As the spring transitions into summer, the stud season begins. This means a lot of scanning mares, foals, more scanning, stallions and finally more scanning. The stud season is full on. Like all the time! For the northern hemisphere it roughly starts March/April, for the southern hemisphere it’s from October time. But expect this to be a little earlier if you’re working with racehorses, as they like to do things nice and early!
At the moment, the season is slowly drawing to a close. Mares have finished foaling and others are getting in foal. So, this is my experience of a stud season. It’ll give you an idea of what to expect if you ever consider getting involved.#
Early mornings and late nights, we all expect horses to keep us on our toes, but stud season means being on your tippy-toes, all the time! Its tiring but incredibly rewarding! The season will usually start with the panic of going through the check list:
This then progresses into horses turning up on the farm left, right and center. There will be lorries and boxes everywhere. At this point I whip out a pen and labels and furiously start labeling everything! Headcollars, rugs, boots, ropes anything I can, I’ll label it with the horse’s name. Don’t want everything getting mixed up. Having done all this, it would be nice to have a small breather before the foaling season really gets into the swing of things. However, just to throw in a little spice, something will inevitably foal early just to make sure we’re all prepared for the summer ahead.
When foaling down mares, the beds are big and deep (this is tedious, yes, but essential to a comfortable foaling). Someone is always on a night shift to keep watch, as horses usually foal at night. Night vision cameras (or standard cameras) allows us to watch the horses without them being disturbed. For anyone experiencing foaling, having the on-call vets number on stand-by is essential, as things do and will happen.
Foaling kits are a key bit of equipment we use, they include such things as tail bandages, gloves, bin bags and navel spray. Having these on stand-by kept things running smoothly in the rush of it all. As we didn’t spend time searching for the stuff we needed scattered around the barn. Providing all is well with the foaling, the cleansing will begin, this is when the mare passes the placenta. Completely normal, but I have to say, not for the faint-hearted! It gets popped inside a binbag and kept for the vet to check, it also keeps it out of the way.
Knowing each horse’s due dates, is half the battle. As I’ve said before, mares like to keep you on your toes and they can foal at any moment. So, knowing the signs that mares are getting ready to foal is crucial. Also, the lingo is a little different to that of a civilized conversation. Suddenly words that would make any normal person blush and laugh, become part of the everyday vocabulary.
Along with foaling, other mares will also be turning up to be put into foal. Much time was spent in the stocks with the vet. So, getting to know the stud vet was a good way to prevent those awkward silences. The stud routine was invaluable for day to day tasks, it prevented things getting muddled up. The mornings mainly consisted of scanning, scanning, stress and scanning. Always taking place in the stocks, however repetitive it was it made sure that everyone was up to date. Following mare cycles can be long and tricky, but lots of coffee made it manageable!
When the season is in full swing, there were plenty of surprises. Such as lameness, early/late foaling’s, foaling during the day and hernias. More than enough to keep me busy, thankfully a good team and stud vets dealt with it all perfectly. Mid-season is also a time of slight chaos. Organizing microchipping, worming and arranging the farrier for the foals. The only way to keep on top of it was with a chart, to help organize when all of those things were due. As the season draws to a close, horses start heading home. Either when in foal or when their foal is strong enough. Things start slowing down, and I can finally take a breath, and reflect on what a busy but rewarding summer it has been!
So now, you’ve been fully briefed and warned what to expect when stud season kicks off again! Good luck!
Katy is currently a student at the Royal Agricultural University, studying BSc Bloodstock and Performance Horse Management. Alongside this she’s an active young farmer’s member and is currently working for a Stud in Wiltshire. Despite not having her own horse currently, she often finds herself around horses, covered in horse hair and mud! She plans to work with horses following her degree, hopefully in the breeding industry, due to her love of foals!