A fascinating and informative day

It was a drizzly day to begin with, but as we started in the barn where the stocks are, we all kept dry. There was a maximum number of ten people which made sense when I realised how we were going to read scans to determine various different stages of pregnancy, also check for twins and the later scan to check for a heartbeat – we had a fabulous selection of mares that were being checked by the Veterinarian Lucy Collins who specialises in stud work and works for B and W Equine Vet Practise.

Lucy made the session very interactive and made sure we could all read the scans and that we thoroughly understood what we were reading, with the options we could use to maintain the pregnancy or correct the reason why the mare was not in foal.

The white board had a list of 14 mares to be scanned that day, 12 the following day and similar numbers over the weekend and daily throughout the following week, at this time of year Lucy said she would spend several hours daily scanning at West Kington, as she scanned each mare she made notes in her book and then moved the mare’s name on the white board to the next time she needed to be looked at. This process is very staff heavy as it needed two people if there was a mare and foal and then the next mare (and foal) would be ready and waiting.

Lucy explained the advantage of using fresh or chilled semen over frozen semen and the difficulties they have with trying to get some tricky mares in foal with frozen semen and negotiating with owners who have set they heart on a certain stallion that only has frozen semen available. We were shown how to look for a dominant follicle and how measuring them will tell you how old they are and that if they were small for their age they were likely to be lost prior to the next scan.

We saw maiden mares, barren mares and several mares with foals at foot which all stood beautifully beside their mothers, it was lovely to see such young foals so close and be able to scrutinise their conformation – Lucy also discussed checking the foals for issues in the legs and feet and when different growth plates close, so how early this needed to be done and how to trim and shoe the foals to correct any problems.

Next Tessa Clarke showed us all around the stud and we saw mares and foals of varying ages in large barn-type stables followed by Tessa and Harry Thirlby introducing us to the eight stallions they have standing at West Kington at the moment:

Cevin Z – undeniably Tessa’s favourite!
Chilli Morning
Billy Congo
Greenlands Jester
Le Grand

And Jane Holderness Roddam’s three stallions:

Welton Double Cracker
Windsor Heights
Jamhoori – her new Thoroughbred stallion.

After that Harry used Cevin Z to show us how to collect fresh semen, use a nuclear counter to measure the sperm which told us there were 18.6 million sperm in that one collection which would be able to be used for up to eighteen individual mares, Tessa then showed us how she would centrifuge the sperm sample to improve the quality of the sample by reducing the plasma and check the quality of the sample under a microscope.

We finished off our visit by going out to the field to look at several mares and foals by different stallions which was lovely to see foals of various ages all settled and happy together, questions were encouraged and there were plenty, it was an excellent opportunity for everyone.

We then all went out to lunch where Lucy Collins (Vet) and Nick Gauntlett joined us and we had an informal discussion afterwards.

Enormous thanks go to Jane Holderness-Roddam for allowing us to visit her lovely premises, Debbie Follet for organising the visit, and Tessa Clarke, Lucy Collins and Harry Thirlby for making the day so interactive and interesting – it was a superb day.

Report by Sarah MacDonald FBHS