23 February 2024

The Pivotal Weaning Stage: Shaping Future Champions in Horse Racing

While the hustle and bustle of the yearling preparations and sales are well underway for 2024, breeders are hurriedly putting their 2025 yearlings through the weaning process to determine what path the foals take in the next 12 months. Weaning is essential to a horse’s development and can often be the make-or-break process in deciding if the foal is going to develop into a top-class yearling, or if they develop physical and behavioural issues. For those invested in the BTX Broodmare Pack, this is an extremely exciting and pivotal time on the farm for the 2023 born foals. As 4-7 month-olds, this process is delicate and handled highly professionally by the team at Blue Gum Farm.


Photo: Blue Gum Farm

Why Weaning is Performed Now: Weaning is a crucial stage in the development of racehorses, marking the transition from dependency on their mother’s milk to independent feeding. Typically occurring when foals are around 4 to 6 months old, the weaning process involves separating them from their dams gradually to minimise stress and ensure a smooth transition.

The Benefits: The primary benefit of weaning racehorses lies in promoting their physical and psychological development. Separating foals from their mothers encourages them to start consuming solid food and learn important social behaviours within their peer group. This independence fosters self-reliance and prepares them for future training and racing.

First Day Of School: Separating a foal from its dam can induce stress and anxiety in both the foal and the mare. It is a process not dissimilar to kindergarten for human relevance. Lessons are short and are taught more often in two to five-minute sessions, where the foals are trained to accept different pieces of gear like head collars and leads, or different experiences like the wash bay for a shampoo and clean. Foals may vocalise, pace, or exhibit other signs of distress, while mares may become agitated or vocalise in response to the separation. Managing this stress is essential to ensure the well-being of both the foal and the mare.

Maurice x Flandersrain ’23 Colt undergoing the weaning process at Blue Gum Farm.


Physical Changes: Physiologically, weaning stimulates the foal’s digestive system to adapt to a diet of hay, grains, and concentrates. This dietary shift is vital for the foal’s growth and muscle development, setting the foundation for their future athletic performance. Weaning also allows breeders to monitor each foal’s nutritional intake more closely, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients to support their development.

Weaning requires a dietary shift from solely relying on mare’s milk to consuming solid food. Ensuring that foals receive adequate nutrition during this transition is crucial for their growth and development. Some foals may initially resist eating solid food, requiring patience and monitoring to encourage proper intake.

Challenges: Weaning can temporarily weaken the foal’s immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses such as respiratory infections or gastrointestinal upset. Close monitoring for signs of illness and maintaining a clean and hygienic environment can help mitigate these risks. However, the physical benefits of weaning if done correctly include reducing the risk of injuries that can occur when foals become overly dependent on their dams. As foals grow, they may inadvertently injure their mothers during play or nursing, especially if they are particularly large or active. Separating them reduces the likelihood of such accidents and promotes safer environments for both the foals and their dams.

From a behavioural standpoint, weaning encourages foals to establish relationships within their peer group, learning important social cues and hierarchies. This interaction aids in their overall socialisation and prepares them for future interactions with trainers, handlers, and other horses.

Overall, the weaning process is a critical step in the development of racehorses, promoting independence, physical growth, and socialisation. When conducted with care and attention to the individual needs of each foal, weaning sets the stage for their successful transition into athletic careers as racehorses.


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11 February 2024

The Australian Racing Landscape

Explore the dynamic evolution of Australian horse racing with BTX Racing, from the early days of the nation's first race meetings to the thrilling heights of today's multimillion-dollar races. Discover how technological advancements and a culture rich in equine passion have shaped an industry that's as vibrant as it is competitive. Dive into the legacy of legendary horses and the bright future of ownership that BTX Racing is pioneering.