We want to tell you a back story.
A story that many believe is not true; is a mistake; is a very small issue that doesn’t happen very often, and while we know that all breeding farms do not employ Nurse Mares, some do, and some of those foals meet poor ends.
It is worth while to note that we have nothing to gain by this story except to raise awareness. We do not routinely accept nurse mare foals or request donations for them, as we primarily deal with neglect and seizure cases of adult equines; however, we have been involved in years past with various Nurse Mare foal rescues.
The foals pictured here are Four Nurse Mare foals of Six we have helped to save.
The two pictured together were purchased directly from the NM farm. The two individual foals were purchased at auction by Heart of Phoenix in 2012, two more followed those a few weeks later.
During this time, we recorded extensive audio at the Ky auction where some of these foals frequently turned up and it became part of a featured undercover news story with several nurse mare breeders explaining what they do, why and the numbers of mares they use (this particular breeder has been doing this for decades and keeps about 100 mares around 1 hour from Huntington, WV in Ky).
They were conceived solely for the purpose of making their mothers come into milk, so that the mothers can be leased out to sustain a TB foal instead of her own foal.
The TB foal’s mother is typically shipped to a stallion to be re-bred in her foal heat, as AI is not allowed in the industry. The nurse mares are rarely TB mares, so the resulting foals are Draft crosses, QH crosses and gaited foals, generally.
So, what happens to the original baby?
Most of the time they get to stay with their mothers for at least 24 hours or until the mother is needed for an TB foal, at least getting the colostrum they need (They can be disposed of by a quick blow to the head when there aren’t buyers for them). They are often sold at auction, directly to buyers. The lucky ones end up at foal rescues who spend hundreds of hours and many, many dollars to save them and eventually get adopted.
What can be done about this?
The TB racing industry does not allow artificial insemination for the animals under its regulation. Nurse Mares are an uncommon occurrence in STB racing where AI is used.
Some farms are actually already put into practice something that may eventually become widespread where Nurse Mares can be brought into milk without actually being bred. This is done by hormonal induction, and has so far proven very successful (for more on this practice please click on the blue link):
The public needs to be aware of this practice and encourage change, while understanding not ALL TB farms take part in this at all.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
SHARE both this article and the article about the hormonal induction.
Help this become a publicly recognized issue.
And when you see the “great” in the upcoming popular races, it is only fair to remember the silhouettes of the discarded foals that struggle because of this breeding by product program.
NOTE: Nurse Mare Foals are a fact that are only denied by those looking to defend the practice by covering it up.
They turn up every single year in sizable numbers across Ky, Ohio and elsewhere. This is something mostly seen on the east coast. Some within rescue have seen the farms, met the breeders and watched the process happen again and again, so the denial doesn’t move us or any sincere person very much. The numbers of foals you can see with your own eyes tells the story.
“At one time I leased out 100, but I’m too old for that now.”
“Kistner will lease about 30 mares from Maine to Virginia this season. ‘I’m a small operator compared to what they have in Kentucky,’ she said. ‘But we’ll cover the whole Northeast.”’
“They raise the foals really well and take a lot of the stress off the dams,” said Murrell, who has ready access to about five nurse mares. “If the foals are weaned early, then it is more likely the mare will conceive the next year. I’m surprised more people don’t use them.”
“If a nurse mare is necessary, a call is placed to people like Davis, who along with his wife, Althea, owns Horse Play Farm near Paris, Ky., or Sandy Kistner, owner of Sugar Plum Farm near Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Davis and Kistner are two of a handful of nurse mare suppliers across the country.”
The above was Written in 2004 for TheHorse.com (which is Written for hands-on owners and managers of any breed or discipline and overseen by a board of the American Association of Equine Veterinarians, the AAEP) by Leslie Deckard, a former staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.
Finally, those who deny nurse mare foals exist for any reason except when the dam’s die or end up gravel ill:
23,000 foals were registered with the Jockey Club in 2015 (on a positive note, this is down from 40k in 1990)
Serious issues occur in 1% of births, yet just one small rescue in Athens, Ohio handled 200 foals a year. That is a fraction of the number created. Other rescues accept these foals, the breeders sell directly to the public and to auction. The numbers of foals far exceeds the number needed for emergencies.
• It is important to realize this is an ethical issue, not a crime.
• The breeding of these mares – Not illegal.
• The sale of the foals – Not illegal.
• Dumping at auction in Ky – Not illegal.
The industry, aware of how negative public opinion is toward this, pretends it isn’t happening – that these foals turning up year after year are figments of the imagination. They come on posts like this meant to raise awareness (and effectively do, no matter how they wish otherwise) and ramble on about how this isn’t true, how we are misleading and so forth.
We are thankful people do look at the undeniable facts, see the foals and easily put it together. Most of you do realize the truth in spite of the propaganda put out yearly to say this doesn’t happen.
Denial will not make the changes the Nurse mare foal industry needs to see. Education and action will.
To see the Last Chance Corral documentary visit:https://vimeo.com/112018231