Since I was a teenager, like I’m sure most horsey-girls, I really wanted to breed my own horse. I wanted to experience the process from the start. Create my very own horse that would of course be with me for life. Be there for the first trims, first vaccinations, first physio sessions – all of it really. Bring up a horse to the very best of my ability, with no corners cut and hopefully not too many mistakes made along the way. With the goal of that horse not only being a cherished pet but also a performance horse too. And of course, let’s not forget the simple joy of how cute foals are!
Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to compete a variety of breeds of horses in endurance but the one that’s always stood out for me is the Anglo-Arab (Arab x TB). Let’s not forget Chippy is also an Anglo! Anglos are sensitive & sharp but they ooze athleticism. To me, the Anglo epitomises what any good sports horse should be. They benefit from the endurance and intelligence of the Arab combined with the size and speed of a Thoroughbred. It’s a scary combination when you really think about it. A Ferrari on long-lasting steroids. A Usain Bolt and Mo Farrah hybrid. The fastest horse with the best stamina of them all. Often too clever for their own good!
Nonetheless, it was an Anglo that I had set my sights on one day breeding. So, when the opportunity arose to have another horse on the yard, and nearly a decade after the dream began, I found myself on the hunt for a grey, 15.2hh, Thoroughbred mare with the specific intent to one day be in a position to breed my very own Anglo Arab.
My horse search ended in August 2019 when I found Shadow Force aka Fern (Lethal Force x Night Premiere), 2016 Grey 15.2hh TB ex-racehorse. Fern had brilliant conformation, she moved straight and correctly and importantly had the most kindhearted temperament. It was an easy decision that’s for sure!
As she had raced she’d be eligible for Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) classes which meant I could compete her in the RoR categories for both endurance and dressage too!
Her sire, Lethal Force is to date the fastest horse in history over 6 furlongs at Newmarket and is a multiple G1 winner. His progeny have also had prolific success in G1 races so the family are fast!
I hadn’t originally intended to breed from Fern this year as I had hoped to make a start on her endurance and dressage career. However, as many will know, she got her kissing spine diagnosis and underwent spinal surgery in March 2021. This meant her ridden work couldn’t start until the Autumn at the earliest.
This didn’t necessarily change my plans to breed from her as I fully committed to the rehab programme with the view to getting back on in September/October time.
However, my granny made a passing comment to me one afternoon in May about putting Fern in foal this year. I instantly dismissed the idea saying that it would be too soon after her KS surgery. But the seed had been sown and I began to wonder if it might be a good idea to put her in foal this year after all.
Within a few days I had consulted my vet and my physio and both agreed that it would be a great idea. I could continue with all her rehab work right up until the birth and it would actually give her more time before wearing a saddle or taking any rider weight.
So then came the decision of choosing a stallion and contacting the vet to understand a bit more about the process as of course this would be my first time! And importantly Fern’s first time too, so a bit more to consider.
Back in April I had the pleasure of visiting the Zayin Arabian stud in Somerset, specializing in endurance and racehorses. At this point of course I wasn’t even thinking about breeding Fern so it was more of a social visit with Paul Simmons, the owner of the stud. Nonetheless, it was a real pleasure to meet all the mares and youngsters living a somewhat idyllic life in a herd on 20 acres of rolling grassland. We also had the opportunity to meet Zayin Zachilles, aka Tommy, the only stallion living at home.
I was blown away by how relaxed and calm he was. Paul got him out of his paddock to trot him up and let us meet him properly. He was such a friendly chap and sooo my type of horse. Excellent bone, lovely short cannons, correct legs and that ideal 15.2hh too. A solid Arab, one that clearly had a job to do. Not one that was going to blow over in the wind. To be honest, I couldn’t really fault him and I thought “yes he’s a serious contender for Fern in a few years time”. Little did I know that I would be choosing him just two months later!
Of course, temperament and conformation are two important considerations when choosing a stallion but performance and heritage are also important factors to think about if you want a performance horse.
Luckily for me, Zaying Zachilles has a strong performance pedigree filled with lovely French performers, Dormane, Bengali D’Albret, Cikada and Cheri Bibi all within the first 3 generations combined with his very own impressive performance record. Tommy has won 9 times and placed 21 times from his 50 starts over 7 seasons in Arab racing and has since turned his hoof to endurance, completing his first 80km this year with a final HR of 44.
Paul was really helpful answering my many many questions about the process. Tommy’s semen is frozen and stored at West Kington Stud so I had to arrange transportation of the semen from there to my vets so that it was ready to go when Fern was.
Fern had a preliminary scan at the beginning of June to see where she was in her cycle and perform a general health check too. Both the vet and Paul said I should plan for 2 to 3 attempts to get her in foal since she was a maiden and frozen doesn’t have the same success rates as live or chilled.
I paid into the mare package with my vet’s which includes the livery at the vets and the two follow up scans (14 days and 30 days). I had to drop Fern off on the Monday and had been told to plan for a Thursday or Friday collection. The idea behind the mares going to the vets is that they can be scanned regularly (up to every 2hrs) and ensure that the insemination occurs at the optimum time. This is more important with frozen semen than chilled and the vets were very pleased to tell me that they were very confident with their timing for insemination on Tuesday so she was home by Wednesday!
Then an agonizing fortnight to wait and see, and yes my clever little girl – preggers first time! And good job Tommy too for having such excellent semen motility! I was advised to wait until the heart beat scan at 30 days before sharing the news (which I must admit was another stressful two week wait) but once again Ferny girl didn’t disappoint.
So now there are no more scans or specific checks which feels mad! I’ve looked into the options and I can pay for an extra scan at around day 60 and I can also have a blood test up to day 90 but this isn’t standard practice. I guess I will have to exercise some patience until we start to see visible signs of the foal which won’t be until quite a lot later into her pregnancy.
Due date 29th May 2022!!!