A video published May 8 of Curlin’s full brother sparked a lot of comments because the foal is seen romping in a paddock with a black and white paint mare that is obviously not his mother, Sherriff’s Deputy (who is seen at the beginning of the video). Yes, the foal is being raised on a nurse mare.
"[Sherriff’s Deputy] is simply not capable of raising a foal on her own," said Shannon White with Fares Farm, which bred two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. "She has a limited range of motion because of an arthritic knee, so it is tough for her to keep up with a foal. Her milk production is also limited." White said the knee does not bother Sherriff’s Deputy during pregnancy.
So, the foal is being raised by Suzie, a registered Walking Horse and professional nurse mare. Suzie did have a foal, who is now being fed on milk replacer and who will grow up to become someone’s show horse or pet, according to White.
Many in the Thoroughbred business are using Walking Horses or Quarter horses as nurse mares because their milk production is comparable to that of Thoroughbreds. There was a time when draft breeds were the nurse mares of choice, but these horses produced too much milk. Excessive nutrition in young horses has been linked to the development of osteochondritis dessicans (OCD) lesions.
White said Suzie and the other nurse mares Fares Farm uses are not just bit players in the operation. They all have names, personalities, and histories.
"They’re real people to us," she said. — Eric Mitchell