Have you ever been curious about horses’ life span or stages of growth? You may have observed or heard that these amazing animals’ life cycle is rather different than our own. For example, foals can stand and walk within a few minutes of birth.
In this post, we’ll explore horses’ development from the womb right through to old age.
Pregnancy and Birth
A mare is pregnant, on average, for 340 days, or a little over 11 months. Mares give birth on their own, with even the umbilical cord breaking by itself. Labour normally lasts for 1 hour before they lie down to give birth.
Baby horses start nursing within 2 hours of their birth and are considered foals until they stop nursing after about 6 months. Foals drink up to a quarter of their body weight in milk every day. Thankfully for their mothers, baby horses often start to find solid food interesting after 10 to 14 days and can start to eat foal feed after a couple of months.
From the time that they wean, or stop nursing, to their first birthday, young horses are called weanlings. During this period, they gain a significant portion of their height and body weight. They need regular exercise to encourage muscle development.
Yearlings are horses between 1 and 2 years of age. They have growth spurts that leave them looking off balance with their hind, or rear end, higher than their withers, or the area between their shoulder bones. Over the course of the year that they spend in this stage, horses grow into their bodies, particularly their long legs.
In this puberty period, when horses are between 2 and 3 years of age, their growth rate slows as they approach their mature height and weight. Adolescence is an excellent time to start horses on training as they are quite curious, and the growth plates in their bones have normally closed, allowing them to be ridden.
By the time that it turns 4, a horse is considered a full adult. Adult horses have stabilized their height and weight and normally eat the equivalent of about 2 percent of their body weight daily. People often start breeding horses when they are about 3 years old.
Horses start to show signs of aging, like a sagging back, by the time that they’re in their early 20s, although many are still ridden for several years. For the sake of comparison, a 20-year-old horse is like a human of 60 years of age. Elderly horses need to be checked regularly since they can suffer from health problems like joint pain and kidney and liver disease, and have difficulty regulating their body temperature and weight.
Did you gain a deeper understanding of horses’ life cycle? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.