The science of diet, and prepping for Hurdles

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Feeding different diets to a range of growing foals and mares living in the same field is an art form which Lucy Procter has mastered

Someone wants to know where her hard feed is please.
All images: Lucy Procter

It’s relatively quiet on the stud, with the mares and foals out grazing all day and night. Despite the lack of rain, we still have just enough grass for them to get the majority of their feed through grazing, but we are supplementing with what is termed ‘hard feed’ – energy rich grains and pulses with carefully balanced vitamins and minerals.
Traditionally, hard feed would have consisted of ‘straights’ – rolled oats and barley with no additives. But modern feed companies now manufacture balanced all-in feeds. They come as a muesli-type mix, or an extruded cube. In recent years ‘balancers’ have been introduced, which are a popular way of feeding horses which are in light work and would get too fat on the recommended amount of hard feed. Feeding a balancer provides concentrated nutrition without unwanted calories, and ‘balances’ a forage-based – grass or hay – diet.

No mares allowed
The mares without foals at foot, or mares with older foals, are all now on a daily cup of balancer. The mares with younger foals, who are still drinking a significant amount of milk each day, are being fed a calorie-rich stud nut, in much greater quantity than the balancer feed, to ensure an adequate milk supply for their young foals’ needs.
As the foals get older, their feed requirement comes increasingly from grass and hard feed more than it does from their dam’s milk, leading to the point at which they will be weaned, between five and six months old. All the foals are being fed hard feed in a creep feeder, which means that we can provide calorie rich hard feed to the growing foals, whilst their dams are fed a balancer. The creep feeder is too low for the mares to enter, but the foals happily duck under the rails to get their breakfast.

Foals inside the creep feeder

Prep work for Hurdles
Work-wise, we’ve been concentrating this month on backing and bringing on four two-year-olds and two three-year-olds. One of the three-year-olds, a Montmartre gelding, is being aimed at the new Junior National Hunt Development Hurdle Races, which start in October. The second gelding by Black Sam Bellamy, being bigger and what we would term more ‘backward’ will shortly be turned out in a field for the summer to mature, and will come back into work in the autumn with the aim of getting him ready to race in the spring.
The two-year-olds are having eight weeks of walkering (exercise on a mechanical horse walker), lunging and long reining with the aim of getting them well-handled and partially backed before being turned away again until next spring, when they, in turn, will also be fully backed and ridden away in preparation for the Junior National Hunt Development Hurdle Races, autumn 2023.

Taking on the French
This new programme of Hurdle races, designed to help the development of Jump horses in Great Britain, was announced last November. Entitled Junior National Hunt Development Hurdle races and open exclusively to three-year-olds from October to December and four-year-olds from January to April, the races will be run from early-October 2022 to the end of the 2022/23 Jump season. They will be open to horses that have not previously competed in a Flat race, or a Jump race (except for a National Hunt (NH) Flat or Junior NH Development Hurdle Race). Each racehorse will be restricted to a maximum of four starts in the series.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the British Horseracing Authority said at the programme’s launch: ‘By adding these races to next year’s programme, we’ll be able to gain a much better understanding of the impact of providing young jumping horses with the opportunity to start their careers at an earlier stage. Such an approach is already well established in France and to some extent as part of a vibrant point-to-point scene in Ireland. We hope that owners and trainers …[will] view them as an ideal opportunity for the right sort of jumping horse.”
Bryan Mayoh, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association National Hunt Committee, said: “We have long believed that differences in upbringing, rather than in breeding or environment, is the principal reason why French-bred Jump horses have outperformed those produced in Britain and Ireland. The impact that Irish four-year-old Point-to-Points are now having on the successes of Irish-trained horses, supports the hypothesis that Jump horses need to be backed and taught to jump earlier than has been traditional in Britain.”
So, we will pre-train our Montmartre for another few weeks, before he will be sent to our trainer, Kieran Burke, in Dorchester, to do the final fittening and race preparation work, aiming for a run mid-October at Newton Abbot.
Horses being horses, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that all goes well in the next few months – just getting a racehorse to a racecourse is an achievement in itself, running well is the bonus we are always dreaming of.

The foals happily slip under the rails while the mare is left eating the balancer

Wassailing the mares
It’s not been all work this month, however. We joined in with Racing Staff Week, held nationally to celebrate the role of all stud and racing staff who work tirelessly in all weathers, by hosting a staff barbeque. After we had eaten, we loaded the truck up with staff and bottles of Monopole to raise a glass to the mares, who are the source of everything The Glanvilles Stud does – our take on the local tradition of ‘wassailing’, but with champagne and thoroughbreds!

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