We have stabling for more than 100 mares, foals and fillies in seven yards, although we normally have around 60 residents. We keep our horses in as natural a routine as possible, so the mares are outside much of the time. The six stallions have a separate staff and yard.
Stabling is a mixture of English blocks and an American barn. Every stable has an automatic drinker, which saves labour and prevents accidents. Most mangers run the full length of the back wall. I prefer these because they encourage the foal to join mum.
We give a Dodson & Horrell Custom Feed, with bruised oats that we mill ourselves. A few years ago, our grazing underwent herbage and soil analysis, so the food is produced with the ideal level of nutrients and trace elements and doesn’t require supplementing. Once a week, the horses have a treat: a linseed mash, which is great for their coats and digestive systems.
Obesity is something we monitor carefully because it puts a strain on the uterus. It’s not a major problem because our mares spend so much time roaming outside, but we give less bulky food where necessary. However, we have to wait until the foal is weaned before we tackle a weight problem. Putting a block of rock salt among the food is a useful trick for slowing gutsy eaters.
Equipment and grooming
The farrier visits in January to shoe the stallions ready for the covering season. Mares wear shoes for medical reasons only — hormones and genetics have a tendency to exacerbate Thoroughbreds’ predisposition for bad feet — and their feet are trimmed regularly.
We use leather headcollars because nylon can be harsh, especially on foals’ soft muzzles. Foals go out for a few hours at a time from day one, but they wear Lavenham rugs for the first couple of weeks. Where possible we support small local businesses. Most equipment comes from Gibsons and Horse Requisites in Newmarket, and Rylands Saddlery in Cheveley.
Stallions are walked in-hand for up to seven miles a day to keep them fit during the covering season. They wear a bar bit for exercise and coverings, and something with a quick release mechanism, such as a Chiffney, for turnout. We are blessed with well-mannered stallions— all but one are home-breds and their good temperaments owe much to their upbringing.
Mares have their tails and manes brushed out and feet picked out daily. We also do foals’ feet and rub them over, so they are used to being handled.