What’s A Nurse Mare Foal???

Texas Posing

When I first heard of Texas I assumed that since he was rescued as a baby he must have been a PMU baby. I even did a whole post on PMU babies after having researched them. I will put that up at some point. I learned later that he was not as lucky as a PMU baby. Texas was rescued at 4 days old. He only got to spend 4 days with his Mom before she went off to raise some fancy race horse and he was luckily rescued. Why so lucky? Well let me give you some more info on being a nurse mare foal and you will find out.

According to the site of the organization he was rescued from (which was the kindest that I could find online in its description)…

“A nurse mare foal is a foal who was born so that its mother might come into milk. The milk that the nurse mare is producing is used to nourish the foal of another mare, a more “expensive” foal. Primarily these are thoroughbred foals, though certainly not limited to the thoroughbred industry. The foals are essentially byproducts of the mare’s milk industry. A thoroughbred mare’s purpose is to produce more racehorses. A mare can give birth to one foal each year provided she is re-bred immediately after delivering a foal. Because the Jockey Club requires that mares be bred only by live cover, and not artificially inseminated. The mare must travel to the stallion for breeding and may be shipped as soon as 7-10 days after giving birth to a foal, but a period of 3-4 weeks is generally allowed.
In general there are a number of reasons why a nurse mare may be called upon, among these are: loss of maternal mare, mare has no milk, mare rejects foal, and countless other malady’s.

As far as the Thoroughbred breeding industry goes there are also numerous reasons a nurse mare might be needed, these include: travelling and insurance costs which prohibit the foal from accompanying the Thoroughbred mare to the stallion station, and this is just to name a couple out of many other concerns.

Traveling is very risky for these newborn racing foals, and insurance costs are prohibitive for the foal to accompany the mother to the stallion farm. At this point a nurse mare is hired to raise the thoroughbred foal. In order to have milk, the nurse mare had to give birth to her own baby. When she is sent to the thoroughbred breeding farm, her own foal is left behind. Historically, these foals were simply killed. Orphaned foals are difficult to rise and no one had tried to raise large numbers of them. Now, these foals do have value … their hides can be used as “pony skin” in the fashion and textile industries, and the meat is considered a delicacy in some foreign markets.”

I had never heard of this…Had you? Was I just blissfully ignorant or is this really a big Thoroughbred industry secret? Texas, just like my Gennyral was a by-product of the Thoroughbred racing industry. And the reason they breed “horses of color”? Because those hides bring in more money for pony skins. This adorable spotted butt could very easily have been a pocket book. Texas’s Owner found out about the Nurse Mare Foal’s nearly 5 years ago (it’s his birthday soon!) and talked her Mom into getting a few shipped from the rescue in from Ohio. They didn’t have any foals themselves that year and were missing have foals around. I think they got 7 the first round (or was it 6?). And she had all of them adopted out before they stepped out of the trailer.

Well, her not getting any babies herself sort of defeated the purpose of her adopting foals! So she put in another call and got another bunch of babies shipped up. Texas was in that bunch. He wasn’t even 2 weeks old when he arrived at his owner’s mom’s farm. He was 4 days old when he was rescued from Kentucky and by the time he was 2 weeks old he had already been shipped 2 times and for hundreds of miles! How could anyone send such a cutie to the killers? His owner still has the baby pictures of him at 4 days old. I was in shock reading about Nurse Mare Foals and feel so lucky that there are such great rescue places out there trying to save them.

The Specific Rescue Organization Texas was gotten from was the Last Chance Corral. I know that of the 13 that were rescued all have turned out to be great little horses. And the only lasting side effect that I can tell so far that Texas was an orphaned foal is the fact that he is mouthy…which is not helped along by the fact that he is so cute every time someone walks by him they give him a treat. No joke. Like someone could just be walking to the tack room and when they see him they stop and feed him treats. He really does have a great personality. And a special place in everyone hearts because they have watched him grow up.

So after reading this do you feel so moved you need to get a baby of your own? Because if you do your in luck. They just got their first crop of rescued foals in and you can see them on their blog.

I was so disgusted when I first heard about this. And went back to check and make sure that my fake fur purse really was all synthetic. I just can’t get over how horrible this practice is. I know Thoroughbred breeding is big money, but you would think that with all the scrutiny racing is getting these days that giving baby race horses nurse mare mothers would be something more people would know about. How is this getting so swept under neath the rug? How come horse magazines are not doing more articles on this? Where is my man Bryant Gumble on this story? Can someone out there tell me why so many of us know of PMU babies and so few of us have ever heard of Nurse Mare Foals? And this is occurring right here in the United States!

