An Update on the University of Maryland Equine Breeding Program (first published in the August 2017 Equiery)
by Dr. Amy Burk, Associate Professor, Equine Science, Department of Animal & Avian Sciences, University of Maryland
Ask any horse breeder and they will likely agree that it’s amazing how fast a foal grows. One minute you’re helping to hold up a newborn suckling foal and the next minute you’re watching it cross the finish line at Laurel Park race track. It feels like just yesterday that the University of Maryland brought back its breeding program in 2013 after a 30 year hiatus.
We had two main goals: to expand our real-world training opportunities for equine students and to enhance our relationship with the horse industry. To date, over 50 students have witnessed the birth of 11 foals on-campus. We’ve sold seven offspring at the renowned Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred auction, grossing $30,000, with all proceeds going back into the program. There are two UMD-bred horses currently racing: the now four-year-old stakes-placed Maryland’s Best (Rock Slide x The Best Sister) and three-year-old Fear the Fire (Friesan Fire x Daylight Lassie).
Maryland’s Best, who has earned nearly $40,000 to date, put our program on the map when he placed third in Maryland Million Nursery Stakes on Maryland Million Day. You would have thought he won the Preakness the way students, staff, and faculty celebrated! Fear the Fire is a relative newcomer with earnings just under $7,000 after only two races. There are two more UMD-bred horses slated to race later this year and we wish their new owners and trainers the best of luck.
Last year saw an expansion of the breeding program with the addition of sporthorse breeding. Our first sporthorse foal, Cornerstone UMD (Contucci x Runaway Pearl), was shown in hand by students and was successfully accepted into the International Sporthorse/N.A. Oldenburg Registry last August. He made his show debut this June when he competed at the U.S. Eventing Association’s Future Event Horse Yearling Class at Waredaca in Laytonsville. He received such impressive scores that he earned a chance to compete at the Future Event Horse Championships this fall.
Cornerstone UMD’s pasture mate, Fearless Terp, turned quite a few heads at the January Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale and brought a respectable $5,200. We also said good-bye to our broodmare Runaway Pearl, who was purchased out of the sale. We wish the new owners all the best with Pearl’s 2017 foal by Bandbox.
The true highlight of the sale was when Hall of Fame show jumper turned successful racehorse trainer, Rodney Jenkins, told the students that they should be proud of themselves because they had one of the best turned out yearlings at the sale. That compliment definitely fueled the students whose resolve had been a bit tampered by the 40 degree temperatures.
This spring, our first colt out of Daylight Lassie by the stallion Street Magician was born on March 28 after many restless nights of foal watch. The foaling was every bit of normal, but we soon realized the foal was going to need some help getting up. He was unable to stand and nurse on his own due to some flexural issues with his legs. Under the advisement of the vet and supervision of equine faculty, students provided round the clock care including bottle feeding, assisted nursings, leg wrapping, and medications. By day six, things looked to be shaping up. Unfortunately, the following morning he looked lethargic and we quickly assessed that he had a fever. Despite additional veterinary intervention and valiant round the clock care, we said goodbye to Daylight Lassie’s foal the following morning in what was a truly crushing experience for us all. That experience was a deafening reminder of just how frail foals can be.
A few days earlier, our newest broodmare addition, Old Grey Square (aka Adara), foaled a gorgeous black filly by the handsome Dutch Warmblood stallion Vallado. Adara was the most amazing helicopter mother we’ve ever seen. She wouldn’t eat or drink because she was too busy hovering over her foal. We didn’t want to risk a colic so we personally offered her water out of a bucket while standing next to the foal and we hung up alfalfa in nets all around her stall so that she could steal a bite when the foal was positioned next to them.
The last mare, Liberty Bay, was due to foal on April 6, but all indicators told us probably not that night. Yeah right. The barn lights were turned off at 8 p.m. and foal watch wasn’t scheduled to begin until 9 p.m. At 8:50 p.m., a student who had checked the foaling cam called me and said, Liberty had her foal. I was stunned, so I quickly logged into the system to see it for myself. There she was, a big bay filly! The alert went out and all of the students headed to the barn to do exactly as they had been trained. Thank goodness the mare and foal read the foaling textbooks and both met all of their post-foaling benchmarks with ease.
With the support of Northview Stallion Station and Country Life Farm, our mares were rebred to three top class Mid-Atlantic stallions. Daylight Lassie was confirmed in foal to the number one stallion in the northeast, Jump Start. Liberty Bay was confirmed in foal to one of the most popular Maryland stallions, Golden Lad. And last but not least, Old Grey Square was confirmed in foal to the new hotshot stallion in town, Mosler.
An exciting twist to the summer came when three UMD students were selected to participate in the newly created Maryland Thoroughbred Career Program sponsored by the Maryland Horse Industry Foundation. The students had an amazing experience learning about careers in the industry and meeting with top-notch professionals who gave them sound advice for the future.
Currently, we’re handling our foals daily, marketing the Sporthorses for sale, and making hay for next year. Weaning will come upon us quickly in early September and then we’re off to the Future Event Horse Championships with our Contucci yearling. Soon after, we’ll be back to sales prepping the Buffum filly.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page to find out more about our students and Terrapin race and show horses. Also, if you have children or friends thinking about college, bring them by the University of Maryland for a visit! They may enjoy the small college feel at a big University more than you think.