Our equine management is of the utmost importance to us, and we do our very best to maintain a high standard of which we can be proud.
Every horse on our farm is regularly wormed and trimmed, irrespective of its age and role. Foals commence their worming and trimming regime from approximately four weeks of age onwards, but are assessed by the farrier soon after their birth to determine whether any corrective rasping is required to consolidate correct hoof and leg conformation.
Paddocks are rotated regularly to minimise any parasite burden, and wormers are rotated to ensure maximum effect. Youngsters are wormed with a specific product which targets roundworm (more prevalent in young horses than older ones) as well as other parasites. Every horse on the farm has constant access to fresh water, and we endeavour to keep a mineral block in every occupied yard or paddock.
Our broodmares are monitored throughout their pregnancies, not just in their final stages. As with all the other horses, they are regularly wormed and trimmed, with their final pre-foaling farrier visit approximately four weeks before their due date. At this time, they also receive their tetanus/strangles booster to ensure that their immune systems are prepared for foaling. They receive supplementary feeding in the back half of their pregnancy to assist in excellent foetal development. In the last month before their due date (or earlier if they exhibit any signs of impending foaling), they have their udders and under their tails checked at least twice daily. All our expectant mummies wear broodmare alarms in the weeks leading up to their due date, and since we commenced using foaling alarms, not one of our mares has foaled without one. We try our hardest to be present for every birth, just in case the mare requires any assistance. Placentas are collected for inspection, to ensure that they are normal and complete, and foals are monitored until they have sucked and passed meconium.
Our foals are stabled at night for at least the first few weeks of their lives. During the day, they spend time in one of our small mare and foal paddocks. They are hand fed four times a day during this early stage, and are handled intensively. This includes being caught, basic leading, picking up their feet and having rugging lessons. They are also walked on and off the float with their dams so that they are familiar with willingly loading and unloading.
Once they reach one or two months of age, they are turned out into a larger paddock, often with the company of another mare and foal. They are checked at least twice daily, continue their regular worming and trimming, and are then brought in again at the age of approximately five months in preparation for weaning. Their early handling ensures that they are settled and well-adjusted weanlings and take well to their additional lessons.
At approximately three months of age, the foals commence their three-injection course of tetanus/strangles vaccines, which allows them to arrive at their new homes fully protected. We feel this is a vital component in protecting our foals from these two potentially deadly diseases.
We employ a method that we call ‘soft weaning’, where the mare is gradually moved further and further from her foal. We have never had a foal attempt a fence or stable door, nor have we had one completely stop eating or drinking. We encourage the weanlings to bond with a ‘nanny’, who is paddocked with or near them to give them an added feeling of security.
We have weaned foals both on their own and in pairs, and have never had a problem with either method. We enjoy seeing our foals with other babies for company, but this is not always possible, and those who have ‘flown solo’ have grown into happy, well-adjusted youngsters just like those who were weaned with a friend.
Their access to fabulous pasture and their supplementary hard feeding ensures that our foals are in the very best of health, and obtaining all the necessary nutrients for growth and development. Their spacious accommodation means that they develop strong limbs and excellent cardiovascular health. Our foals have the best of everything from birth, and it shows in their general wellbeing and high spirits.
We are great advocates of foal showing, as we believe that it sets the foals up for a happy and successful life with their future owners. Contrary to some people’s beliefs regarding the showing of weanlings, we have never had a foal sicken or stress as a result of their conditioning, training or preparation. Conversely, our babies are exposed to, and thus relaxed about, rugging, clipping, washing, having tack taken on and off, floating and being stabled at home or away. We have received wonderful feedback on every weanling that we have taken out ourselves, with people constantly impressed by their good behaviour and excellent manners, evident in their attitudes both ringside and during workouts and stand-ups. We do not encourage weaning a late foal at a young age to get them to a show, nor will we take our foals in for every class or championship if they are showing signs of being uncomfortable or excessively tired.
We can honestly and proudly say that, without exception, our foals have all left us as model citizens. They have all been extremely well-handled, well-socialised, well-nourished and well-behaved, with a genuine but respectful affection for human company. This is the most important aspect of our breeding programme – to produce happy, healthy ponies that are a pleasure to handle. Our Testimonials are proof that all these efforts are successful and appreciated.
While we are always here to help in whatever way we can, and are extremely willing to do so, the responsibility of maintaining this consistent training, and the resulting happy and productive relationship, then passes to the weanlings’ new owners.