it just because I am a horse lover. Their cheeky curiousity, gawkiness, fearlessness and always exploring everything attitude, has a charm all of it's own.
Have you noticed how quickly a newborn foal seems to be able to stand up? It's usually within an hour they're wobbling about, while their mother starts to lick them all over, and almost immediately they start searching for their mothers teats to feed.
Dad says it's a survival instinct that motivates them to drink, as they need the essential antibodies, which is in the colostrum, or mother's milk.
My first pony had a baby. She was so beautiful. I think she thought she was my sister, because she followed me everywhere, even in the house, till dad made a gate.
Inquisitive and fearless, young foals are into everything; from the moment they're born, it appears to be their intention to explore everything, watched anxiously by their devoted mothers. The whole world is there for the taking.
Born in the wild, it is imperative that foals stand immediately, albeit shakily, on their impossibly spindly legs, because the herd has no idea where the next threat, the next predator, is lying in wait. A young foal would make an easy meal.
And the threat is not always from other animals. But can come from one of their own kind, eg: a stallion from another herd.
The following video is of a foal who couldn't stand up immediately and is killed.
WARNING: This video is disturbing...and I've put it up to give an example of what can happen in the wild...and for educational purposes...PGR...
Despite their domesticity, horses still have this inherent urgency and the first thing a new mother will do is nudge her reluctant offspring to his feet.
But merely moments old - a newborn will usually be standing within one hour - he will be up, wobbling perilously, while his anxious mother licks him from head to feet, cleaning him and stimulating his blood supply.
Once up, the next most important action for the newborn is to feed; his first taste of his mothers milk - called the colostrum - is vital, because it contains essential antibodies that the baby needs to survive and which will be quickly absorbed by his gut.
He should take at least one litre of colostrum within six hours of birth.
It is rare for horses and ponies to give birth to more than a single foal, although it does happen. Horse breeders generally try to avoid this as it usually means two weak babies instead of one strong one. In the wild, twins rarely survive.
Mares come into season - also called coming 'on heat' - every eighteen to twenty one days and the ideal time for foals to be born, whether wild or domesticated, is the early spring, so they can make the most of the lusher grazing when they are weaned, or no longer taking their mother's milk. The dam needs sustenance too, so she will also benefit.
The mare carries her foal for eleven months and the resulting offspring will be reliant on his mother's milk for up to six months. It is a steep learning curve for the newborn.
A wild foal should be standing within an hour of birth, and shortly after he should be able to walk and feed. Soon afterwards, he should be able to canter and to call out to his mother.
During the first hour of his existence, a process called imprinting will take place, ensuring an unbreakable and irreversible bond with his mother and with her to him. It is vital that this is not disturbed.
The bond is incredibly strong, so much so, that if the mare and her foal are separated accidently, they will ignore all obstacles and injuries in their efforts to be reunited.
The foal relies on his mother entirely in the first few weeks of life, becoming braver and more independent as he grows stronger. In a herd environment, he will soon be made aware of the pecking order and will learn where he is welcome and where he is not.
In growing up with a mixed group of horses or ponies of all ages, including the herd stallion, the youngster gets the chance to learn all aspects of horse behaviour and more importantly, discipline.
He will usually be tolerated, provided he knows his place, and discipline meted out by older horses is both harsh and fair.
As foals mature, they will become less dependent on his mother - there's a huge world out there, and they will want to explore every inch of it. If they are born into a herd environment, they will soon want to interact with other foals.
Video of beautiful foals...
Playful and boisterous, the youngsters will romp and gallop about and stage mock fights, with much squealing and kicking, which can look quite ferocious. Although they are playing, the babies are actually beginning to assert themselves and to find their place in the herd. They are also testing their survival techniques.
While the adult horses are capable of inflicting considerable damage on a foal, generally a youngster's irritating inquisitive nature is tolerated by his elders, even the senior stallions.
Usually, a flattering of ears and head tossing by a member of the older generation is enough warning to a baby that he is seriously getting on their nerves.
When approaching a member of the herd, a foal may adopt to what appears to be an exaggerated nursing position - neck and muzzle extended, with his ears flattened out to the sides - and repeatedly snapping his jaws together. This is submissive behaviour designed to placate the older horse, but when frightened youngsters may well display it later in life.
Early days are an idyllic existence that is spent feeding, playing and sleeping. At eight to ten days, he will be starting to nibble grass, although not in great quantities for the first few weeks.
While he sleeps, his mother will 'stand guard' over him, watchful for any threat - real or imagined - to her young.
Growing older and stronger, foals will sleep less and play more, and at an increasing distance from their mother's. Play develops their co-ordination and balance and reinforces survival techniques - but when frightened or alarmed, he will instinctively return to his mother's side and will often suckle simply for comfort.
If the foals dam becomes pregnant again, she will gradually wean her existing youngster by becoming more aggressive towards him as her pregnancy progresses.