Updated: Nov 4, 2022
The last few weeks have been a little rough for him and me. The time has arrived a bit too early than I would like. Horses can wean as early as 3 months and the standard is 6 months which is what I was aiming for and it was the expectation of his breeders. Carbon and his mom were starting to eat their bedding (sawdust) and wood because they were competing for hay. They got enough hay weight-wise/nutrition. This was more of a problem with feeding horses 2x a day in bulk which kind of goes against their digestive system.
Horses have tiny stomachs compared to their body size, around 2-4 gallons. Their foregut (the stomach and small intestine) is so much smaller than their hindgut which is made up of the cecum, large colon, small colon, and rectum. Here is a good resource for more on The Digestive Anatomy and Physiology of the Horse. Horses are grazers, they eat small frequent meals to keep themselves feeling full. Feeding horses 2 meals a day will meet their caloric needs but they will still feel hungry and in a stall, there is not much to do. This doesn't happen all the time but with two of them, they just ate way to fast. Grazing keeps a horse entertained for lack of better words so boredom can be another issue. Horses will try to fulfill their needs and they get creative. Wood chewing is pretty common. It gives them something to do and makes them feel full. Sometimes horses will do it if they need more fiber in their diet. Whatever the reason it is not healthy. I thought about a hay net. The idea is it helps them eat the hay slower and is something I could give him in between meals. In nature, horses eat off the ground and have to pull grass free. In a domestic setting, they are given hay which is cut-dried grass so they can pretty much vacuum it up. The downside of the haynet is they don't eat with their head down which is also not ideal.
I made the rookie mistake of hanging it too low and he is a playful horse and got his foot stuck and had to be cut free. I wouldn't have known if it were not for the missing haynet and people telling me. He is fine and was running around afterward like nothing happened little mischief maker. So that is a NOPE! on the haynet. I could get one that has even smaller holes but knowing him, he likes to play with things I just know he will find a way to make those holes bigger as I did see him grab it and lean back with his whole body playing tug of war *facepalm*. We are looking at safe ground slow feeder options if he still has the sawdust-eating problem when he is on his own. Over the past month, I had been working with his mom and him separately. They were fine being away from each other. I don't get to control everything so this was the best option for us. Started with an hour and worked our way up to 4. Two hours just him and me out and about then I would go and take his mother out and leave him in the stall alone for 2 more hours. I would also give them hay in the middle of the day. Later I would put him in his own stall 12x12 alone for a little bit. He definitely struggled with that. He was totally fine if I was in the stall with him but the second I would leave he would get very anxious and upset. He would pace and not eat. Constantly neighing for me or his mom. His mom was way more ready than us. Thankfully she would not reply to him. She was enjoying her child-free time. Meanwhile, I was turning into a puddle walking away from him! November 1 was the day he is supposed to be alone as all the foals were being weaned from their mares. Carbon was not doing well in the stall. He would settle after 15 mins ( I hid just to see how he was doing) and I would leave for 2-4 hours tried 6 hours. He was starting to tolerate being alone but you could tell he was not a happy camper. We decided to upgrade his stall to one that is more open, bigger and has a small outdoor turnout. The biggest plus is it is next to two older mares who will tolerate him and they can touch...and teach him some horse social skills. He can also still see his mom from his turnout.
His mind is so active and although he can tolerate a lot for his age. He is a pretty easygoing colt. Making him be in a 12x12 stall alone is a lot of ask of a young one. I introduced him to the bigger stall and his neighbors. He was so much calmer and if I would leave/go out of sight. He was still concerned and would neigh but it was a "see you next time" neigh. Then he would go back to eating hay or pestering the mares a bit.
*Huge sigh of relief* I checked on him the other day as it was his first day on his own in the new stall and he was doing so well. He had been sleeping alone where he and his mom use to be as she had been moved with other mares. He was calm and eating his hay. He was a little clingy to me but I completely understand little man. We both needed a hug. So far he is not eating anything he is not supposed to. This was my first time weaning a horse myself and having a horse in a stall. Frisky was weaned at 10 months but feel hers was more stressful for her, it was done more suddenly plus her personality was on the fearful anxious side. It took her months to get to the state Carbon is at. I think the difference is he knows me very well and the other horses. Carbon feels safe with me almost at the same level as he does with his mom, that helped soo much. Frisky was unhandled when I got her and in a completely new unfamiliar place. Hidalgo was weaned at about a year and his mom was basically kicking at him (which did not deter him) so his went smoothly but he was also never the type to be anxious. Plus Hidalgo knew me, the area, and was so excited to meet Frisky. I think I am going to take a long nap now. Now if things go at this pace maybe I can do some artwork! A little video of Carbon in 12x12 stall with me. He somehow touched the screen to switch cameras, I just rolled with it.