Yearlings Got School?

Professionals Share Tips on How to Prepare Yearlings for Sale and Show.

by Barbara Aiken Jenkins

Photos by Debbi Trubee of North Farm

If you consider yourself a part of the horse industry at any level, most likely your social
media feeds were flooded this spring with new “baby” pictures of foals underneath captions
like, “So excited for this little one’s future!” and“Can’t wait to see what the future has in store
for this fancy colt!” What you might not be seeing flood your Facebook pages are the
foals of last spring; the yearlings.  For them, the “future” has arrived.

Most competitive disciplines encourage young horses gearing for the show pen to be
started in training as late yearlings and early two-year-olds. However, owners who believe
their horses are show bound in their younger years generally have two choices. One, sell
their yearlings to buyers who are interested in placing the colts in training, or two, getting a
head start and showing the yearlings in longe line competition.

Top professionals in the industry who specialize in young horses, Debbi Trubee and Jon Barry, share their insights on how to successfully prepare yearlings for either sale or
show.

Debbi Trubee, who owns and operates North Farm in North Lawrence, Ohio featuring top Western Pleasure stallions such as Lopin Lazy, Winnies Willy, and The Best Martini is considered one of the best in the industry when promoting top stallions’ offspring. Trubee believes that managing successful yearlings either for sale or for the show pen “starts when [the foal] hits the ground.”   “Our babies start getting halter broke at two weeks old. I take pretty pictures of them too, showing them in a pretty light.”

North Farm’s Facebook page is brimming with classy, attractive photos of each foal, which
grants opportunities for easy marketing. If the foal is not bought as a weanling (North Farm
weans when the foal is six months old) the foal is turned out with other foals to learn natural
“horse manners.” In May of these foals’ yearling year, they are not considered “babies” any longer. They are in training to be professionals.

A day in the life of an average yearling at North Farm consists of eating in the morning with a diet fit for good growth, turn out from the stall, “a lot of brushing,” a workout, shower, and standing tied to learn the art of patience (an art every horse show person and horse knows is important!) followed by eating an  evening meal.

“They really are mini professionals”, laughs Trubee. The yearlings’ workouts involve the show horse basics including ground manners and round pen lunging. “They are required to learn how to walk, trot, and lope to the left and the right,” states Trubee.

It is impossible for a yearling to have an extensive show record, so it is vital for buyers to
be able to see a well-behaved yearling that is healthy, pleasant, athletic, and have the skills to
be moved to the next stage in their career. Trubee does not believe that she is the reason
why her yearlings are sold to quality owners. “The [colts] sell themselves because they are
quality,” declares Trubee.

“We sell them as individuals at a fair price so buyers are able to take a chance that [the
yearling] is going to be a show horse.”

Like Trubee, trainer Jon Barry, who specializes in longe line yearlings in Advance, Missouri, has a philosophy geared toward the individual horse when preparing young horses for sale or the show pen. “We work on what is most natural and easy for the [horse],” states Barry. “We don’t tell them they have to be ready. When they’re ready, they will be competitive.”

Barry believes in working yearlings according to their physical and mental abilities when preparing them for the show pen. “Yearlings are still growing,” he stresses. “It’s important to understand the way they grow.”

Barry also emphases the importance of learning the optimum nutritional needs for each yearling. “Supplements, good hay, and good feed” will go a long way in preparing the yearling before it even enters the show pen.

As for training techniques, Barry stresses the biggest skill he teaches his horses, and practices himself, is patience. He believes that it is vital for a horse of any age, especially a young one, to build confidence instead of fear.

“Our horses learn to ‘take’ things and are taught to handle situations that they are placed in,”
Barry explains. “Before they ever leave the farm, they have blankets, and buckets rubbed on
them, long poles with plastic sacks waved at them and over their bodies.”

Barry admits that some young horses handle the de-spooking process better than others,
and vice versa, but only one goal remains during the entire training process—building
confidence.

As for training a yearling to be competitive in the show pen as a lunge line horse, Barry
concludes success is based on three aspects— mental ability, physical ability, and consistency
in training.

“I want my yearlings to move in a natural gait at the walk, trot and lope both left and right that isn’t too fast or too slow,” allowing the horse to push forward in the desired cadence and rhythm in a riding class. While they are learning to consistently move correctly, Barry teaches the yearlings to read body language and, “listen to [his] voice” with the emphasis on stopping square when he commands “whoa.”

Whether you are already planning your 2017 foal’s future as they run circles in the pasture, or have a 2016 foal who is ready to become that “mini professional,” it is never too early to start mapping out what you believe is the best fit for your horse. If selling is the top choice, make sure that your colt has manners, is agreeable, and ready for a new owner. If you are
considering or already pursuing your yearling for the show pen this year, remember to build
confidence.

The ultimate goal for any show horse regardless of age is to become a successful,
valued horse for the people who love the sport.

How to Prepare for a Successful Foaling

By Rachel Beerbower

Mama Sweetie with baby Reno, only a few hours old!

We have all heard expectant parents talk about baby proofing their homes. Well, this is the time of year when many people are expecting… baby horses, that is! Foaling season is upon all expectant mothers and owners alike. I had a chance to talk to Steve Brown from the University of Findlay to share with me how he “baby proofs” his barn.

