Life Stages & Needs of Horses

Icon of a book Different Stages of Your Horses Life

The horse has a life cycle that can be broken down into four very distinct phases. Beginning at birth, the horse evolves into adolescence, adulthood and finally old age.

Foal (Birth to weaning)

Horses are born after a gestation period of 341 (+/- 15 days) days. Until they are weaned, they are called foals. After they are weaned, they are called weanlings.

Adolescence (Yearlings and two-year-olds)

Horses grow quickly in their first year, when they are called yearlings. A yearling has almost grown into its mature height and its body frame starts to fill out. Many yearlings have different growth periods that make them look unbalanced and uncoordinated. Horses reach puberty between two and three years of age. Their growth rate slows down considerably during this time, but it not complete until the horse is four to five years of age.


A horse finally reaches maturity at the age of four or five. Females are now referred to as mares, and males as stallions or geldings.

Old Age

By their late teens or early twenties, horses begin to show the signs of aging. Often referred to as ‘geriatric‘ horses, their backs may begin to sag, and many develop health problems. In the wild, these conditions contribute to rapid deterioration and death. With proper care and management, horses can live into their mid- to late-twenties.

Figure 3.1 provides a timeline for the basic stages a horses life.

Timeline showing the four basic life stages of a horse. Includes Foal / weening (Birth 1 year old); Adolescence which include yearlings and two year-olds; Adulthood (3 years of age to late teens); Old age also known as being 'geriatric' (Late teens until death occurs).
Figure 3.1: Timeline of the Basic Life Stages of a Horse

Icon of a graded written submission Animal Life Stages (Activity)

Take a few minutes to complete the following activity.

Activity Instructions

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  2. Scroll down to the “Animal Life Stages” activity item in the booklet.
  3. Complete each of the activities outlined in the instructions.
  4. SAVE your work.

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