With all the doom and gloom around racing, or the lack of it, here at Abacus Bloodstock we thought we would bring you a little bit about life on the stud and share some of the day to day activities which go to make up our operations at Abacus Bloodstock. We hope you will find it interesting, and please drop me a line if you want to know more.
So a little bit about us – we operate what is registered as the largest stud, by number of mares and foals, in Staffordshire from our 50 acre farm just outside the brewing town of
Burton. The property is made up of the main house, a 3-bed staff cottage, a front yard with 10 brick stables, 2 foaling boxes and a 4 bay yearling barn. The yard also houses the tack room and a two-storey feed and storage barn, all built in a quadrant with a large yard area in the middle. There is an apple orchard which serves as one of the nursery paddocks, which is adjacent to the other 2 nursery paddocks – all positioned directly in front of the yard and farmhouse, and therefore easy for mares with foals to spend the day outside.
To the rear of the property we have a yard which houses the 5 horse covered walker, an all weather exercise arena to the side and a large pole barn which is divided into a hay store on one side and a stable block of 4 large stables in the other bay. We also have a solarium for the horses, which is very welcome for the older horses after exercise. From the rear gates there is access to the front 5 near paddocks, and these lead to a further 35
acres of grazing land. We also have a small 5 acre annexe with two paddocks which is ideal for when the mares and foals are separated in the early Autumn, as they cannot call to one another and so life is a little more relaxed for them. Our CCTV system covers all areas of the farm and stables, and is a real must for foal watching during the birthing season.
Our routine starts at about 7.30 am. Any horses which are in are fed and all the outdoor horses are checked and, where required, are fed. As the weather improves, rugs are removed so they do not over heat and can enjoy the sun on their backs.
Mares and foals are kept in at night and turned out in the day. Amazingly, foals enjoy going out within a few hours of birth, and you can actually see them getting stronger and their limbs straightening within a few hours – after 11 months of growing inside the mare.
Within the first day, they are usually running around – although the nursery paddocks are designed to restrict too much exertion in case this damages their young joints. However foals tend to be fairly resilient and can fall over or trip themselves up in what may appear a jumble of legs – only to stand up all very embarassed, shake their heads and continue as if nothing happened. Mum generally is busy grazing and you can almost see the eyebrows raise and the tutting from her!
We have 3 foals this year from our 4 resident broodmares. The first two, a colt by Outstrip and a filly by Lethal Force arrived 25th March, while the last foal, a filly by Poet’s Word was born on 15th April. The older foals are sharing the orchard, where they are enjoying one another’s company. We usually wait around 15 to 20 days before putting more than one mare and foal in the paddock together. This allows the foal to become stronger and a little worldly wise; able to dodge a flying hoof if needed from an over protective mare. Once together, they love the days out and return tired but happy to their stables around 5pm (weather permitting). It can be a challenge sometimes as, like children, they would sometimes prefer to stay out and play – and they can prove elusive to catch. All foals wear a leather headcollar from day 1 when outside. This makes them easier to catch, and also gets them used to having tack and people around their ears and head. Leather is used rather than nylon as it will break in the event they become trapped on something and they are removed in the stables.
Foals will actually try to eat grass within a few days and will also eat Mum’s muck. This is common as it is the way for them to build the required gut flora and enzymes required for good digestion. Foals are born without this or any anti-bodies of their own and the first few hours of life are important in ensuring they drink the first
feed, which includes anti-bodies within the rich cholostrum. For foals who seem confused as to where the milk bar is, and after about 3 hours at most, we tend to milk the mare and bottle feed the foal to ensure they have received the crucial first feed. As most times the foaling is in the night, it also means that we can go to bed sooner rather than later after the birth.
Our small team take it in turns to watch the cameras. I tend to get the first period – upto about 2am. This year all foals came on my watch, although it is all hands to the pump when the foaling is underway, just in case there are complications, or the mare needs help in any way. We tend to gently pull the foal clear of the mare, ensure its airways are clear and the bag it is born in is intact – ensuring nothing has remained in the mare. The bag itself generally tears open during birthing, and usually remains hanging from the mare for a short time after birth. It is important not to pull this out as it can harm the mare and will fall out of its own accord.
I hope you have enjoyed a little of what goes on at the stud. Next week I will be writing about mating plans and covering. Please share our blog and see our latest pictures and posts via twitter or contact us by email with any questions or comments.
Meanwhile, stay safe during lockdown.