“First of all, make sure you have all the first aid equipment on hand. Nothing causes more problems in an emergency than not being prepared,” Steve says. His first aid kit includes iodine, clean towels, and gloves. If a vet is present, they may bring probiotics, tetanus shots, lubrication, and OB chains.

Most mares do not care how convenient foaling is for you. The vast majority of mares have their babies at night. This was critical in the wild. Now it simply means mare owners never sleep! If you are lucky enough to have cameras set up, make sure they work. Steve says he typically wakes up every hour to look at the camera. “But,” Steve laughs, “you have to admit, this is a much better option than walking out to the barn!”

If you have space, keep the mare in a foaling stall. This is much larger than a normal stall, to ensure mare and foal have ample room. Check the stall for any low protruding screws, nails, hooks, or other dangers on which a curious newborn can catch a nostril or their rump. Be sure to have your mare’s stall heavily bedded with lots of straw or bedding, as the mare will often lay down and stand up, moving about as she tries to get comfortable during labor. Offer some hay and water, but don’t be too concerned if she is too uncomfortable to eat. It helps to wrap her tail in vetrap or an ace bandage to keep it from getting stuck in fluids and the birthing process. A good time to do this is when you notice the mare’s teats “waxing up,” or getting a waxy looking coating on the tips. This means she is nearing labor.

Another thing to prepare is a list of phone numbers. Will you need to call a vet or trusted friend? Be sure to have the numbers in your barn and programed into your cell phone.

You should also be familiar with the foaling process. In a normal delivery, the foal should be front feet first, and then the head, followed by the rest of the body. This is often called the “superman position,” with one hoof coming out before the other. This staggering of the front feet is necessary, otherwise the foal’s shoulders will be caught in the birth canal. Once the knees are out, you should be able to see the baby’s nose.

Most deliveries will require no assistance from you, but there may be some cases where you need to help pull the foal out. Discuss these emergencies with your vet so you are aware of what a struggling mare looks like. If you do need to pull the foal, pull out and down. Here is a good rule of thumb: If the baby has not made progress twenty minutes after the water has broken, call your vet. This is where that list of numbers comes in handy! Another reason to call the vet is if the foal is breached, meaning coming out of the birth canal backwards. This is very serious and the mare will need help.

Steve has one more piece of advice: “Do not help the foal stand up.”

“Everyone sees a baby struggling and wants to help it up. In my experiences, those horses do not try very hard when they grow up.” Let mama and baby figure it out on their own! Once you see the foal is nursing, it is best to leave. The first nursing is when the foal gets the colostrum, or first milk. This nutrient rich feeding is imperative for the baby to receive nutrients and immunities from the mother. You can go in and rub on the foal and get it used to handling at an early stage in life. However, remember to give the new pair plenty of space! Peace and quiet is all the mare and foal need. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the newcomer later on.

Be sure to give the foal time and space for exercise, and to try out those new legs! Mama would appreciate some space to roam as well. If you are turning them outside, check all fences to ensure a small foal can’t wriggle through or trip in a hole. If in an indoor arena, ensure the foal can’t get into any trouble with things you have stacked in corners. Don’t worry about leading the baby at first, he or she will be a mini shadow for mom during the first few months. Be careful to not separate the mare and foal too quickly, as it can cause panic for both.

Do not let foaling season stress you out! This is an exciting time of year for horse people. Be prepared and have fun with it!

Make Sure Your Foaling Checklist Includes IgG Test

As 2016 comes to a close and the 2017 breeding season rapidly approaches, breeders prepare for to welcome their new arrivals.  Whether you’re a small-time breeder or are in charge of a larger operation, you no doubt have a routine checklist you run through with the birth of each foal.  Make sure that list includes an IgG test to be administered during the first 24 hours, regardless of whether you see the foal nurse or not.  

As veteran breeder, Debbi Trubee of North Farm, reminded us on Facebook, this is a simple and relatively inexpensive test that can save a lot of heartache down the road.

In a message on Facebook, she advised breeders, “Please be sure to have an IgG test done on your newborn foal within 24 hrs from birth. This inexpensive test will possibly save the life of your foal. Even if you see your baby nurse it does not guarantee they have received the proper amount of colostrum to survive. Failure of passive transfer foals fail very rapidly and will die if emergency treatment is not provided. This simple test can save you a lot of heartache! Foaling season is a joyous time for all of us and nothing makes me sadder than getting a phone call from a customer who has lost a baby because of this preventable issue. Wishing you all a safe and successful foaling season!”

So, what is an IgG test?  Simply put, this blood test measures the amount of antibodies a foal has received from it’s mother in order to ward off everyday nasties that older horses develop immunity to.  Foals are born with zero antibodies and receive their first immune system boost from their mother’s colostrum.  IgG stands for Immunoglobin Type G, or the scientific name for antibodies.

However, receiving colostrum is not a guarantee that the little one has it’s jump start on immunity.  Various factors can play a role in how much, if any, of the antibodies their system receives.  Mares produce colostrum for only a few weeks to days before foaling, and can lose the vital nutrients and antibodies in the colostrum through dripping milk or they could have low levels of antibodies in their milk to start with.  There are other causes that can attribute to the foal not gaining the antibodies it needs including inability to nurse and failure to absorb antibodies in the colostrum.

When an IgG test is administered within 24 hours of foaling, it allows the breeder to know if the foal absorbed the adequate amount of antibodies or if it needs supplementation in order to get it’s immune system up to par.

For more information on the SNAP Foal IgG Test, click here.