Orphan Foal Project- CURRENTLY ON HOLD*
Providing homes for the youngest and most vulnerable equines
When one thinks of an orphan, they often imagine a situation where the parents have passed away, leaving the youngter to the care of an orphanage and hopefully adoption. Sadly, the story of the orphan foals Lucky Horse works wtih is not as innocent, and is both complicated and heartbreaking. To understand the predicament of these foals, one must be introduced to the business of nurse mares.
A nurse mare is a fertile mare of any breed that is bred every year for the sole purpose of forcing her to produce milk. The foal she ends up nursing, however, is NOT the foal that she has just given birth to, nor does her foal benefit from any it's own mother’s milk.
Shortly after she gives birth, the nurse mare, without her newborn by her side, is transported to a stable which has a much more valuable foal in residence who needs the nurse mare’s milk. Why? Sometimes a valuable mare has died and her potentially valuable foal needs a wet nurse in order to survive. More often, however, it is because that foal’s mother (most often a expensive thoroughbred) isn’t able to continue nursing her own foal. She is being shipped off as quickly as possible (usually 7-10 days after giving birth) to be bred again to an impressively credentialed stallion so she can produce yet another valuable foal for the prestigious breeding farm. When she goes off to be bred, she can’t take her own baby because it’s too risky and too costly to send her fancy foal along. So the imported nurse mare takes over its care.
Two mares, separated from their fragile newborns.
One foal will be given every advantage to thrive. The other’s fate is uncertain at best.
The nurse mare’s newborn foal is taken away from her within a few days or a few weeks of its birth. Since nurse mare foals are viewed as merely a means to an end, they have no value to the nurse mare farm beyond a price per pound. A few reputable nurse mare farms find homes for their foals, but that level of compassion is rare. Without intervention, from Lucky Horse Equine Rescue and others like it, most nurse mare foals are discarded, left to die or dumped at auction, which means almost certain death.
Enter Lucky Horse Equine Rescue
In the hopes of rescuing as many orphan nurse mare foals as possible, Lucky Horse works with selected nurse mare farms who have agreed to keep their doors open to us. These obliging farms allow us to evaluate their nurse mares and have assured us that the nurse mare foals will stay with their mothers for their first week of life (which doesn'’t sound like much, but is better than the usual 1-2 days). They receive “snap tests” to be sure they are healthy enough to wean, after which they are weaned in pairs to reduce the stress.
In the spring, on a space-and-resource-available basis, we make several trips to nurse mare farms to retrieve these still vulnerable, downy-haired and wobbly-legged foals. While we do “rescue” these fragile babies, they are not free. We must purchase the foals, procure health certificates, transport them to Bolton, Massachusetts, assign our volunteers to round-the-clock shifts to feed them milk formula and provide veterinary care and medications. It is a long and complicated process to get these babies safely to Lucky Horse, and then to care for them until the right adoptive family comes along.
Due to the existing legislation in the state of Massachusetts, we are currently unable to rescue any additional nursemare foals. We are very lucky to have some compassionate state representatives working to help change these laws to allow for the importation of these foals into the state, but until then the Orphan Foal Project is currently on hold. Please contact us if you have any questions about how to get involved.