Calmer days on the stud

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Holidays for racehorses, the quiet season at the stud … but Lucy Procter is juggling the complexities of artificial insemination delivery

Summer holidays are here for two of our racehorses, who are enjoying a six-week break from racing before coming back into work for an autumn racing campaign. The Swede and Spinnova have had their shoes removed to avoid injury to themselves or to each other – the photographs below show that they certainly relished their first morning’s turnout together: they were high jinxing around the field like a pair of youngsters!
Initially they will come in overnight, with their turnout time gradually increased until in a week or so, they will be able to stay out all the time, and properly relax.
The rest of the stud farm is quiet, with most of the mares and foals living out now. There is just one mare to foal, and all except two of the Thoroughbreds are back in foal, with the last two due to be covered imminently.
Our mares have plenty of grass and are topped up with ‘hard feed’ – concentrated pellets of feed, specially formulated for broodmares by our chosen feed company, Saracen Horse Feeds. Well-fed mares are relaxed mares and, blessed finally with good weather, the foals are also relaxed and able to spend a lot of time sleeping during the warmth of the day, playing during the evening when it gets cooler.

We still have a couple of the non-Thoroughbred mares to cover using artificial insemination (AI) – where semen is collected from the chosen stallion and delivered to the stud either frozen in a nitrogen tank, or chilled. The stallions our client is using this year are in studs in Belgium, however, and it is very tricky to time a request for delivery of chilled semen when it takes more than 24hrs to be couriered from their stud farm to ours. Demand for this chilled semen is high, so there is no guarantee of getting any at the right time, either.

As a back-up, we have a supply of the stallions’ frozen semen. However, the difficulty with using frozen semen is that, once defrosted, it has a short life span and must be inseminated into the mare within six hours of her ovulating in order to have a chance of her getting pregnant. This requires more frequent visits from the vet to scan the mare, often at unsocial hours.

Fun in quarantine
A couple of weeks ago, Doug had a rare night away in Doncaster for the TBA National Hunt Awards. Although not collecting an award (for the first time since 2019!), he did make it into the Racing Post Sales Diary column – he was spotted at various times through the evening, drinking champagne, white wine, cider and lager. The fact that he was still standing at the end of the evening was apparently worthy of an award in itself!


A couple of days later, Doug was in the horsebox at 4am, driving back to Doncaster for the Goffs HIT Sale (Horses in Training), where he was joined by a racing enthusiast that Doug had met when racing at Cheltenham only a few weeks ago. He was keen to get into breeding, and they successfully purchased a lovely broodmare prospect, Aubis Walk, who coincidentally raced in the same colours as our superstar, Honeysuckle. Having brought the mare straight back from the sales, she needs to be isolated from the rest of the broodmare band for 14 days, but we have put her in a field with one or our youngsters for company during her quarantine period. It was great fun to have the new owner visit the stud the following weekend and enjoy a long lunch in the garden. His dreams of breeding winners grew more ambitious with each bottle opened. Thank goodness he came by train!

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