...of a Yard Manager – foaling season!
Hi, I’m Carrie and I manage White Hill Stud in Lancashire. We run a small breeding programme with a herd of broodmares, mostly dressage bred but also an event mare.
We also have several competition horses, a mixture of dressage divas and eventers, as well as hosting various clinics most weekends. So, as you can imagine my job is very varied with no two days are the same, and my job priorities hugely depend on the time of year. For my first blog I’m going to give you an insight into a typical day during foaling season which for us runs from around April to the end of July.
A typical day starts at 6.20am when my alarm goes off. Although I live on site I try to make sure I give myself time in the mornings to answer or send any necessary emails and plan for my day with a decent cup of coffee! It’s highly likely that I’ve been awake for most of the night watching the mares, so the coffee is an essential part of my day!
I arrive at the yard about 7.30am to feed and hay and have a quick look over all the horses before the rest of the team arrive at 8am when we all turn out, muck out and sweep up together. Any mares with very newborn foals are turned out in the arena for a leg stretch as we like the foals to learn to find their balance before tackling our hilly fields. Any broodmares that are due to foal imminently are turned out in the fields closest to the yard so that we can keep a close eye on them throughout the day. A quick coffee break and then it’s time to get on with the day!
From now until lunchtime I will ride, either schooling, jumping or hacking depending on where the horse is in its training/competition schedule. Our foaling season falls right in the middle of the eventing season, so this is a very busy time for me with lots of late nights, early mornings and plenty of caffeine!!
I find my phone is constantly going in the morning with enquiries about clinics and bookings being made. Any urgent ones are answered straight away but the majority are left until lunchtime, so I can concentrate on the horses. During this time the rest of the team feed and check the broodmares, young stock and foals up in the fields and report any issues, as well as tacking up, washing off and helping with any exercising that needs doing.
We stop for lunch around 12 and if we are having a particularly busy day I will continue riding. If not then it’s a sit down with a sandwich and a chance to answer the calls or messages from the morning, check dates for any necessary vet visits and order and pay for any semen that is needed for inseminating mares that are ready to be put back in foal.
After lunch the routine is pretty similar, with the morning horses being caught in and exercised and the others being turned out. The broodmares will come in mid afternoon and have a groom and thorough check over. Any that are starting to show signs that they may foal in the next few days will have their milk tested. This is a great way of pinpointing the foaling as accurately as possible and works by mixing a chemical into a drop of the mare’s milk to assess how much calcium is present. Most of the time this is very accurate, although there are always a couple of mares that like to catch us out!! If we have any showing up as foaling within the next 48hrs we make sure the foaling kit is ready, the mare’s bed is deep and clean and most importantly that the CCTV in her stable is working!
During the afternoon, any new foals we have will also have a thorough check over and lots of handling practice such a having the foal halter put on and having its legs and body touched all over. They generally tend to really enjoy this once they get used to it and it is well worth taking the time to do as it makes them much easier to deal with when they are bigger. The competition horses are all groomed, feeds are made, fields fed and checked again, tack cleaned and any yard jobs that need doing are completed. Any foals born the previous night will have a visit from the vet to check all is well and have an IgG blood test to make sure they have received plenty of antibodies from the mare’s colostrum. The mare is also checked over to make sure she is doing well.
If we are eventing the next day I will plait up, pack the lorry and get everything ready to go, and the yard is generally finished off by 5pm.
If a mare is likely to foal that evening I will have the CCTV on at home whilst I plan a schedule for the next day, make any entries that need doing and update our social media pages before sitting down to have tea.
Late checks are made around 8pm where any late feeds or hay nets are given and then it’s onto 30min checks throughout the night on the mares due to foal. Nearly all our mares prefer to foal in the early hours of the morning, the nights can seem very long but it’s definitely worth it to meet the much-awaited babies!
So, as you can see, my job is full on during foaling season and it takes a lot of organisation and teamwork to make sure everything runs smoothly. As much as we all love it, it’s always a relief when the last mare has foaled, and we can all get a good night’s sleep!