The circle of stud life seasons

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As weaning begins for this year’s foals, the stud begins to focus on sales, says Lucy Procter of The Glanvilles Stud

This year’s recently-weaned foals are a nosy gang
All images Lucy Procter

August has disappeared in a swelter of dust, heat and flies. With more than 40 mares and youngstock on site, the business of protecting all of them with fly rugs (mesh rugs designed to help reduce the irritation of flies on horses living in fields during the day), would be impracticable and – in the extreme temperatures we had in August – even a light mesh fly rug would have made them overly hot.
However, horses do help themselves. When sharing a field with others, they can be seen standing nose-to-tail swatting flies off each other’s heads and bodies with their tails (we deliberately leave their tails long during the summer months to assist this). This summer three of our mares developed a novel fly-swat system, with all three of them standing nose-to-tail in a triangle, so that each could benefit equally from their constantly swishing tails!
(see the fly triangle in action below)
The foals tended to conserve their energy during the heat of the day, spending most of their time sleeping or drinking milk from their dams.
As soon as it became cool in the evening, however, it was time to play. The foals would start galloping around, bucking and rearing for the sheer fun of it, which was lovely to watch.

The neatly organised triangle of mares swatting flies off each other – it’s very unusual and organised cooperation, usually it would just be two nose-to-tail

Dry bags
At the end of August, we started weaning the first foals, by now nearly six months old. Readers may remember from last year (see Lucy’s Sep 21 column here) that we wean in groups, removing two mares at a time from a field, leaving other mares to help steady the dynamics of those left behind. The foals usually settle very quickly with their friends and, as they have already been supplementing their milk with increasing amounts of grass and hard feed in the creep feeder, it is not too much of a shock to their systems.
It was full circle for our foster mare Zeta who took on our orphaned foal at the start of the season. Having the oldest foal at foot, she was one of the first to be brought out of the field, and she will soon return to her owners. She is now back in foal herself, and we look forward to seeing photos of her new foal next spring.
We keep the mares on just a handful of nuts and poor grazing for the first couple of weeks after weaning to help dry up their milk supply. It’s important to keep a close eye on their ‘bags’ (the usual term for a mare’s udder); if a mare continues to produce large quantities of milk without a foal to drink it, there is a danger of her developing mastitis, which (as many human mums can vouch ) can be extremely painful and difficult to treat. Once a mare’s bags have almost dried up, we move her to slightly better grazing and gradually increase her feed until we are happy that she is no longer producing milk.

The two year olds ‘helping’ with poo-picking the fields.

Ready for the sales
This is the time of year when the sales companies and bloodstock agents come to visit us to look at this year’s crop of foals. Tattersalls, whose main National Hunt (NH) sales arm is based at Fairyhouse in Ireland and whose NH foal sale is in November, and Goffs UK, based in Doncaster, whose NH foal sale is in January, both visited this month to see which foals might be suitable.
Generally speaking, only foals born earlier in the year will be ready to sell in November. We have identified three foals that might make the trip to Ireland, and we will bring them into stables and start their prep work in September.
The two-year-olds that we were working with in July were lightly backed and ridden away in early August by our son Freddie, before being turned back out into the field 24/7 to eat, sleep and play – to be youngsters together until next spring when they will be re-backed and start working again.
We got the youngsters backed just in time before Freddie went back out to the States to race ride for one of the leading jumps trainers based in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile our daughter Alice, who works for trainer Kieran Burke near Dorchester, had her first ride under rules at Windsor. Her second-place finish meant happy owners and trainer, and the prospect of further rides under rules for her.
With a distinct hint of the arrival of autumn in the air and a noticeable shortening of the days, all efforts on the stud in the coming weeks will be focused on having everything ready for when the weather turns and stock needs to start coming in again at night.
I know we’re all just getting over the recent heatwave, but it’ll be winter before we know it!

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