Sunday, February 24, 2013

Delivering a Mare to the Breeding Shed

Ever wonder what it's like to deliver a mare to the breeding shed?
Guest blogger Lindsay Hunter of Lexington, Kentucky has been documenting her daily
journeys to Kentucky’s premier farms this season with an interesting and enjoyable mix of
information, color and history.

Many thanks to Lindsay for sharing her words and giving me the OK to post here. For FaceBook fans, you can read Lindsay’s adventures here.

Feb 15th
Darley at Jonabell
The phone rang about 11.30. Could I take a mare to be bred at Darley at 1.30? (of course I could!) As I drove along Harrodsburg Road on the southwest side of Lexington, and traversed curvy Bowman Mill between Mill Ridg
e Farm and Darley, I reminisced about Jonabell Farm, where HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rasheed Al Maktoum’s U.S breeding operation is now centered, having purchased the Jonabell property in 2001, and upon the death of his brother, Sheikh Maktoum, consolidated the stallions at Gainesborough Farm under one large Darley umbrella at Jonabell. I missed the old stone breeding shed, the wonderful carved stone horseheads that adorned the entrance, the Celtic symbol that each mare passed beneath on her way in to the shed. Back then, stallions in residence included Holy Bull, Cherokee Run, Old Trieste. 
Phillip ran the shed, Bruce handled the stallions, Hector stabilized the mares.
Close to the new executive offices, is the bronze statue and grave of Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner and the last thoroughbred to accomplish the feat, was buried whole standing up, and facing the viewer, directly under his statue at Darley along with the familiar flamingo pink and black silks of owner/breeder Louis and Patrice Wolfson's Harbor View Farm. Thirty four years ago, he gave his sport not just its last Triple Crown, but an amazing rivalry with a horse named Alydar. Even though Affirmed died before the Sheikh acquired the farm, he wanted to make sure the legendary stallion had a fitting memorial. Affirmed lived in reverence until January 2001 and the age of 26.
Among the 13 stallions standing at stud on the farm are the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and his rival Hard Spun, Bernardini, and top American stallions Medaglia d'Oro (sire of Rachel Alexandra') and Street Cry (Zenyatta's sire). Darley has the distinction of being the only farm with the sires of four Kentucky Derby winners.
As I drove thru the barred automatic gates, past the sign that says “Please wait to unload your mare until called “ up the neat, curved drive and into the huge parking lot, I was struck by how far things had advanced. The ‘state of the art ’ breeding shed with two breeding bays, two teasing stalls, two foam padded stocks for palping and reinforcing, everything padded in blue, and this year, home to 13 royally bred stallions. 
Joe met me in the parking area to check my mare’s papers, we were second in line, and she was to be bred to Any Given Saturday. There was much more hustle and bustle in this shed these days. More people are needed to get things handled, a resident vet checks everything, about 5 people in each breeding shed, one to hold the mare, one to hold her tail, another to steady from the far side, the stallion handler, the ’enter’ guy. We moved quickly through the teasing stall, wash rack for pre breeding prep, and on into the right side check. Phillip still overseas this shed, Bruce still brings the stallion, while Steve, formerly head stallion man at Gainesborough, usually keeps things moving in the left side shed. 
My mare, a maiden , was quietly and unobtrusively introduced to the proceedings by the teaser, who took care not to startle her as he mounted her like the stallion would, a practice we refer to as ’ jumping the mare’. She took it all in stride, and as Bruce led Any Given Saturday in, she broke down and urinated, showing her readiness for breeding. 
A group of foreign visitors watched with intense interest from the observation room, chattering in their home language. Five other trailers with mares and handlers had arrived behind me. Each went through the same routine, chatting companionably while waiting their mares’ turn.
Soon she was back in the trailer, and as the sun broke through the clouds, we headed back down Hwy 68 to her home farm.

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