My first 2 days in Ocala, Orlando,Florida
I sit here writing this article in the warmth of the Florida sunshine, surrounded by a beauty in scenery all its own. This whole new world of trees shimmering with floating Spanish moss tendrils wafting in the breeze. Beautifully fenced paddocks with content horses grazing. I’m staying as a guest of Sharon Madere on her Stud farm “Silver Moon Iberians”. She has a gorgeous set up here where she owns and trains a variety of Iberian stallions and has a breeding facility of mares and young-stock. I arrived 2 days ago where we spent the first evening discussing best practice in weaning foals
I had a lovely day yesterday watching a mixture of handling, training and riding. One of the things I found most interesting is the process Sharon is using to wean her 2 home bred colt foals. It is a shining example of how to slowly wean without causing stress to either foal nor mother.
The slow process Sharon uses:-
Her 2 babies are now nearly 9 months old, tall and leggy and calm! Their calmness comes from the way they are cared for and the slow process Sharon has been applying over the last few months. Incrementally, her foals have been experiencing short periods of separation in space but keeping mums in full view. This has happened inside her stable area and there are 2 auntie mares in the mix too.
At the time of my arrival here, the foals are now at the stage of happily stabling during the heat of the day, next to their aunties with mums in the next stable down. No anxiety, no stress, just contented horses everywhere. In the evenings, they are all turned out together in one big group. The foals go out last and immediately suckle milk with Mum. I was so impressed at how cohesive and calm all this was to watch.
Success is in the planning and gradual separations:-
Sharon is setting all the horses in this group up to succeed. The next stage will be for the foals to live out just with their aunties and the mums will dry off milk naturally somewhere else. Plans are afoot for the 2 boys to then live out in another cohesive group of geldings and one happy Iberian Stallion. It could not be a better way to wean young horses.
This group of male horses is another huge success story in so far as it is rare to see a mature stallion live calmly in a group of geldings. Most stallions must live a life of isolation because they are not able to share space with any other horse safely. They are simply never calm enough.
Sharon runs another business hand in hand here called EquiLightenment, where she provides behavioural consultations and education programmes. She is an accredited professional Equine Behaviourist with IAABC and walks the walk here on her stud farm. All her training is based on positive reinforcement and she is in-tune with all her horses on an emotional level. Every decision in care, management and training is all about producing calm, willing and content horses. I am delighted to be here, watching and learning in an environment where the emotional wellbeing of the horse is put first and foremost.