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Under natural conditions, foals are weaned at around 10 to 11 months of age as part of a gradual process mediated by the mare. Often a social bond persists even when the foal is nutritionally independent. In contrast, some domestic horses are subject to artificial weaning practices where foals are separated from the mares at a younger age, with little or no possibility of retaining social contact. While studies show artificial weaning can be stressful for foals, little is known about how artificial weaning affects mares. Researchers will study the variation in mares' behavioral responses to physical separation from their foal. The team hypothesizes that mares scoring higher on attachment to their foals will display behaviors associated with increased stress, including frequent vocalizations and abnormal repetitive behavior. Findings will help inform strategies to reduce chronic effects of cumulative stress to mares at weaning, including foal age at weaning and social support.

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University of London
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United Kingdom
Maria Diez Leon, PhD
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