The Ugly Side of Nurse Mares
 By Winniefield Park   •   21st Jun 2016   •   2,643 views   •   2 comments
The Ugly Side of Nurse Mares

When a foal is born dead, or dies shortly after birth it can be the stalling of a dream for many breeders. At least, until the mare can be bred and foal again - a process that could take over a year, if all goes well. A mare that loses a foal may go through something like a grieving process, and some physical discomfort. And losing a mare that leaves behind an orphan foal can feel like a tragedy as well, because not only have you lost a beloved mare, but now, have the responsibility of caring for a newborn infant. Itís a responsibility that most owners take on willingly, and itís not an easy road. Foals can be raised on milk replacer, and a lot of attention. But, there are downsides and health risks to raising an orphan foal like this.

When a foal is orphaned, rather than trying to raise it Ďby handí, a nurse mare can be used. Itís not always easy to find one, and once one is found, the mare may or may not accept the foal. Usually, with a little encouragement a reluctant mare will adopt an orphan foal, although there are rare cases where a mare is downright nasty to a foal that isnít its own. For owners who want to find a nurse mare, or have a mare available, there are online networks that can make matches.

A mare that has lost its foal, and willingly accepts another sounds like a love story. But, there seems to be an ugly side to the nursemaid network. Providing nurse mares seems to have become an industry in itself. Its dismal secret is that in profiting from having nurse mares available, the foals of those mares suffer. Ideally, every nurse mare available would be one that has just lost a foal. But, this isnít always the case. In order to sell the use of a nurse mare, a foal is taken from its mother leaving another orphan foal, or according to some sources, a dead one. Similar to the PMU industry, the foals of nurse mares are by-products that need to be Ďdisposed ofí in the most economical way possible.

Why is there a demand for nurse mare within various breed industries? Certainly, within every breeding establishment, mares lose their foals or reject them, and foals lose their mamas. However, not every need for nurse mares starts with a natural cause. Within some breed industries, like Thoroughbreds destined for the track, breeding mares for a yearly foal is common. In order to produce a yearly foal, a mare will need to be bred during its foal heat - the cycle that happens shortly after the birth of its foal. Artificial insemination isnít acceptable, so a mare must go to wherever the stallion is. If itís a short trip, it may be fine for the foal at her side to go along. However, if there is a long trailer trip, it may be too risky to send along the potentially valuable but fragile newborn foal. And, insurance companies are unlikely to insure a very young foal. The most efficient way to avoid danger to the foal is to leave it home.

This is where the use of nurse mares come in. A mare of lesser value is bred to a stallion of lesser value. The mare gives birth to the foal, but the foal is taken away from the mare, leaving her available to adopt another far more valuable foal. In the best case scenario, mares are bred so they produce decent riding horses that can be raised, and later sold to good homes. But, rumors abound about foals left to starve, or are killed.

There are also rescues that specializing in saving foals of nurse mares. But unlike rescues that take mature horses the hours and dollars that go into raising orphan foals is drastically increased. And, to add insult to injury, anyone wanting an Ďunwantedí foal must often pay for it.
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Valkyrie   MOD 
It boggles my mind at how depraved the US Thoroughbred industry can be. I work on TB studs in New Zealand and this doesn't happen AT ALL here. There is a network where breeders offer foster mares if the mare's foal dies, and I've attended a few fosterings. It's magical to watch them bond.

But if a foster mare is unavailable (especially for a late season orphan) the foal is handreared, usually with another orphan foal as a buddy and a "nanny" who is an older mare or gelding. The foal will just be weaned a bit earlier and turfed out with older weanlings.

You'd have to be a special kind of monster to orphan or murder a newborn foal to use its dam as a nursemare.
  Jun 24, 2016  •  2,686 views
Blue Skyy
This is horrible what Americans do if I where to get an orphaned foal I would take the time to care for it and feed not go kill another foal and use his mom if an orphaned foal and another foal get along then I would see if the mare would take in the orphan but if the mare refused or I saw a lack of food in any of them I would take back the orphan and feed him my self.
  Aug 15, 2016  •  2,455 views
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