The Foaling Season

Sophie WatmuffFarm

This is where the dreaming starts. At Chasemore Farm we’ve just embarked on one of the most magical times of the year for all breeders - foaling season.

It entails a lot of hard work and long nights of surveillance but it’s all worth it when you see a newly born horse come blinking into the world and take their first tentative steps.

Could they be a sales topper? A Group 1 winner? A champion even?!

Farm Manager Jack Conroy tells us more about foaling at Chasemore.

How many mares do you have to foal down at Chasemore Farm this year?

We have 30 mares to foal this year and the first foal of the season was safely delivered on 20th January.

The foal is a lovely Footstepsinthesand colt out of an unraced Kingman mare called Sassy Dresser who was also born and raised at Chasemore.

We have another 14 due before the end of February, so we have a busy time ahead of us and the last mare is due on April 30. If all goes to plan it will be a lovely condensed foaling season.


How many people will be on foaling duty, and how many people do you need to foal a mare when she goes into labour?

We have our foaling attendants Bev and Maggie who do the sitting up throughout the season. Bev works from Tuesday night to Saturday and Maggie covers Sunday and Monday.

We’re truly blessed to have such a fantastic team and Bev in particular is so vital at this time of year, as she has worked at Chasemore since the very beginning and has seen the farm develop into the place it is today.

Ideally, where possible, you want two people to foal a mare, or to at least be on hand to help. Therefore we have a rota which is put up in the tea room a few weeks before the start of every month, and the staff then have the opportunity to put their name on the dates they would like to do that month.

We have eight people who go on the rota so everyone is well rested, and on the night that you’re on call you go to the foaling unit immediately after work, which is usually around 4.30pm and sit in the foaling unit until Bev or Maggie arrives at 6pm.

After that you’re on call until the next morning and are also responsible for doing late checks around 8-9pm, which is mainly just loooking around the barns to make sure all is well and to give certain horses a late feed.

What are the signs a mare is about to go into labour?

We have our pregnant mares in the pre-foaling barn under Equilume lights a good six weeks - at least - before their due date. That way you can feed them as an individual and they can get plenty of rest.

Having them in means that Bev or Maggie can observe the mares’ behaviour on the cameras for a good period of time and notice very subtle changes that occur.

We check the mares’ bags daily and make a note of the mares that are coming along. Or if something is looking abnormal, we can hopefully get on top of it before it becomes a serious issue.

Once a mare is relaxed behind and has bagged up [meaning her udder swells] we take her to the foaling unit. The classic signs of imminent foaling are restlessness, digging, sweating, sniffing the floor and rolling. Most mares also wax up or run milk 12 to 24 hours before foaling.


How do you feel when a mare goes into labour?

I personally get pretty nervous, as you never know what problems you might encounter, but as I said earlier we have a very knowledgeable and dedicated team including our stud vet Pat - so the mares are in good hands should any problems arise.

It’s a great feeling once the foal has been delivered safely.

Chasemore Farm has a nifty foaling unit with some unique features - can you tell us all about it?

It’s basically a mini house with four foaling boxes inside. It has cooking facilities and a shower room for the staff as well as a bedroom upstairs. The foaling boxes are spacious with Equilume lights and heat lamps inside, which work well.

Pat has his vet room with everything he needs in case of an emergency at the back of the unit. It also has a viewing gallery upstairs, so that people can watch a foaling without getting in the way or disturbing the mare.


When do you expect the foaling season to end at Chasemore Farm?

The last mare this year is due at the end of April so it should be a nice, short foaling season. We normally go to the Chasemore box at Sandown racecourse for the Brigadier Gerard meeting and have a good night at the races with the whole team to celebrate.