23rd Apr 2017
On Saturday 22nd April the stud welcomed its 200th foal of the year when Letturatura, care of Linacre House, foaled a beautiful filly by Charm Spirit (pictured).
Each year we foal around 250 mares, some of which reside on the farm, but many of which utilise our hi-tech maternity wing. Our foaling team are ably assisted by our resident students who are attending the annual six-month Stud Management Course.
Our contribution to the 8,000 new thoroughbreds born each year in Ireland is significant. For through our hands we’ve foaled some of the brightest stars of the last 100 years. From fabled names like Sun Chariot and Minoru, to more modern legends such as Hurricane Fly and Cable Bay. Who knows what this year’s crop will herald?
We’ll shortly be selecting five foals to follow from this year’s intake, following their journey from birth to racecourse. Let’s see if our selections will make it to the top…
For now, we wanted to answer some of the questions we get regularly asked by visitors… please follow up if we miss anything:
What’s the gestation period of a mare?
Most are 11 months but can go a month over their time – Quevega did just that this year when she foaled her colt by Walk In the Park. It’s said that quite often colts take longer to arrive than fillies.
When are most foals born?
Thoroughbreds are bred to a season which helps them prepare for a more equal life on the racetrack as they are all born around the same few months. In the northern hemisphere, early foals (born in January and February) are thought to have an advantage although this isn’t proven and many of the best racehorses are considered late foals (with May birthdates).
In terms of timing of births, the majority are born at night, hence the necessity of constant 24-hour monitoring. Our founder, William Hall Walker believed the star pattern a horse was born under materially affected its performance on the racecourse. As a leading owner and breeder of his generation, who are we to argue?
In the southern hemisphere, the foaling season begins in September and because of the climate, most foals are born outdoors in small foaling paddocks.
How long before they get up?
Most foals are up an about in an hour. Fillies are usually quicker of the mark than colts. After that they should begin to suckle within the hour to take advantage of the mother’s colostrum which will help protect them for the first few weeks.
How long from start to finish does a foaling actually take?
Similar to a human, the labour can take from a few minutes to a few hours. The mare will generally show signs of milk coming in and become restless, getting up and down or even rolling to prepare the foal for birth. Eventually she’ll usually sweat up, her waters will break and the foal will present front legs first. Depending on the size of the foal it can take 5-20 minutes to get them out. Most will foal naturally but some may need some intervention by qualified staff.
After the birth, if needs be we have oxygen in our unit and the baby will be given an enema. The a general health check will be performed by a vet along with a test of the foal’s immunity levels to ensure it has adequate antibodies.
What’s the average weight of a foal?
Hurricane Fly weighed 60kg (132lbs) which is heavy, most thoroughbreds bred for the Flat weigh around 50kgs
What happens in the Southern Hemisphere?
Because of the climate difference most mares foal outside in the field which is thought to be healthier. Some of them remain outside straight away but may be given a jacket/rug to wear in the first few days.
How many thoroughbred foals are born?
Each year there are around 8,000 born in Ireland split between those bred for Flat racing and those for National Hunt (Jumps). Most domestic breeders have only a few mares, whilst the biggest worldwide breeders can own up to 1000 broodmares. Many of them successfully breeding the same families for many generations.
How is it possible to get involved in breeding?
There are many entry points and is worth contacting the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association for more details. You may not want to take on the physical work involved, but there are opportunities to join a group (often called a syndicate) who tend to club together to make the cost more affordable. Our own farm operates a racing and breeding club too which gives a flavour of the excitement of breeding and racing tomorrow’s superstars.
For more info see our pages:- https://irishnationalstud.ie/breeders/#breeding-and-racing-club
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