What Is A Baby Horse Called? Fun Facts All Horse Riders Should Know!

Deepthi Reddy
Jan 09, 2023 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Nov 04, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
A beautiful brown mare nurturing and teaching her sweet new little foal
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.6 Min

A horse is a domesticated single-toed mammal, which belongs to the Equidae family, including zebras and donkeys.

Around 300 breeds of horse are found throughout the world today. These breeds are mainly classified into three categories based on their general temperament: hot blood, cold blood, and warmbloods.

The horse has had a unique connection with humans for a long time. They have had close interactions with humans in activities such as riding, agriculture, war, and entertainment. Horses also provide many products, including meat, milk, and hair, for use by humans. Read on to explore more exciting information about horses and ponies.

Have we intrigued you enough? Then check out our other interesting articles on how do horses sleep? And can horses eat bananas?

Is a pony a baby horse?

Ponies are small horses. Many people have mistakenly thought that a baby horse is called a pony, but it is not. A horse's baby is called a foal until they are one year old irrespective of gender. After a foal is one-year-old, they are known as a yearling. With so many names used throughout the horse's life stages, it can be challenging to know the appropriate term to call a baby horse. More gender-specific terms may also apply, such as a female foal is called a filly, and a male foal is called a colt.

A group of baby horses is known as foals. Foals that are nursing from their mother are called sucklings. After they are weaned off their mother's milk at around four to six months, they are known as a weanling. A three or four-year-old female horse is called a filly, whereas a young male horse is called a colt.

Just as we refer to our parents as mom and dad, a foal's mother is a dam, and the father is a sire. In general, all adult female horses, even pregnant or nursing ones, are called mares. The terms dam and broodmare are used to identify a nursing and pregnant mare. A broodmare is used when a female horse is kept for breeding. Once the foal is weaned, the mother is called a mare again.

Some breeders suggest that young horses are truly mature by two years of age to begin training under the saddle; they do not physiologically reach their maturity. The most common age for the maturity of horses is three.

How old is a colt?

In some United States, specifically in western parts, the foal has often been termed a colt in the local dialect, irrespective of gender.

A young male horse between the age of two and five is called a colt. Rag is the term used to refer to a herd or group of colts. Colts are taken away from the herd in the wild when they are one or two years old to avert inbreeding. Similarly, a young female foal is called a filly.

However, a baby horse is called a foal, colt, or filly, and terms like suckling, weanling, and yearling are less commonly used. 

Gestation Period For A Baby Horse

Beautiful little cowgirl riding horse pony

The mother horse needs a particular foaling stall that is large and clutter-free so that it provides the mare with a large safe place to give birth.

The average gestation period of a baby horse is about 11 months. Therefore, a broodmare gives birth to one foal a year. Usually, a filly will mature at the age of two, but it is advised to breed the fillies after four years of age as their growth stops. At the age of four, a filly becomes an adult female horse called the mare. However, maturation depends on the horse's breed, size, and quality of care. The term mare is also typical among mules and zebras when they become four years of age.

The mare gives birth to a foal several weeks early or up to four weeks after their due date. As horses are precocial species, young horses can stand, walk, and run within a few hours of birth. Isn't it amazing that horses can run hours after birth? They also can eat right away after birth. Even when feeding on mother's milk, foals grow rapidly and gain more than a kilo per day. That's why breeders must pay attention to the mare's diet and give extra care during this time.

What are horses older than a baby called?

It is essential to educate yourself with the proper equine terminology used to describe horses at different stages to help you communicate more effectively with other riders and equestrians. As we are aware, under the age of one, newborn baby horses are called foals. Let's learn the other names that vary from a baby horse to a young horse.

Weanling: A baby horse feeding on a mother's milk is referred to as a weanling until they turn one. The name is acquired from the weaning process.

Yearling: When the baby horse runs into a year, it is known as a yearling, and a baby horse that crosses 18 months of age is called a long yearling.

Colt: A male baby horse, less than four years of age, is called a colt.

Stallion: A young male horse fully grown and uncastrated is a stallion. It is the most familiar name globally related to a horse's masculinity. A stallion will be more aggressive towards other male horses and, therefore, should be appropriately handled. The stallion has a thicker neck with a more muscular physique when compared to female horses. An adult male used for horse breeding is called a stud.