I am so glad that the adorable pony at the top of the post was saved. He is a really great horse and I cannot believe anyone would just throw him away. With so many crazy horses out there how can someone dream of sending a sweet, level headed horse like that to death at 4 days old? Is this just one more thing not to like about the Thoroughbred racing industry? Or do you think this is an okay practice? Because I don’t think so. I don’t care how much or a little a horse is worth they should not be taken away from their mothers at 4 days old!!

17 thoughts on “What’s A Nurse Mare Foal???

  1. That’s a horrible practice. But it’s what happens when money is involved and people treat horses like livestock and have no conscience. The foals are adorable, I checked out the site. Wish I could take one.

  2. I had never heard of this! That is terrible! I am so glad that they rescued Texas. He is such a cutie! The other foals on the site are very cute, but I have no experience with foals so I would not be a good match. I would end up with a 1200 lb lap dog. Not good! I know they will all find good homes! The are adorable!

  3. My friend has a horse from that rescue. She was little enough when they got her that they brought her home in the car. She turned out to be a huge draft cross. That rescue does a good job and always needs donations of cash and equipment.

  4. thanks for posting this!!! i knew about nurse mares, but i guess i never thought much about where those foals went. i suppose i thought they were just hand-fed bottle or something. the racing industry disgusts me. in my experience it is populated mostly by opportunistic, callous parasites and low-lifes, and i think, as horse people, we should make a huge issue of this. if you want to pursue this, i’ll volunteer to help. the public should be made aware, and lots of pictures of those adorable little baby horses should be everywhere!

  5. Last Chance Corral is a good place. I am so glad he got rescued! Yeah, I can’t stand that practice either. Talk about disgusting to separate such tiny foals from their mothers, on both ends of the deal, just for money. Ew.

  6. This makes me sick. I work in the equine veterinary field and have heard of a nurse mare, however only thought of them in situations where the maternal mare had died and a foal could be paired with a nurse mare for raising. It never ceases to amaze me at the overwhelming amount of evil there is in our world. I will never be able to comprehend how people can be so cruel in the name of profit. I must really be naive because in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought that something like this could have existed. As you said, I too before now have been blissfully ignorant of this practice and am disgusted and have another reason to hate the Thoroughbred racing world and their callous ways. I too cannot imagine a person eating foal meat and considering it a delicacy or making their skin into clothing or handbags. But then I realize that I am not a vegetarian and eat beef or chicken without giving it much thought. I am also sitting here right now wearing my leather shoes made out of cow hides. Am I really that much different than those people who sicken me? I have seen those videos showing some horrendous things that go on in meat packing plants and have seen and heard of cruel practices involving cattle. That too makes me sick because I know that those animals too feel pain and experience fear and deserve better. As a society, we are all ultimately responsible and indirectly propogate the market of the killing of animals for our personal use. I am ashamed and pray that someday soon it will change.

  7. I have heard of the nurse mares before, but I didn’t realize it was such a big practice in the thoroughbred industry! The only experience I have had with nurse mares is when a mother died when her foal was only 2 weeks old. I don’t know the name of the woman that brought the nurse mare, but her foal was about 3 months old at the time of separation. She would take the babies each year and let them live outside in herds until they were a few years old and then sell them. Thats what she says anyway..I totally don’t agree with saving one foals life over another. The racing industry is just awful, and if they would only allow artificial insemination this problem would be greatly reduced!

  8. I also thought a nurse mare was only needed if the foal was orphaned at birth or there was some issue with his own mother’s health or milk production.

    If this practice of removing the “expensive” mare from her foal to take her out and re-breed immediately is widespread, that is cruel. Imagine the stress of the mother being torn from her baby after only a week, I would think the mare would have a hard time getting pregnant again from the stress of being separated from her newborn. Good way to bring on a colic, too. I also thought it better for the health and reproductivity of the mare to get some “rest” before being impregnated again so soon.

    Kind of makes you wonder, maybe that’s why there are so many weaklings out there breaking down on the racetrack. To breed a mare immediately after giving birth hardly gives her body a chance to heal after birth. That can’t be good for developing a strong baby in utero. Hell, they tell human women to try and wait a few months at least before getting pregnant again, horses mothers are no different?

    And as for the foals, aside from being rushed into strenuous training so early in life, they live with emotional stress from birth. That is just sad on so many levels.

