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In racing a foal is a young horse that is no older than one. After a horse’s first birthday the terminology is a yearling.
There are specific sales for yearling at which owners and trainers are looking for potential. Breeding and composition are important in the potential for a foal and yearling to become a successful racehorse.
A stallion and mare are coupled at stud farms to create a foal. The male and female parents are matched to produce offspring that will have the qualities of both parents. This is not an exact science and two horses that have done well on the track won’t necessarily produce a good horse. However, horses proven at Group level that come from good racing stock are in demand and paired to produce a foal.
Every racehorse trained in Britain has the same official birthday of January 1 and horses can only race once they have passed the age of two.
There is a great deal of growth and development as a horse passes through the stages of life from a foal to a yearling and then a juvenile racehorse. Horses are foaled throughout the year which means in races for horses aged two there will be a range of actual ages. The older horses will be stronger and more resilient so the birth date of horses in contests for two-year-olds is an important form factor.
Many foals and yearlings don’t graduate into racing. There may be early signs of a lack of ability or the right temperament for racing. These horses not fit for training must find an alternative career and the Retraining of Racehorses is an organisation that provides that type of support for ex-racehorses.
Every breeder wants foals to make the grade and win races but many don’t even make it to yearling sales when they show no signs of ability.