A horse’s life is fascinating, and it’s a beautiful experience to see their development. Discover the five stages of a wild mustang’s life cycle to understand each phase they go through.
A newborn horse is known as a foal. During this stage, the foal nurses and learns how to stand. By drinking their mother’s milk, the foal receives vitamins and nutrients that protect it from diseases. Typically, foals nurse three to five times per hour. This is the most critical time for a wild foal—the bonding moment between mare and foal. If that is disrupted, it will result in the death of the foal.
After two weeks of nursing, foals show interest in normal feed. By nibbling grass, the animal learns how to eat solid food and prepare for its next developmental stage in which they don’t rely on the mother’s milk for nutrients.
A weanling is a foal that doesn’t receive milk from its mother but is not yet a year old. When put in the perspective of human developmental stages, a weanling is like a toddler. In the weanling stage, the horse will eat a lot of food to grow and develop. That said, the weanling greatly benefits from high-protein diets during this stage.
Furthermore, the animal develops socialization skills during this stage as it interacts with other animals (including horses) and its environment. Ultimately, the weanling stage is all about curiosity and rapid development.
A yearling is a one- to two-year-old horse. At this point, the yearlings are independent of their mothers. They spend most of their time standing and tend to sleep less. The horse enjoys interacting with other horses by bucking, galloping, play-fighting, and running. Additionally, growth spurts are normal at this stage; some horses may grow two to three inches as yearlings.
After two years of age, male and female horses have separate names. A female horse under four years of age is a filly, and a male horse under four years of age is a colt. Think of adolescent horses as teenagers to young adults; they continue to grow, push boundaries, and become mentally and physically mature at this stage.
The last stage of a wild mustang’s life cycle is adulthood. Stallions are male horses that are four years old or older, and mares are female horses that are four years old or older. At this point, the horses are completely mature. They can run at high speeds and look after themselves. Around five or six, most horses reach their full heights. Horses are adults until 20 years old; afterward, they’re considered seniors.
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