Gelding: Male adult horse that has been castrated is called a gelding. A gelded horse is more gentle and calm than the stallions and used for working activities like riding.

Ridgling: A young horse that suffers from cryptorchid is called a ridgling or rig, a condition identified by undescended testicles. If a male horse suffers from ridgling, then there is no need for the gelding. Sometimes ridgling can also be castrated with good horse training.

Even female baby horses have many names, which includes:

Filly: A female baby horse up to four years is called a filly.

Mare: An adult female horse over the age of four is called a mare. The mares that are used for breeding horses are called broodmares. When mares become mature, they are referred to as being in foal. Giving birth to a baby horse is referred to as foal, and the process is called foaling.

Dam: After a baby horse has been foaled, the female adult horse (mare) is known as a dam, the way to call the mom of a horse.

Spayed mare: Mares can be castrated, and the specific term for addressing these mares is a spayed mare.

What are the differences between ponies and foals?

A foal refers to a baby equine of any type, such as a horse, pony, donkey, or zebra. The most apparent difference between a pony and a horse is their size.

Ponies are tiny horses belonging to the same species, Equus caballus, and they share all the traits of regular-sized horses. Since ponies are smaller than horses, they are often mistaken as baby horses.

A fully grown adult pony measure under 4.73 ft (144 cm) and is smaller than horses, whereas baby horses grow over 4.73 ft (144 cm) tall when they become adult horses.

Some horse breeds aren't taller than 4.73 ft (144 cm), but they are not classified as ponies because they don't have the other characteristics of ponies - for example, Icelandic horses. The body structures of ponies and horses may seem similar but are different like a pony has short legs, a thick neck, a broad chest with dense bones, and a small head.

A pony has a thick coat, manes, and tails, whereas a horse has much lighter coats, thinner manes, and tails. Ponies have better endurance and can tolerate colder weather conditions more naturally, whereas horses are in contrast. Ponies are more intelligent than a foal.

Difference Between Colt And Foal

Horses have many names evolved with different ages. Foal and colt are some of the them that people often get confused with. It is essential to realize the difference so that it helps identify how to take care of them easily.

A male baby horse is generally known as a colt, whereas foal is used to address baby horses that start nursing. The terms colt and foal will tell you how old the horse is, its gender, and its stage of life.

Foals are baby horses born after 11 months in the mother's womb, including both male and female horses. After they reach one year, a foal will no longer be called a foal. The name colt is a gender-specific term that refers to the male horses only under the age of four.

Why are most foals born at night?

A mare prefers to give birth generally in spring or early summer. Even in captivity, horses are typically bred in spring or summer because these seasons are full of rich grass, which helps the mare produce plenty of milk full of nutrients.

Foals are mostly born at night as it is an instinct for a mare to give birth in the mid-night or early morning. While the days leading to a foal's birth may seem to drag on, the foaling process is often quick. A foal's best time to be born is in the early spring and usually the middle of the night. The common reason for this phenomenon is that foals cannot gallop at birth, so mares hope to protect them from potentially vulnerable predators.

As per a study, it is indicated that over 80% of foals were born between midnight and early morning. Mares also prefer to be alone at foaling time, and if possible, they will delay birth until no one is around. In addition, foals are usually born in the spring because the mare's estrous cycle occurs from early spring. They enter an anestrus period during the winter and do not cycle in this period.

Caring For A Newborn Foal During The First Hours

People enjoy riding and racing horses. However, taking care of these equines is not so easy, and they need proper care especially caring for a newborn baby horse needs specific attention.

After foal's birth, carefully remove the birth sack from its head and make sure it is breathing. Now allow the mother mare to care for her baby in the first few moments of life. The first milk (colostrum) helps boost its immunity and is received by a foal from its mother. The newborn should stand and nurse during the first hours, which indicates a healthy sign for a foal. In the wild, foals have been known to nurse for up to a year, but they are weaned under human management between four to six months of age. 

Some foals may have windswept legs deformity often seen in heavier and taller foals born to smaller horses. This deformity causes their legs to bend to one side.

Therefore, if you notice any abnormality in your foal while attempting to stand or walk within the first two hours, it is advisable to call your veterinarian. Also, if the foal is unable to nurse within the first two hours of birth, call your vet, as this may be a sign of an abnormality.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for What is a baby horse called? Fun facts all horse riders should know, then why not take a look at our articles on biggest horse or horse facts.

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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