Foaling season each year brings a mixed bag of emotions for breeders, whilst the hours of selecting pedigrees come to fruition from August each year with the hopes of a safe foaling and a good sort delivered, as with any animal husbandry there can also be setbacks.
The highs equal the lows and every breeding season has its challenges, but for two foals at Hadlow Stud who have overcome difficulty, the future looks bright indeed.
Cathy Martin, Chairman of the KZN Breeders Club, tells the story of taking care of two orphan filly foals.
“We have a chestnut filly by first season sire Chimichuri Run, out of Shuffles. The mare died during foaling, and Doug Campbell lost his Var mare Val La Ree at Sugar Hill Stud in Richmond, not long after due to post foaling colic complications; she produced a Willow Magic filly. This foal belongs to Doug Campbell with clients.”
It has come full circle for the little Willow Magic foal, as her deceased dam Val-La-Ree was born and raised at Hadlow Stud.
Shuffles is a Sarge mare who has produced two winners, and Val-Le-Ree had a promising start to her racing career, winning three starts in quick succession.
“We would normally try and foster the foals onto a mare who had recently lost her own foal. These days, with new knowledge, it is a fairly quick and easy process as opposed to the time it could take in previous years. This way the foster mare raises and feeds the foal as she would her own – it’s a win-win situation. Unfortunately at the time there were no foster mares available. I contacted Doug and proposed teaming them up as friends. There is nothing more gut wrenching than looking at a little orphan foal lying alone in a stable. They also need to be fed hourly so it is quite an intensive process.”
“Doug sent his filly the next day and they became firm friends very quickly, which is quite a warming moment to watch after a heavy heart. We moved them together into a small paddock and they have never looked back!”
“We were fortunate to be able to get a ‘dry nanny’ to keep them company. A lovely cross-breed mare, Nanny Mcfie was rescued by the Coastal Horse Care unit a few years back and went to Bush Hill Stud to keep an orphan company. She has done her job year after year with great love and care ever since.”
“Last year she did duties at Blue Sky Thoroughbreds and I was very lucky to be able to use her this year. Her job is to keep them company and teach them manners, which is important for orphan foals. On arriving here she took to them immediately, what a star nanny she has been.”
“They are starting to go into a bigger paddock together in the day. The end result will be to integrate Nanny and her two babies into a small herd of mares and foals to allow the orphans to grow up as naturally as possible.”
Cathy says the two babies are going from strength to strength and growing beautifully.
She advises that they are currently fed every two hours and each drink 24 litres of milk replacer a day, certainly a case of “drinking for the team”.
“Being involved in this gives you renewed respect for the mares, who have to produce this quantity themselves on a daily basis – incredibly, it is approximately 3% of her body weight per day for the first 3 months.”
Feeding wise, the two are starting to eat some hay and concentrates so while the quantity of milk stays as is, the regularity of their feeding will decrease until they are getting milk replacer four times per day.
The KZN Breeders Club consists of a tight knit group of Thoroughbred breeders, who via a Whatsapp forum assist each other when the need for foster mares are sought. The mares are then returned to their respective farms after the foals are weaned.
There are many success stories the world over of orphan foals going on to win Group races, and the most recent local success story of a foal going onto Graded Stakes winning success was Visionaire filly Emirate Gina, winning the Gr3 Tab4Racing Fillies Mile.
Cathy concludes that she hopes by giving the foals a well balanced diet and good paddock discipline from Nanny McFie and other horses, the play and company of other foals, they will grow up as normally as possible.
“We look forward to seeing them developing into the athletes they were born to be!”
Images: Cathy Martin