Lucy Procter, co-owner of the Glanvilles Stud, shares a diary of life on a Thoroughbred stud.
This month – pregnancy checks and floating teeth.
October 1st is a key date in the Thoroughbred breeding industry. That’s the date when mare owners are contracted to inform the stallion owners whether their mare is still in foal. If a vet confirms a live foetus is present on 1st October, the stallion covering fees become due.
Monday saw us busily bringing mares in from the fields and our vet carrying out an internal examination on each one to confirm their pregnancy. Thankfully they were all in foal – except for the sixteenth mare we brought in. We’d forgotten she had been left empty and we’d loaded her into the stocks in error. And yes, it is she who is looking somewhat surprised in the photograph!
They shake hands with you
Internal examinations are routine, and most of the mares don’t object. For safety it’s usual to use stocks to help prevent the vet getting kicked, but if a vet is checking just one mare they can be examined in a stable if they are quiet enough, or over a stable door. The vet puts on a long, plastic examination glove, lubricates his hand with gel and inserts it into the mare’s rectum. In early pregnancy the foetus is detected using a scanner and internal probe, but at several months old the vet can manually palpate the mare’s uterus via the rectum; “As the pregnancy progresses, some are really easy to detect – they shake hands with you!’ says Paul Legerton our vet as he grapples with yet another leg.
Horses need regular dentist checks too.
Another job for the morning was a mouth flush for one of our broodmares that had been identified with periodontal disease in February. Now post- surgery she was having the first of what will for her be routine, six-monthly veterinary checks. Normally, food and bacteria do not accumulate between a horse’s teeth. Sometimes, though, just as in humans the teeth grow slightly wonkily* , resulting in gaps which food can pack into. This will cause decay, painful pockets in the gums and ultimately displacement of one or more teeth, thus increasing the size of the original pocket and setting up a vicious cycle of dental issues which can become extremely painful if left untreated. We ask the vet to carry out regular, 6-18 month teeth checks on all our broodmares, with the frequency depending on age and any previous issues.
Floating a horse’s teeth
Sharp edges are a result of the natural eruption of equine teeth; coupled with reduced grazing compared to a horse living wild and, if teeth are not rasped smooth by an equine dental professional (‘floating’ – see picture), may cause discomfort when eating. This might cause the mare to reduce her overall feed intake or, if the mare is in pain, it might make her disinclined to eat much at all. This will obviously affect not only the condition of the mare, but may also result in a small, poorly nourished foal.
The Glanvilles fitness regime
Having breathed a sigh of relief that all mares were in foal, we gave them all their Autumn tapeworm dose, measured a couple of the foals who had come in and returned the mares to their fields. With the furthest field half a mile up the track
and each girl leading only two mares at a time, that was a lot of walking. With each of us clocking well over 20,000 steps on a daily basis, we’re all pretty fit here at The Glanvilles Stud!
(*technical Vet’s term! – Ed)