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The founder of the National Foaling Bank, Johanna Vardon MBE, has reached a milestone after spending the past 40 years helping breeders through their foaling disasters and bringing foster mares and orphaned foals together.

Vardon launched the National Foaling bank in 1965 after her own mare lost its foal, prompting a desperate appeal on the BBC. “The response was huge, which made me realise that there was a real need for a co-ordinated adoption service,” she explains. “The telephone hasn’t stopped ringing since.”

By the end of 2004, she had dealt with more than 16,000 cases, ranging from first-time breeders to top studs and veterinary surgeons from around the world.

Despite a huge demand for the service, which costs £15,000 a year to run, funding has always been a problem. This led to the establishment of the “Vardon Trust”, which requires breeders to pay a nominal membership fee of around £20 to access the advice line.

In addition to the financial burden, running a service of this nature requires incredible commitment and energy with Vardon regularly suffering from sleep depravation during the foaling season, so why does she do it?

“I just adore the whole process of foaling,” she says. “To see the foal on the ground with those great long legs, you just can’t imagine how it all fitted inside the mare. I find it all absolutely captivating and seeing that first flicker of life is just miraculous.”

Blue Chip founder Clare Blaskey, whose company recently presented Vardon with an engraved salver in recognition of her tireless dedication, says: “Johanna is one of the great heroes of the horse world. She works incredibly hard and really goes the extra mile to help. I don’t think people fully appreciate the extent of her work. It is an amazing service and anyone who breeds horses should support this worthwhile cause.”

Breeders wishing to support the National Foaling Bank and access the 24hr telephone helpline need to join the Vardon Trust (£20 for non-Thoroughbreds and £30 for Thoroughbred breeders and vets). For more details telephone 01952 811234.