    I have issues with the TB racing industry. For every good, caring owner/trainer there seem to be more nasties out there. Good post, worthy of thought!

  9. I have never heard of this before either and that is just sickening. It never amazes me the lengths people will go for money.

    My heart aches not only for the foals left behind, but the poor mares as well — being forced to raise a baby that is not their own and one they have little connection to. I’m sure it takes it’s toll on them as well.

    I can’t even imagine how THAT must feel emotionally.

    I could honestly never do that to a foal…or a mare for that matter. SAD…….

    I’m glad there are rescues in place for these forgotten foals and I’m glad that Texas has a good home and loving people in his life. Knowing this makes it a little easier to digest I guess, but it doesn’t make it right. ….tears in the eyes, sadness in the heart…..

  10. I have to admit that I had never heard of this. I have become obsessed with the cruelty towards horses over the last 12 months or so and it is very disturbing to me to hear of yet another form of abuse.

    I believe that in some states, trainers are banned from the track if if they knowingly send an unwanted horse to the killers. This is a recent development, I need to look into it.

    I have hand reared a foal because her mother didn’t get her milk, the start of her story is a fairly recent post on my blog. Unfortunately hand reared babies have an identity crisis as a result of being so close to humans and while it is cute when they are small it can become a huge problem when they get bigger LOL, ask me I have a 1000lb 5 year old medicine hat paint filly who thinks I am one of the herd LOL.

    Great blog I will be back to visit.

  11. i have a mare who has had one and only one foal in her life. there are cases where a mare will have/give milk year round and longer, even when her foal has moved to its new home after weaning. my mare is like this we hard her from when she was 7 months old. at age 5 she gave birth to a healthly filly. at 6months the filly was weaned and at 9 months she left our farm to her new home. we never rebred the mare. to this day at age 8 she still gives milk. we asked our vet and she said nothing is worng if we wanted we could use her as a nurse maid. we are thinking about it too.

  12. Oh this story is awful. I add it to the ever expanding bit of information I gather about how miserably we treat nonhumans. It’s dreadful at every turn!

    @Lori – Regarding wearing leather and eating meat… I think the only reason for feeling “ashamed” over this is to do nothing to change the situation. This story is just one more good reasons to go vegan…🙂


  13. Just realized the seriousness of this “industry”. What coldhearted mercenaries. Can anyone tell me how we can get regulations on this “industry” and who and how to contact?

    The TB industry should be ashamed of such inhumane treatment of God’s creatures.

    Besides financial support and adopting the little ones – what can we do?

  14. Has anyone actually confirmed the “pony skin” thing? When I found shoes of “pony skin” I emailed the manufacturer and was told “pony skin” is an industry term for regular cowhide with some hair still on, and doesn’t have anything to do with horses.

    A lot of the quoted bit about babies being clubbed to death for use in textiles honestly reminds me a lot of some of the information that’s out there about PMU (much of it on rescue sites) that is outdated, incorrect, or just outright fabrication.

    I don’t like any babies being orphaned, especially if it’s just for profit, but nurse mares are also used for foals whose dams died or rejected them as well. Many nurse mare farms raise the foals themselves, some work with rescues like LCC to help care for and place them. Some nurse mares nurse two babies at once so neither is an orphan. I’m guessing that there’s much more to it than the blurb copied from LCC. As with most situations, the stuff that sounds really outrageous often is.

    Also, part of the ‘nurse mare’ industry involves networking mares who lose their foals to people with foals who lost their dams – not every nurse mare out there involves an orphan foal.

    In any case, my experience with claims that sound as awful as this is that though there’s often some truth, there’s often a lot of misinformation and rumor as well.

    Here’s a story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, but you have to be registered with thehorse.com to read it:


  15. This is a great post, really shines some light on the horrible industry of Nurse Mares. I got my own horses from a Nurse Mare Farm when he was a few days old. He is the most amazing horse, though he is also a little mouthy. He also seems to have suffered physiological damage from losing his mother, more so then any other foal I’ve ever seen.

    The nurse mare industry is horrible, and it causes physical and mental issues for these helpless babies. But…

    I hope more people rescue these little babies, because they are such a joy!

  16. I too just learned of this reading a top racehorse farm is using a nurse mare. Please tweet to Joe Drape, great racing writet at the New York Times (Twitter @joedrape) and @humanesociety and @WSPA and @equineadvocates. Don’t let this keep happening. Please get this out there. This is disgusting we allow this…and I never knew this…..being in racing behind the scenes for 10 years….

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