Over the Memorial weekend, I flew from Lexington up to Pennsylvania to pick up my truck and trailer and -- more importantly -- two of my mares. Back in mid-April I'd made the reverse trip: I drove up to Ohio and dropped off one mare to be bred and continued on up to Pennsylvania to leave the second mare to be covered by another stallion. So the mares had been away over five weeks, and I was anxious to see how they were doing.
I had visited both farms before and had seen firsthand their high-quality facilities and hard-working staff. I felt confident that my mares would receive top-notch care during their month-plus visits. Still, that first moment of seeing each mare led out upon my arrival was a great relief: both were in good flesh and reasonably calm and composed. No wild-eyed behavior or sluggish responses suggesting poor treatment or drugging. No ribs showing, no wounds or injuries. Because I trusted the farms, I had expected the mares to be in fine shape, but with all the horror stories out there it was great to have confirmation.
Over the years, I've heard tales of broodmares returned from a stay at the breeding shed having lost 100+ pounds. Or sporting an unexplained limp. Or displaying a newly-developed phobia or nervous complex. Or mares whose suckling foal hadn't been handled a single time since arriving at the facility. This was my first time sending a mare off to a remote breeding facility -- in the past I've always vanned my mares to stallions in central Kentucky so it's been a matter of maybe 90 minutes total away from my farm -- and I've never had to worry about turning over my "ladies" to another caretaker.
I would like to hear about your experiences with shipping mares to the breeding shed. Or having them boarded full-time out-of-state, for that matter. Have you been pleased in general with the mares' care? Were you satisfied with the breeding/boarding facility's attention to hoof care, grooming, and regular handling? Were your mares fed appropriately? If they had foals by their side, was the foal care also suitable to your expectations?
This isn't meant as a slam against mare boarding services (I run one myself!). The vast majority of stud farms and broodmare boarding facilities run smooth operations with every mare treated like royalty. But problems happen often enough that it's necessary to be watchful -- and cautionary tales just might help someone else avoid a bad situation!
(Please note that I will not publish negative comments about a specific facility. If you have had a bad experience, please describe the problem rather than naming the farm.)