Wednesday, February 28, 2024

From day one it’s a gamble for Darling Downs thoroughbred breeders

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The first gamble for thoroughbred breeders is selecting a stallion for their brood mares as they can spend from four to five thousand dollars on a service fee at the lower end of the market to tens of thousands for a top stallion.

With mares having a gestation period of eleven months it’s a long wait for breeders to finally see a foal on the ground.

While thoroughbred brood mares generally have reasonably stress-free deliveries the first twenty-four hours are critical for the young foal.

If there is a problem it will most likely surface in this critical post-birth period.

A veterinarian may be called to inspect the new born foal and the broodmare.

The foal will be inspected regarding its standing position to check the correctness of limbs, its sucking ability and to make sure it has defecated and urinated within a prescribed time after birth.

The foal also needs to pass its meconium and the vet may give the foal an enema.

An eye inspection to detect any sign of entropian of the lower eye lid is also carried out.

From its first few hours the foal is given the best of care to assist its proper development; very few animals on earth receive such care.

Some foals are slower than others but most foals will be on their feet and feeding from their mother within an hour of birth.

The first few shaky steps are sometimes humorous as foals try to coordinate their overly long legs and stand up for the first time, usually after several unsuccessful and energy sapping attempts.

Within a day or two the young foal will be released from his birthing stable and allowed to explore a larger but restricted yard where they will undoubtedly begin to run in a somewhat uncoordinated manner.

Thoroughbred brood mares have a strong maternal instinct, never allowing their foal to drift more than a few metres away from their side for a number of days.

Foals will sleep for many hours during the day and the brood mare will stand patiently at their side until they get to their feet for the next feeding session from mum.

As weeks turn into months the foal becomes more independent and begins to spend more time away from their mums but returning for a feed.

The foal is generally weaned from its mother at six months of age and this act causes some hours or even days of stress as mother and foal are placed well away from each other in separate paddocks.

The foal will find itself in a large paddock with possibly a number of other weanlings and one or two old mares whose job it is to teach the young foal the basic rules of equine society.

The most important rule the weanling must learn is to respect their elders and that means “keep your head out of my food bucket.”

All thoroughbred studs on the Darling Downs will now be preparing their yearlings for the big sales on the Gold Coast this month and in March.

It will be exercised, washed and groomed regularly and stabled in good clean boxes so it will look its best in the sales ring and hopefully attract a good bid from prospective buyers.

There is no guarantee however, the bidding will cover the cost of raising the yearling, such is the gamble associated with breeding thoroughbred horses.

With a new breeding season approaching the gamble will begin all over again.

On Our Selection News 11 January 2024

This article appeared in On Our Selection News, 11 January 2024.

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