The end of the season

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It’s been a long five months, but June finally saw the end of the season at the stud – Lucy Procter explains just why the team are so proud this year

Waiting for breakfast
Image: Lucy Procter

So that’s a wrap for the 2023 season! It began on 23rd January with the arrival of Solitairy Girl’s Jack Hobbs filly. Keen to get started, she arrived 18 days early. The foaling season finished on 15th June with a visiting mare foaling a Dartmouth colt, our 18th foal of the season.
The foaling cameras were turned on in early January, and we have been watching all night for more than five months. There have been frantic flurries of activity in the foaling stables. On one night, three foals decided to start arriving at the same time. There were short periods when no mares were looking imminent and we had a few nights’ sleep!

Vet Paul Legerton at the Glanvilles Stud Wassail, trying not to share his champagne
All Wassail images: Courtenay Hitchcock


Ten days after foaling, our vet, Paul Legerton, scans each mare to check she has had her ‘foaling heat’ (first season after foaling). At this scan, we decide when to look again, in order to track the mare and cover her on her second season, usually two to three weeks later.
When Paul declares a mare is ready, we drive her to stud to be covered by the stallion that has been chosen, in order to get her back in foal for next year. With a number of ‘empty’ mares (no foal at foot, either because they are maidens or they were left empty the previous season) to add to those that were being covered after foaling, the lorry has been very busy.
One day we had three mares all lining up to be covered in the same 24-hour period; twice the lorry returned to the yard and left again half an hour later.
I drove the middle stud run so that Doug could get some sleep and rest before setting off again on the third.
It’s all in the timing
The mares travel extremely well in the lorry, with or without a foal at foot – the foals always come too. We’re lucky that the stud is just half a mile off a main A road and apart from a couple of small towns to wiggle round, we can be on the A303 in half an hour or on the M5 within an hour.
Most of the studs we used this season have been a three to four-hour drive away in Worcestershire or Hertfordshire.

The teenagers are starting to gang up
Image: Lucy Procter

However, we took one visiting mare to Falco in County Durham! As we were driving such a long way for the cover, Paul came in at five in the morning to scan her before she left to double-check that she would be spot on for a cover later that afternoon.
After that particular drive, we were all incredibly pleased when Paul scanned her in foal two weeks later!
It’s been in incredible season. The visits to the stallions were perfectly timed for all the 23 mares covered this season. Every mare except one (an elderly mare in her 20s) was ovulating within 48 hours. The mare who hadn’t ovulated within this ideal timeframe was driven back to stud for a cross-cover, ovulated the following day, and was scanned in foal a fortnight later.
Only one mare had to return to stud for a second cover, having scanned not in foal the first time. One other mare, having been given two months to recover from a particularly difficult foaling, was not in foal after her first cover and, as it was getting late in the year, the owners decided to leave her empty and go for an early cover next year.

Lucy Procter with one of this year’s foals

Phenomenal stats
Our job, in essence, is to get a live foal out of a mare and then get her back in foal as soon as possible so that, with an 11-month gestation period, her foaling date stays almost the same each year. To get the mares back in foal, we are very reliant on the skill and experience of our vet, Paul. Between us this season, 22 of the 23 mares covered have since scanned in foal, with 21 being on the first covered cycle.
These are phenomenal stats of which we are incredibly proud.
With an additional three non-Thoroughbred, artificial insemination (AI) covers scanned in foal, and four which are still to confirm pregnancies, we have at least 29 mares either resident or returning to foal next season at the stud. Spring 2024 is likely to be super busy!

The TGS Wassail
To celebrate the end of our foaling season, we held our annual Team TGS barbecue which coincides with Racing Staff Week (the racing industry’s opportunity to say thank you to all who work for the greater good of the Thoroughbred in racing yards and on stud farms). We have created our own tradition, a twist on the traditional West Country practice of Wassailing the cider orchards to help ensure a good harvest of autumn fruit. We kicked off the evening by driving up the stud and raising a glass of the boss’ favourite champagne to toast the good health of our broodmares and their youngstock. We were joined by editor Laura and photographer Courtenay (happy birthday Laura!) so that finally Laura got to join C in cuddling his favourite foal, Sambac.
Looking out across the stud, watching the happily-grazing mares and foals and knowing these paddocks have already produced two Grade 1 winners and multiple chase, hurdles and flat winners, we can’t help but wonder which ones of these will be our next racing superstars …

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