Madyson Royce tells us about foaling at Shadwell

Continuing our series of Q&As with valued staff members
Madyson Royce (left): “I’d highly recommend the Writtle University College course”

Can you tell us about the facilities Shadwell has for foaling?

The facilities at Shadwell for foaling are second to none. There’s a large foaling unit with heated boxes, a specialist team on site as well as foaling cameras that allow the night team to watch the expectant mares and check foals. With our fantastic facilities and team, everything is set up for the foaling season to run smoothly, and the horses have the best care possible.

Tell us about your working life during foaling season

Life during the season is particularly busy and involves lots of hard work. However, it’s incredibly rewarding. After all, it’s not every day that you get to bring new life into the world. 

I work from 7.30am until 4.30pm and spend most of my time at the main yard, where I work with foals and expectant mares, but I’ve also spent an enjoyable period working with the maiden and barren mares.

My daily routine involves turning out mares and foals. It’s very important for young foals to be out in paddocks as early as possible because it helps them strengthen naturally. Afternoons tend to be busy as this is when the vet comes to do her rounds and we assess mares for cover.

I completed my sitting up duty during my first year at Shadwell and the long nights can be hard, but if you have a foal or two the time flies by. It’s the nights when there are no foals that are the hardest, but you’re still busy checking the mares every 30 minutes.

How do you know when a mare is about to foal?

The first tell-tale signs are when the mare begins to wax up and within 24 hours of foaling the mare’s bag can begin to drip colostrum – the foal’s first milk,  which is essential for their immune system during the first few hours of life.

Some mares may pace the box and begin to sweat or be warm when felt, however, it’s not the same for every mare, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them. That’s why key staff are invaluable as they’ll learn the mare’s traits and have a good understanding of when they will foal.

How do you feel when a mare goes into labour?

The first feeling is nervous anticipation, hoping the foaling will go smoothly and both mare and foal are fit and healthy. However, when the foal is born the nerves soon turn to excitement and it’s amazing to see. It doesn’t matter how many foalings you watch, the feeling that comes over you when watching a newborn enter the world never gets old.

How many foals have you welcomed so far this year?

At the time of writing, we’ve welcomed 32 beautiful foals, but still have a few more to go as we’re expecting a total of 63. Our last foals are due towards the end of April.

Can you give us one or two foals who have taken your eye in particular?

I haven’t assisted with delivering any foals this year, but I have worked very closely with a number of them and a few have really taken my eye, including Asheerah’s Sea The Stars filly and a stunning Eqtidaar filly out of Adaalah.

You’re a graduate of the Thoroughbred Stud Operations course at Writtle University College. Tell us more about that…

I’d always had a keen interest in thoroughbreds but was unsure of a pathway into the sector and the course looked like a perfect opportunity. Following my application, I was given an opportunity to apply for the Shadwell scholarship, which I jumped at, and the rest is history.

I’ve learnt so much since I started the course in 2019, especially during my time at Shadwell. There’s a good balance of theory and practical work, and I’ve been given the chance to work alongside and learn from great people at Shadwell, as well as fantastic tutors. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course and the whole experience.

If anyone reading this is interested in enrolling onto the course, what would they have to do?

I’d highly recommend the course to anyone looking for a pathway into the thoroughbred industry. The course will keep improving, with the feedback given by the first years’ graduates making it even better for future students.

It’s so easy to apply. It’s all done online via Writtle’s website, which is very easy to navigate, or you can attend one of the open days.