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Foal Patrol

Young Rider Magazine LogoIt was cold. Late March can be like that in upstate New York. Light snow from the last storm blew around outside the barn. Inside, Greg and Trina were taking turns every other hour watching Memento d’Oro. She was a calm mare, but tonight she had begun pacing, shifting her weight, and looking uncomfortable.

Thoroughbred mare Memento d'Oro with her newborn filly
It’s a girl! Memento d’Oro says hello to her newborn filly at Old Tavern Farm in 2018. Thousands watched the birth on a live stall cam at www.foalpatrol.com. Photo courtesy old tavern farm/www.foalpatrol.com

Lately Trina, the broodmare manager at Old Tavern Farm, had noticed milk waxing on her udders, a sign that foaling was getting close. But farm manager Greg knew from experience that every mare was different. They continued to wait. Delivery of a foal at night is common in the wild, where the cover of darkness protects from predators, assuming the baby stands quickly and is able to run with the herd.

Watched by Thousands

It was after midnight and still they waited. But they were not the only ones watching. A few thousand others were wishing Memento would hurry up so they could go to bed.

Mounted on the wall of the stall was a camera, part of the unique new Foal Patrol program instituted by the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Live webcams were placed in the stalls of eight pregnant mares to allow fans to watch them deliver their babies, nurture them, and observe the growth of the offspring.

“Once you see a foal being born, you will never be the same.” The statement by John Hendrickson, the museum’s president of the Board of Trustees, became the theme of the program, which had participating farms in three states.

Suddenly Memento went down on the soft straw of the foaling stall. Greg and Trina stood by as the mare did her work. Then Greg got down to help pull the long front legs from the birth canal.

“Atta girl, Momma,” he said. The miracle of birth was complete.

Foal patrol cameras capturing a Thoroughbred mare and newborn foal
Photo courtesy National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Eleven months in the making, and it had only taken five minutes. Quickly the dark, damp filly with a blaze resembling a sea horse was dried and brought around so mother and baby could bond.

A collective sigh went up across the country as Memento d’Oro ’18 began to nurse (foals are given their dam’s name plus the year until a permanent name is picked out). She was taking in the all-important first milk, called colostrum, that would provide her with the antibodies for immune protection that newborns need.

It was the third delivery that Foal Patrol followers had witnessed. It didn’t get any less dramatic for the viewers. Now the struggle to stand began. While human babies can take months to learn this skill, it is life or death for a foal to stand almost immediately.

Mom lay by her filly’s side, licking her back legs as she stretched her front legs out. Although it was necessary that she master it, Greg gave her a boost until she was stable enough to lean on her concerned mother.

The next day she was introduced to the outside world for a bit after the veterinarian gave her the OK. Some days she wore a tiny foal blanket. Memento’s feed rations were increased to help produce the enormous amount of milk that her foal would need for the rapid growth that takes place from a starting point of over 100 pounds.

Since it takes 11 months for mares to carry their young, they are usually rebred within a month or two after delivering. It’s important for foals who will race to be born early in the year, since all Thoroughbreds have an official birthday of January 1st. So Memento and her baby were off to Kentucky in April, where Memento was bred to Into Mischief. She would return home after an ultrasound showed her to be pregnant.

Thoroughbred mare Viva Sheila with owner Sheila Rosenblum
Season 2 mare Viva Sheila pictured with Sheila Rosenblum, manager of the filly’s all-female ownership group called Lady Sheila Stable. Viva Sheila is in foal to 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper; her due date is March 1. Photo Courtesy Dorothy Callahan

Meet the 2019 Mares

Foal Patrol Season 2 cameras were turned on December 28. Each mare will have a live feed as well as a blog.

Viva Sheila has been bred to 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. She resides at Vivien Malloy’s Edition Farm in New York.

Thoroughbreds are named after they are purchased, and Viva Sheila is named after the farm owner and her owner Sheila Rosenblum. She was unraced, and this will be her first foal, due March 1.

Thoroughbred mare Comme Chez Soi
Comme Chez Soi will be having her third foal on Season 2 of Foal Patrol, due on Valentine’s Day 2019. Photo courtesy foalpatrol.com/national racing museum and hall of fame

Comme Chez Soi (French for “at home”) is the daughter of another famous sire, Empire Maker, and the mare Downthedustyroad (Thoroughbred names can only be 18 characters long, so spaces are eliminated). Her 2019 filly was born on February 23.

Love and Pride won three graded stakes races among her seven victories, earning nearly $1 million! Her 2019 foal is by 2017 champion Gun Runner, who won $16 million on the track. Her filly was born on March 2.

With Honors is a 4-year-old daughter of leading stallion War Front. She’s bred to another leading sire, Tapit. With Honors resides at world-famous Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. The value of her first foal is assumed to be high because of all the famous horses in her family. With Honors’ filly was born on February 4.

Meet the rest of the mares and track due dates for each foal at www.foalpatrol.com. You can also check in with the stallion Frosted at his home farm in Kentucky!

Thoroughbred mare Arravale with her 2018 colt by American Pharoah
Canadian champion Arravale from Season 1. Her colt is by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Photo courtesy foalpatrol.com/national racing museum and hall of fame

Follow the adventure at www.foalpatrol.com

Foal Patrol Season 1 had 1.6 million views in its observation of all eight mares’ deliveries during 2018. All of the Season 1 horses can be followed in their blogs and galleries on www.foalpatrol.com.

This is also the website where Season 2 can be viewed, with one warning to the fans: It’s hypnotic and hard to leave as it pulls you in, making you a part of each equine story.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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