Raising orphan foals is a tough job with the constant two-hour feeds, lack of sleep, and 24/7-hour care, coupled with the patience required help foster and bond a foal with a new mare.
However for the ultimate professional Suzanne Royal, it is indeed a labour of love and one that she wouldn’t swap for anything.
“My life is the foals, I love my babies and raised 37 orphans last season,” Royal said.
Now based at Asscher Park in Violet Town, Royal gained a wealth of experience managing Scone Veterinary Hospital’s intensive care unit for around ten years.
Using that knowledge, highly qualified vet nurse Royal bought her band of experienced foster mares to Victoria, and along with recommendations from studs and top clients, Asscher Park was established.
And now a foal Royal raised by hand is on the track and showing everyone that orphan foals can succeed.
A son of Riverbank Farm’s Skilled, Come on Carl was an exciting last start winner at Geelong.
“Carl’s job is to prove a point that if they are raised right they are just as competitive on the track, just look at Redzel!” Royal said.
From the day Carl was foaled, Royal fell in love with the gangly, leggy colt.
“I have been around horses for a long time, but this little guy got me. I thought he was perfect, tall and lanky, looked like he would stay all day and just so laid back,” Royal said.
“We would call out ‘come on Carl’ at feed time and he would look up, give a whinny and come galloping down the paddock for his milk. Every time he would see you, over he would come, with his little ears pricked.
“All of the orphan foals are paddock raised at Asscher Park -rather than boxed – to create a natural herd environment, the same way foals are raised by their mothers.
“They are nurtured with the retired foster mares, who let them have a comfort suck, and teach them to be horses. The only external help they receive is their milk every two hours, day and night. They don’t learn bad habits as the old mares pull them into line, and they can exercise, pick grass, and nibble on pellets and hay.
“The real heroes of my operation are my mares. I couldn’t do the job I do if I didn’t have my brilliant foster mares and fabulous nannies to help me out.”
Additionally, for those breeders that can’t afford to send the foal to Asscher Park or if they are located too far away, Royal also offers 24-hour advice over the phone.
“They may need help start off fostering correctly, or explain foal heat scours, and by working closely with Caroline Duddy, and Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital we can provide a vital and essential service to the breeding industry.”
One of my Royal’s key staff during the season, Scott Bredden from Mainline Breaking and Horse Education, was responsible for breaking Carl in.
“He did a fabulous job, but being a big boy, he needed some time. Luckily we VOBIS nominated him, in case we had to sell him, however when my grandfather passed, he left some money so my family could keep Carl and race him in his memory. Some great friends in Violet Town are on board, and even the town publican is an owner!”
“My two young nieces, who were 8 and 12 helped bucket feed Carl during the school holidays and he comes home and spells here at Asscher Park between preparations.”
Trained on the beach by Mornington training partners Lyn Tolson and Leonie Proctor, Come On Carl has now headed out for a spell after he finished off his prep in style.
“Our goal for his next prep is to get him up to 2000 metres, and once he gets his mind on the job to compete, rather than follow the tail in front of him, we would love to get a start in the Benalla Cup. That would be the best as it would benefit Skilled being a local stallion, and promote Riverbank Farm too,” Royal said.
“And our motto when every horse leaves Asscher Park as they load on the float, is to give them a pat and to tell them ‘go and be great’”