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Joy from sadness: mare adopts late fieldmate’s foal to raise alongside her own

An orphaned foal has been successfully adopted by her dam’s field companion, who is raising the coloured filly alongside her own.

Sally Lister’s cremelo mare Szoszke (known as “Gracie”) has taken on the youngster, Donna Seraphina, who was born on the same night as her own buckskin filly, Brackenspa Nightingale, and all three are doing “very well”.

Donna Seraphina, owned by Melissa Burman, lost her mother, Betty, as a result of foaling complications. She sustained colon torsion and despite vets’ best efforts, they were unable to save her.

“We brought the orphan filly foal home on Thursday morning (23 April) and thankfully Gracie had foaled that same night,” Sally told H&H.

“It is one of those sad things that can happen as a complication of foaling. Hopefully we have been able to make the best of a really sad situation and thank goodness we had another mare foal that same night.”

Sally, who owns and runs Brackenspa Stud in Lincolnshire, said they thought about bringing a mare into milk — which they did successfully last year for an orphaned Suffolk horse — but that would take a week to 10 days.

Sally is an experienced breeder and her husband has experience of successfully getting orphaned calves to be adopted.

“When we arrived home from Oakham, we ummed and ahhed about what to do,” she added.

“We decided to give it a go as Gracie has been with us for years and we know her very well. Temperamentally, she is one of the nicest mares you could ever have.

“It is amazing — it’s not as much about how we did it, but rather it very much comes down to the mare.”

The team at the stud had the help of Tower Equine and very carefully managed introducing Donna Seraphina to her new mother, ensuring there was always someone with the trio for the first 72 hours.

The foals worked out which side each of them would drink from and all three have now bonded well.

She added both are feeding well and putting on weight.

“Gain Equine Nutrition have been hugely supportive in making sure they are all getting the right nutrients and that we are getting the best for the mare as her milk yield needs to be twice the size,” she said. “It isn’t like she is feeding twins, these are both full-size foals.”

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Sally added there was a moment on the second night where they thought Gracie was feeling a bit pestered, but with help and managing the amount and timing of extra feeds, this quickly settled down.

“I have twin children and I know how hard it is — all they want to do is drink,” laughed Sally. “The most important extra feed we give them is last thing at night, it fills their tummies and gives Gracie some respite.

“Now they are all out in the field all day and the foals are absolutely loving life. They are best mates and are going to have the best time growing up because they have always got a friend.

“She is growing up as a foal [not hand-reared], learning all the things she needs to learn from a very professional broodmare who is very kind, but who doesn’t take any nonsense from them.”

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