Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: our ‘sassy and splendid’ foal is here – with a gin-inspired name

  • Hello all and welcome back!

    Firstly, sorry for being MIA recently. Life with horses is a hectic life at best and to quote Kourtney Kardashian, I’m just out here living life right now. But as I write this and the rain continues to pour outside, I’ve managed to dedicate a few hours to blogging.

    My most exciting news is that our foal is here! Our super broodmare Seramai (whom I previously competed) dropped her Jameson RS2 foal in the early hours on 18 May and it was incredible to witness the at-home birth. The most animal birthing knowledge I have comes from watching countless episodes of This Farming Life on BBC (which, in my defence, is pretty informative.) My family have previously bred, but the last one was an Iberian some 20 years ago – so sadly I was just three years old and can’t particularly remember the ins and outs of it.

    Seramai has had two foals before (one of which is our now three-year-old Iniesta) and was a very competent mother. So with vet Rob Oulton on speed dial and Mother Nature taking its course, we chose to foal her at home. I also believe in having horses to love and cherish them; I wanted the new arrival to be part of the family right from day one.

    Seramai getting to know her new foal

    So when Seramai began showing signs of imminent labour at around 11.30pm, Mum and I nestled down in a corner of her foaling box with her. After just half an hour, she came over to us and began nickering and nuzzling us like we were her foal. Within seconds of us exiting the stable to give her space she was down with two feet out. What followed was a textbook birth that happened in five minutes flat. Seramai was overjoyed with her foal, turning to neigh at her and showing all the perfect signs of motherhood.

    Months ago I had picked out two names for the foal – male or female – which I was really glad I had done as it meant her name – Juniper TVS – was ready and waiting. As her sire is Jameson RS2, we wanted to keep it alcohol-themed. You can’t have good gin without juniper berries, and the joy of having little Juniper is nearly as joyful as that first sip of gin after a long day.

    Seramai and Juniper

    Now just over one week old, Juniper is as sassy and splendid as we could imagine. Deemed “perfect” by vet Rob, she has wonderful conformation with two white socks behind and currently a silver sheen to her coat, which will turn black with time. The other horses on the yard are fascinated by her, especially when she stops on her way in from the field to give them all her shrill little whinny. I’m loving learning about handling foals and seeing her change and develop each day is fascinating. Seramai is also looking incredible –if you took Juniper away, you wouldn’t even know she had had a foal. This is a credit to her carefully curated diet plan – thanks to Lorna Edgar at Bailey’s Horse Feeds!

    Back in a tailcoat

    Aside from my new daily task of foal cuddling, I have to remember that I have horses to ride. The week before Juniper came, I made my return to the competition arena with Flick Haigh’s wonderful PRE stallion Habil XX. Due to his own breeding duties and Covid, he hadn’t been out to a party since February 2020. But with his fantastic can-do nature, he was a real star to come away with a 69% in the prix st georges (PSG) and 70% in the inter 1 at Windmill Farm. I felt a bit ring rusty at this level, having not done these tests in a couple of years, but they came back to me like muscle memory.

    Joanna with PRE stallion Habil XX

    It was a fantastic feeling to button on my tailcoat again too, as it feels to me like both a performer’s outfit and a battle suit. Once it’s on, I’m back in the zone and ready to fight. Competing has also given me back the desire to actually compete. I think that because of the pandemic I had lost my desire to go out anywhere – including to a show. Taking the plunge to enter was a big step for me. But that was the biggest step – and now that I’ve tackled that, the fire to perform has rekindled in me, and I’m excited to have more shows lined up.

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    My three white-nosed boys – Simba, Sirocco and Dolce – are all going well. All of them had time off coming out of the winter for various reasons (they clearly like to test my mental strength and bank balance) but now they are all back in full work. I’m looking forward to a busy summer with all three of them out competing, as well as the return of an old face – keep an eye out for that!

    The weather continues to baffle us, as summer seemed to have slipped away, and “if I get soaked while riding one more time, I’m quitting” became a common saying on the yard. However, now summer has returned the flies are coming out. We’re never satisfied with the weather are we, us British folk?

    Until next time,

    Joanna x 

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