The success of our ranch may be directly attributed to the success of our breeding program. A program that has produced over 350 Arabian, Half-Arabian, and National Show Horse foals since its beginnings close to 30 years ago. Our breeding program sets the foundation for the future of every EC foal. The life of every EC horse begins well before they are ever born, beginning by pairing each mare up with the most eligible stallion. Although a few select mares are designated for Dream Quest every year, not all of our broodmares are exclusively his. Excellent bloodlines, sturdy conformation, and an impressive show record go along way when catching the eye of one of our mares here at El Camino Ranch.
After a coupling has been made, each mare is assigned an individual diet and exercise regimen customized around her age and history. Without a foal on her side to care for, our broodmares will live fairly normal horse lives. They enjoy daily grooming and daily turn-outs as weather permits. Some of our mares crave more interaction than a turn-out. For these ladies they may be allowed to give an occasional lesson or attend a local horse show.When it is not breeding season, most of our mares are cared for by our boot campers. We find that the play sessions and attention they receive during this time not only keeps their coats looking great, but most importantly allow them to be fulfilled. Happy moms make happy babies. In the past, our pregnant mares would join our yearlings and two-year olds at our second facility “El Compo” which is 10 acres of hillside pastures located in Calimesa, Ca. Today all of our horses have been centralized at El Camino Ranch in Redlands, Ca. as we have downsized our breeding program over 50% since the year 2000. We find that even though they no longer grow up in a pasture on the hillside, one of the benefits to being here at El Camino is the opportunity for daily training.
When her due date nears each mare is relocated to a camera stall for closer monitoring for two to four weeks before she is due to foal. Our camera stalls are 12ft x 14ft inside with an outdoor paddock attached to allow more room for mom and foal. Each camera stall is equipped with a surveillance camera that sends a live feed to multiple locations on our ranch. Every expecting mare is fitted with an early labor warning device around her halter. When activated, this device will set off a pager that is carried by at least three of our staff at all times. As she starts to show early signs of labor such as wax or lactation, the stall is heavily bedded with straw to provide a soft bed. Once the labor begins, we monitor the mare, ready to step in if the need arises. After a successful birth our new EC foal is introduced to the world for the first time.
Post Birth Pains
At this point the mare is starting to get restless and usually stands up. After some nickering and nuzzling, She usually leaves the foal in our care while she enjoys her hard earned bran mash and alfalfa hay prepared for her by another EC staff member who has also turned on the heat lamp and started recording observations. This is usually enough to ease the mares birthing pains but if she is still showing extreme signs of distress after eating, we may administer a shot of banamine to ease her pain. Once the umbilical cord has naturally disconnected we disinfect the foals belly button with Novasan to prevent infection. We will also perform a test on the mothers colostrum (first milk) to make sure that she has an adequate amount of immunity present in her milk to sustain a healthy foal. After the novosan is applied, and we are sure the foal is healthy, we will step out of the stall and allow mother and foal to bond.
The first interaction the foals have with humans usually occurs before the mare and foal have even gathered enough strength to stand up. EC staff immediately checks to see that the placenta wrapped around the foal is torn. This usually happens naturally during birth but if the membrane does not tear the newborn foal can sometimes suffocate. So before anything else we check to see that the foal is breathing. We encourage the mare to stay settled for as long as possible so that the umbilical cord does not break, and the foal can continue to receive important blood from its mother. At this point we will start to gently towel dry the foal (almost always with a little help from mom). During this step we manually clear away any fluid that might be lingering in the foals muzzle or ears. We take great care to rub and touch the foal every where on their body. This is the first contact this foal will have with humans and we take full advantage of the situation to introduce the baby to the sound of our voice and the feel of our touch. We tap its hooves to simulate a farrier. We rub its ears, flank and belly, common sensitive areas on a horse. We are also looking over the foal at this time to check its gender and general condition and health.
A lot of tries, a fall or two, and some nickers of encouragement later and the newborn horse is up and mobile (usually within one hour of birth). The foals instinctively go for their first taste of milk, this task also requires a lot of tries, a fall or two, and some nickers of encouragement. Most mares are quite capable of nursing their newborns. In some cases however, such as with maiden mares, we will occasionally step in and set mare and baby off in the right direction. Once the foal has had a good helping of his mothers immunity rich colostrum, we orally administer serimune (immunity and vitamin booster), for additional disease resistance. This is a sticky and slow process that usually takes two people and a warm wet washcloth. At this point we give the foal an enema to get things moving and we step out to watch and see if the foal is passing its meconium (first stool) properly. As soon as we are convinced that the foal and mare are happy and healthy, we will retire for the evening leaving the two to rest. Additional testing, including an IGG and blood test, will be performed the following day on the foal, mare, and after birth to ensure the healthiest start possible for our new EC foal.
First Six Months
Six Months Old
The foal is weaned from its mother. This can be a stressful process for both the mare and foal. We try to ease the stress by using the buddy system. Two compatible foals of similar ages are placed together in one of our large paddocks. Each of their mothers are then moved to the adjacent paddock so that they are able to maintain visual and physical contact with their foal. As the tension eases, the mares are slowly moved further away. Eventually the two foals are separated but will remain neighbors for quite some time. We find that this method significantly decreases the stress and injury that can be caused during the weaning process.
The Early Years
The next two to three years each EC foals life will be filled with further imprinting and training. They are introduced to, and become well educated in skills such as standing in the cross-ties, bathing, clipping, hot-walking, and lunging. By the time the foals enter the performance barn at age 2 years they are already well mannered and ready to start focusing on their riding career. Some of them have even been through halter training with Juan Irigoyen and already have a few horse shows under their belt. These are just some of the steps that El Camino takes to ensure a promising future for every EC foal that our breeding program produces.