Diamond was born in 1997 and had already had sev- eral foals when she came to us in 2007 with Jack as a foal at foot. With Warlord she has produced for us Crystal, Chieftain and Field Marshall. She is a wonderful mother, and undoubtedly Boss and Queen of the Herd, always keeping an eye on any foals in the field. In 2014 her pregnancy had progressed normally but unfortunately the foal didn’t survive the birth. We thought that perhaps her mothering skills might benefit some other poor foal so at 5 o’clock in the morning we contacted the Foaling Bank (a charity to match up bereaved mares and orphaned foals all over the country) not fully appreciating what we were letting ourselves in for. After an hour of instruction we felt we were ready to take on a four day old Irish sports horse who had lost his mother a few hours after birth and had already travelled around the country in two abortive attempts to find a foster mother who would accept him. His owner brought him to us at noon, and he tottered off the lorry dazed and right down on his hocks from all the travelling, having done several hundred miles in his first few days of life.
Meanwhile the vet had been to check Diamond and had had to skin the dead foal for John who had a broken hand at the time. We then proceeded by the book, putting Diamond and the foal Lucas into adjacent stalls and only letting them together every two hours for a feed, with the dead foal’s skin covering Lucas so that he smelled like her own foal. Diamond couldn’t understand why we weren’t letting her look after the foal completely from the start, but being new to the situation and Lucas’ owner being understandably cautious about her foal in view of the two previous failed attempts, we thought that we should follow the instructions to the letter. Lucas was more resist- ant, having got used to being bottle fed by humans, but after the first twenty four hours he got the hang of real mare’s milk and began responding to her. By forty eight hours we had abandoned the foal skin and left the two happily together. The next day they went out to the field together and the rest is history. Lucas grew quickly and strongly and settled right in with our two foals. He stayed with us until weaned and we will remember his cheeky expression with fondness and not a little relief that he will be someone else’s problem by the time he is fully grown. Definitely a different temperament to our qui- eter Cleveland Bays!
In 2015 things seemed to be alright with Diamond’s pregnancy until about a month before her due date when her foal was born prematurely and with lungs not fully developed died shortly after. Diamond was extremely distraught and we again phoned the Foaling Bank. We were put in touch with Blackstone Clydesdales in Ayrshire, the owners of a four week old Clydesdale filly, Duchess, whose mother had re- jected her at birth. They had found a mare with milk but she didn’t want Duchess either, and while providing some milk it was barely keeping the poor soul alive. Duchess was too weak to travel to us so Dia- mond went down to Ayrshire with the dead foal, which she refused to leave, in the lorry with her. As soon as she came off the lorry and saw Duchess the dead foal was forgotten and Diamond took over complete charge of the wee one. She wasn’t having any messing about this time with separate stalls and coats and set feeding times! Duchess started to pick up and then to thrive and is now a happy and confident big girl. After a couple of months they came back to Perthshire so that Diamond could run with Warlord again, and Duchess really took to Warlord, following him around and trying to get him to play! After his understandable nervousness about Diamond’s reaction they all settled down happily and he tolerated with his usual good nature all her attempts to get his attention, pulling his mane and tail, biting and jumping up at him. Diamond and Duchess are now back in Ayrshire again where Duchess can be integrated into her own herd and so hopefully it won’t be such a wrench when she is weaned and Diamond leaves her to come back home to Perthshire. Duchess’ owners are convinced that they would have lost her without Diamond - she really is a special mum!
Meet all our horses at www.brackenbrae.co.uk