Getting it Right
When an orphaned horse is raised
without its mother, there’s a high
risk he will mature into a potentially dangerous adult horse if there is
too much human intervention and
not enough time with other horses.
Everyone wants to pet and spoil the
young foal, and while some attention
is fine, babies need to be raised by
horses, not people. This farm got it
right, thanks to a good understanding of the situation and good careful
And thanks to Priscilla and the two
COURTNEY S. DIEHL, DVM, has been an
equine veterinarian since 2000. She resides
in Steamboat Springs, Colo., where she is
in private practice. Her first book, Horse Vet,
Chroniclesofa Mobile Veterinarian, was
published in 2014. She is currently at work on
her second book.
Priscilla took to Tristan, and would lay her ears back and shake her head
threateningly when the horses in the adjoining pastures would crowd the fence
to see the baby. When the owners caught Priscilla drinking Tristan’s foal formula one day, they bought a creep feeder for the foal, so his tiny muzzle could slip
through with ease but Priscilla couldn’t reach the formula. Tristan also started
eating foal crumbles and nibbling hay and grass, and soon abandoned the formula altogether.
Growing Older and Wiser
When Tristan was big enough, he and Priscilla went out with two quiet geldings.
The three older horses kept the growing and often naughty Tristan in check. He
loved to rear up and try to bite and kick at his surrogate parents, especially Priscilla.
This was tolerated, to a point. A shriek from Tristan let his owners know he’d
pushed things a little too far with his family, and he’d modify his rude behavior.
He was started under saddle as a 2-year-old, and by 3, it was evident that he had a
great deal of talent for western pleasure. When Tristan started traveling and showing,
Priscilla went with him, and the two would return home victorious, returning to
their pasture with the two older geldings. Tristan was now very well-mannered and
never tried to kick or bite thanks to the steady tutelage of his elders.
Tristan was sold to a good home and remains a happy, well-adjusted horse.
Priscilla remained on the farm with the two geldings and several years later they
had another motherless foal to raise. They did their work effectively, bringing up
yet another well-mannered horse.