A foal named Lettuce

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Selling from the field, the calorific need of pregnant mares and a galloping success story – Lucy Procter has had an intense few weeks

All images: Lucy Procter

Scrolling back through photos on my phone, I can see that September brought both warm sunshine and heavy downpours, which has meant the grass has continued to grow extremely well. The mares are receiving sufficient calories from grazing this lush grass, so we are still just feeding the pregnant mares a daily cupful of a nutrition-rich ‘balancer’, carefully formulated by Saracen, our trusted feed company, to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need in the correct proportions. As the nutrient and calorific value of the grass drops off towards winter, we will start feeding stud nuts (known as ‘hard feed’), in larger quantities, which will increase the calories the mares are consuming.
As the early foaling mares enter their last three months of pregnancy, their hard feed will be increased again, to support the demands of the foal growing inside them. Our earliest foal is due in February, so we will be making this increase for some of the mares in early November.

Bloodstock agents and trainers have visited to see the youngsters for sale, who have been paraded in-hand, in walk and trot, up and down the yard

Selling from the field
We have been busy welcoming bloodstock agents and trainers to our yard this month, to show them our young horses. Although we regularly offer our youngstock for sale at various auctions throughout the year, we also sell ‘from the field’. The youngsters are not yet old enough to have a rider on their backs so, as well as a good pedigree, buyers want to see a big athletic walk and an active trot. In order to show them at their best, we usually bring them into the stables, give them a good groom and then parade them in-hand, in walk and trot, up and down the yard. All our horses are well-handled, so this is usually a fairly straightforward process and it’s good for their ongoing education.

Lettuce was born with shockingly slack hind pasterns – by a long way the worst case anyone on the TGS team had ever seen, and potentially life-threatening

A tale of Lettuce
All our Thoroughbred foals are now weaned, and it is just the two sport-horse foals, born in June and July, that are still with their mothers. We usually wean when a foal is four to five months old, so we will wean both of these last two foals in November. The Thoroughbred foals are now in sales prep for a new National Hunt foal sale in November, so they are all in overnight and being well fed in individual stables. Before being turned out they are walked in-hand for half an hour to help ensure they are fit enough to be led out and paraded for buyers, multiple times a day, at the sales ground.
One of the sport-horse foals, Lettuce, was born with shockingly slack hind pasterns, known as digital hyperextension, which resulted in him rocking back onto his heels with toes pointing skywards. Although often not disastrous this extreme case, if not treated and rehabilitated correctly, was life threatening. It was by a long way the worst case any of us had seen but, with expert vet, farrier and physio attention and restricted turnout, there was a chance.
Lettuce was particularly worrying as the normal early intervention – gluing hoof extensions onto his feet, seen in the June issue – wasn’t producing the improvements we usually would have expected.
After much consultation with our vet Paul Legerton our vet, our farrier Dom Blades and ACPAT veterinary physiotherapist Celia Cohen, we stopped his turn out altogether. Although Lettuce had only been going out for ten minutes at a time in a small paddock, he was still galloping around and it was thought that this stretching of the ligaments in his hind pasterns would be having a detrimental effect. The thinking was that we would try a period of controlled exercise, walking the foal in-hand alongside his dam, for fifteen minutes, several times a day. This was supported by a muscle stimulation machine, which – to our team and Celia’s amazement – he not only tolerated, he was a perfect patient for.
He could then start his programme of rehabilitation to activate and strengthen the tendons to support and lift his fetlocks.

ACPAT veterinary physiotherapist Celia Cohen treated Lettuce with a muscle stimulation machine to help activate and strengthen the tendons

Another issue that had to be addressed was that the hoof extensions, which are normally glued onto the bottom of the hoof by the farrier to help the lower leg stay in a correct posture, had been in use for a longer period of time than was ideal and were beginning to restrict the hoof growth at the heel. To prevent any long-term damage to the hooves, we had two metal plates made which we bandaged onto the hind hooves each morning before his first walk, and Lettuce was kept on rubber matting during the day. The metal plates were then removed in the afternoon so that the development of the hooves was not restricted, and he was returned to a deep straw bed overnight
Now of course ‘normal’ foals spend 24 hours a day in a field with their mothers and other foals.
They gallop, they play, they sleep.

Three TGS thoroughbred foals in prep for the sales. From left:
‘Radish’ – Golden Horn colt out of Roc Royal
‘Mustard’ – Spanish Moon filly out of Mystery Drama
‘Cress’ – Brave Mansonnien filly out of Cosmic Diamond

In contrast, Lettuce was being deliberately prevented from any galloping or playing. He was restricted to his stable and only allowed to walk for 15 minutes at a time, four times a day, led from a headcollar. He was just two months old … we anticipated that he would quickly get frustrated and become difficult to handle.
But it was quite the opposite – Lettuce was an absolute dream!
He happily stood patiently for the metal plates to be bandaged onto his hooves in the morning. He walked quietly. He stopped to peacefully graze. He stood still while we used the EMS machine for up to half an hour at a time.
In fact it was his mother who was really rather unhappy about not being turned out in a field!
Slowly and gradually, we saw improvements; his hind pasterns strengthened and his hooves began landing square to the ground as he walked.
After six weeks of this intensive regime, we trimmed his feet again and our vet declared that he could turn out in the field.
The joy! Lettuce galloped. Lettuce bucked – and yes, Lettuce’s mother also galloped and bucked! – and he slowly got brave enough to start playing with the other foal.
It is a real pleasure to be able to effect such a dramatic improvement in a young horse. Now, two months later, you would never be able to tell that he had once had such a severe problem (see image above); we had feared that he may not survive, let alone ever be ridden. Job done!

Lettuce in his ‘after’ shot, now standing proud and flat on his hooves

We are recruiting!
We have seasonal and permanent yard positions, and both full and part-time hours available at the stud at Glanvilles Wootton. See the ad in the jobs section and phone Doug on 07974 314262 or email
enquiries@theglanvillesstud.co.uk for more information.
We look forward to hearing from you!

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