Nothing livens up a training or boarding facility like the birth of a foal. Clients and staff alike can’t stop buzzing about the new baby, often stopping by its stall to visit. But is boarding a mare and foal good for business? It can be if you know how to do it right.
DOING IT RIGHT
When it comes to boarding foals, it’s important to decide up front what your arrangement will be. Knowing how you plan to handle the situation of a mare that is going to foal will enable you to communicate clearly with clients interested in boarding.
“If I did not breed the mare, I want her here at my place for a month before foaling,” says Kim Wright, owner of Wright’s Walkers of Lakeport, Calif., a breeder of spotted Tennessee Walking Horses. “I have to establish a degree of trust between myself and the mare, so I need to either work with her where she lives, or she needs to be here with me.”
Wright notes that many mares—and horses in general—don’t trust easily, so she works with outside mares daily by grooming them, talking to them, working with their tails and cleaning between their teats.
“We are very hands-on here,” she says. “I believe that the more comfortable the mare is, the easier it will be to foal her.”
All this bonding is not easy work, so Wright charges $500 to foal a mare, in addition to the regular $250 monthly board. If a vet is needed to to assist with foaling, the client pays the vet separately.
Wright says that her regular veterinarian can attest that foaling typically goes smoothly at her ranch. “Our place is rural, and is a very quiet, peaceful and a relaxed environment for breeding and foaling,” she says. “I even use essential oils for relaxing mares and calming them down, if they need it.”
Accommodations are important to mare owners, who want to know that their horses will have the right supervision when close to foaling time. At Serpentine Farm in Grass Valley, Calif., where owner Jane Apgar Sommers breeds Andalusians, Oldenburgs and Iberian Warmbloods, pasture board is one of the benefits to clients with mares in foal. “I offer pasture board for broodmares and their offspring,” she says. “The main broodmare pasture is 30 acres, and mares being bred or near foaling are brought into one of five two-acre pastures where they can be monitored more closely.”
At Serpentine Farms, mares are foaled in large stalls with video monitors, and are returned to the smaller pastures as soon as the foal’s vigor and weather allow—usually within a day or two of birth. “I keep the mares in pairs, based on their due dates, so there are only two mare/foal combos per pasture, and no one is left alone,” says Sommers. “There are two foaling stalls so the mares foal with their buddies next door.” Foals are weaned by returning the mares to the 30-acre pasture, leaving the foals in their familiar surroundings with their pasture-mates. Eventually, the foals are put into larger groups for the winter.