An all-female veterinary team at a small equine clinic near Camarthen is to star in a new BBC documentary series which airs this month.
Only Foals and Horses follows the unusual homely practice, where vets Phillipa Hughes and Lisa Durham cover an area spanning seven counties, from mid to south-west Wales.
Phillipa and Lisa first worked together as students before fulfilling their dream of setting up the clinic in Nantgaredig in 2006.
“We’re a small close-knit team and I like that,” Philippa told H&H. “We’ll never be a massive practice, but we deliver a very personal service and get to see cases through — we might scan a mare in foal with a 14-day embryo, then see that foal to microchip and passport and carry on seeing it through its career.
“We’re all horse owners ourselves and part of our ethos is that we don’t see them as a commodity, they are all part of the family.”
Only Foals and Horses’ producer, who breeds Welsh Cobs and Welsh sections As, was originally a client of the clinic and later went there on work experience when he was trying to decide his career direction.
“When he decided he wanted to go into TV he came to us and did a mini-documentary and did a very good job,” Phillipa said. “Someone at the BBC saw it and from there they decided to feature us in a four-part series.”
Phillipa said she had “enjoyed the whole experience” of making the show and that the presence of the cameras did not create too much extra pressure on the job.
“You start to forget they are there” she said. “I liked the way the series has shown we have a wide variety of cases and can go from one extreme to the other. One minute you’re doing an AI on an Arab mare that has bred a world champion and the next treating a mini Shetland of no monetary value who has an angular limb deformity — I think it really highlights what horses mean to people from all walks of life.”
When you’re an equine vet, tasked with saving horses’ lives, things shouldn't go wrong but inevitably they do, as six
‘Everyone’s nervous before the first de-robing but as soon as they get their clothes off, it’s mad’
The first of four episodes, which airs on Thursday 21 November, follows the pair as they perform everything from a routine assessment of a wire cut on a Welsh cob mare to an unusual vasectomy on a feral Welsh stallion.
“We’ve never done a vasectomy in a horse before. Although both of us have previously worked in mixed practice where they are quite often done in rams, they are pretty rare in horses,” Phillipa said. “There are problems with overbreeding of Welsh ponies, but this has enabled this stallion to go back out on the hills with his herd, so it’s a novel way to deal with it.
“One of the great things about this job is that no two days are the same, there are new things to challenge you all the time.”
In the first episode Phillipa also receives some shock news when she is diagnosed with a cyst on the brain.
“We were filming one of the cases at the clinic one day and then the next day I was phoning them up from The Heath hospital in Cardiff telling them I was about the have brain surgery,” she said. “I couldn’t believe the timing.”
The first episode airs on BBC One Wales at 8pm and then at the same time for each of the following three weeks.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday