ITBA Next Generation Apprentices 2016 / 2017 – Caitriona Bolger 2nd Blog: As part of my second placement on the ITBA Next Generation Apprenticeship Scheme I began at the world-renowned Coolmore Stud in the second week of January. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was nervous going into a big organisation having never foaled a mare before.
I travelled down on a Sunday evening and was met by area manger Derek Bailey who runs the Ballintemple Foaling Unit where I have spent the first two months of my four-month placement. It is here where all of the Coolmore partners’ mares are foaled so the quality is truly astonishing. Many of the mares are multiple Group 1 winners themselves or dams of some of Europe’s finest racehorses. I have gotten to work daily with Meow, dam of last season’s European Champion 2-Year-Old Churchill, and Hveger, dam of Highland Reel and Idaho.
Everything at Coolmore is done to an extremely high standard and the barn at Ballintemple is kept immaculately. I lived on the farm so I was on hand for the foalings. There are three night staff Christina, Rosie and Tommy who play a hugely important role after foaling. Ideally the foal will be standing within 45 minutes and suckling the mare within an hour and a half of being born.
I have worked on foal watch which involved observing and checking the mares every 10-15 minutes and have assisted with almost 30 foalings which has been an incredible experience. When the mare shows signs of foaling Derek checks the presentation of the foal inside the mare. I have been lucky enough to get to check a few presentations under his guidance. Once the presentation is correct we leave the mare to lie down. As the mare pushes we also gently pull on the foal’s front legs and help her deliver the foal. When the umbilical cord breaks, we pinch the cord at the navel to prevent blood loss, it is then sprayed with an iodine solution to prevent infection. An enema is warmed and administered to the foal which helps with the passing of the foal’s first droppings or meconium. The mare’s colostrum level is checked and if it scores low we give the foal a bottle of high quality colostrum. This will have been taken previously from a mare with a good colostrum supply and immediately frozen for preservation.
I also witnessed the fostering of mares and foals. This is only ever done if a mare is unable to rear her own foal through illness, injury or death. There are about 60 foster mares on hand at Coolmore for fostering and they are selected for their great temperament and strong nurturing instinct.
I am very thankful Derek Bailey invested the time to teach me all about foaling, from the preparation to the birthing process and the aftercare of mares and new-born foals. The care given to the mares and foals is second to none and it was a pleasure working there. The staff are very hardworking and maintain such high standards.
For the second two-month spell of my placement I will be working with the mares and older foals. This will allow me to learn about the process of getting a mare back in foal, observing mare teasing, veterinary reproductive work, actual coverings and scanning for pregnancy. I am very thankful to all at Coolmore for giving me this opportunity.