Joie de Vivre
How Foals Survive
Everyone loves foals. Who can help it? With their long legs and fluffy manes and tails, foals are amongst the most iconic and beautiful of baby animals.
Foals are not just adorable, however. Everything about them – from those endless spidery legs to the way they sleep flat on their sides – was designed by God to help the next generation of horses live on.
Born to Run
Let’s start with the most striking feature of foals: the legs. A foal is born with legs approximately 90% of the adult length.1 However, the legs are not as thick or solid as they will be when the foal matures; in fact they look so long and slender that it seems a miracle they can hold the foal up. The legs often seem to get in the foal’s way. Many foals will forge or over-reach – striking the front hoof or leg with a hind hoof – simply because the legs are too long for the body. They will also have trouble learning to graze, having to resort to various contortions just to get their noses down to grass level.
God didn’t just give foals long legs to make them look cute! Going back to one of the most basic elements of equine nature, horses are flight animals. Unlike many herbivores, such as cattle and antelope, mares will not hide their foals in the grass and leave them. Foals can be seen running with the herd from day one, and if there is a threat, their first and best defence is to flee.
If a foal were born with legs in proportion to its body, like a calf or puppy, running would be hopeless. He would drop behind in seconds and become vulnerable to being eaten. But God gave foals legs almost as long as their parents’ and tiny, light bodies, a physical combination created for speed and hence, survival. They can easily keep up with the herd, taking huge strides. The gawky creature fumbling around in an attempt to graze turns suddenly graceful with a burst of speed.