Life Cycle of a Horse: Stages and Care

Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price

Horses can live to their 20s but they are subject to rapid change. This printable, free horse life cycle shows how a horse grows from conception to old-age.

Printable Life Cycle

Horses go through different stages of their lives as they reach different developmental milestones. To download the entire life cycle image, click on it and then print it for your horse’s use in the classroom or at home. If you need help accessing the printable file, please consult the Adobe guide.

Life Cycle of a Horse

Horse Pregnancy and Childbirth

The gestation period starts when a horse becomes pregnant or conceives a child.

  • The mare’s pregnancy can last from 320 days to 370 days. However, the average length is 340 days or just over 11 months.
  • The horse fetus is approximately two pounds in weight at 150 days. However, it looks very small.
  • Around 250 days old, mares start to look pregnant.


The mare will show signs of discomfort about a week before giving birth. Mares usually foal or give birth on their own. The umbilical cord is cut by the mare shortly after birth.

The Stages of Your Life

Horses experience physical and emotional changes at every stage of their lives.


Baby horses are known as foals from the moment they are born to the time that they stop nursing from their mothers.

  • Two hours after birth, start nursing
  • Due to the risk of developing respiratory diseases or diarrhea, you will need colostrum (milk from your mother) within six to twelve hours of birth.
  • Drinks 15-25 percent of your body weight daily in milk
  • Three to five nurses per hour
  • Mother still close by
  • You can start to eat small amounts foal feed starting around two months old


Foals usually wean or cease nursing from their mothers around three to six months of age.

  • Some foals may find weaning difficult.
  • For proper growth, foals of this age require a balanced diet rich in high-quality proteins, calories, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Weanlings will be approximately half their adult weight by six months and about three-fourths of their height.
  • Healthy weanlings only gain one pound each day.
  • Regular exercise is necessary to build muscle.
  • Vaccinations are administered at eight months.


It is referred to as a yearling from the moment a horse turns one until the time it turns two.

  • As they experience growth spurts, look unbalanced
  • Nearly at mature height, and the body is just starting to fill out
  • Nature is inquisitive
  • You need a lot water


Horses are considered adolescents from the age of two to three.

  • At this age, horses reach puberty.
  • The growth rate slows.
  • A filly is a female, and a ungelded male is called a colt .
  • This is the best time to train because they learn quickly.


Most horses reach adulthood at the age of four.

  • Males are now called stallions, or geldings .
  • An annual checkup is required for adult horses.
  • At this age, they can begin to breed.
  • Adult horses should consume about 2 percent of their bodyweight each day in roughage and forage.


The senior years of a horse may start at 15 but many people today believe horses don’t become seniors until they turn 20.

  • A 20-year-old horse can be compared to a 60-year-old human.
  • Senior horses need to be examined daily as they can quickly develop health issues and may require medication or pain management.
  • Feeding should consist of soft hay.
  • You can expect to see weight loss and weight gain.
  • Hooves require cleaning daily.
  • Senior horses have a reduced ability to regulate their body temperature, so they will require shelter.

The Equine Life Cycle

Horses go through a life that includes periods of growth and maturity. You can better care for and work with horses by understanding their growth, development, needs, and requirements at each stage.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!