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A showjumping stud has praised a little-known foster mare service that stepped in after a nursing mare died of a suspected brain haemorrhage.

Carolyn Murdoch, stud manager at Old Lodge, in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, contacted Clononeen Bloodstock Services after a match through the National Foaling Bank did not work out.

And she thinks other studs should consider using the company, which is believed to be one of just two in the UK offering this service.

“I was not sure about [the ethics of] using a service like this at first,” she told H&H. “The idea of taking the mares’ own foals away did not sit right with me, so I took myself off to see their foals unannounced. They seemed as happy as Larry.”

According to Clononeen, foals stay with their mothers until they are at least three weeks old. They then move into small groups, if their mothers are needed for fostering, and are bucket-fed like calves until they are weaned.

The Old Lodge mare died on 27 June, 12 days after she foaled a filly by German sire Armitage.

The National Foaling Bank sourced a mare that had lost a foal that day but the pair failed to bond.

Then a contact suggested Clononeen boss Deirdre Cash and within four hours Ms Cash and cob mare Babyface were on the yard.

“Deirdre spent three nights sleeping in the stable with them and did not go until we could leave them together in the stable or the field,” said Ms Murdoch. “I can’t praise them highly enough — they did it all. ”

This service cost her £2,000.

Ms Cash, who runs the foster mare service as a sideline to her traditional cob stud in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, said their service is well known in the thoroughbred industry but not in other circles. She said they have 100 mares and provide around 40 fostering services a season.

“We breed good foals, so we can always find a home for the boys and we often keep the fillies,” she said.

But Johanna Vardon, who has run the National Foaling Bank charity for 46 years, dealing with more than 18,000 cases, does not approve of the system.

“I feel very strongly that foals should not be taken away from their mothers to make way for a foal of greater value,” she said.

However vet Ben Mayes, president elect of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), believes the fostering service has a role to play.

“I was totally unaware of any service other than the National Foaling Bank, but feel the greater the provision of foster mares the better the outlook for orphaned foals,” he said.

For more information about Clononeen Bloodstock Services, visit: www.needafostermare.co.uk

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (21 July, 2011)