Seven-month-old Dotty, the bull terrier pup, thought she’d made a friend for life when despite her tender age, she adopted a motherly attitude to an orphaned foal.
Cranbourne trainer and veteran picnic rider Dani Walker bred the Anacheeva filly from Sequins ‘N’ Lace (Danbird x Sequin Encounter), but the mare died giving birth to the foal on September 27.
With the demands of three hourly bottle feeds as Walker attempted to find a foster mare, Dotty at times must have thought she was the mum or at the very least some sort of protector to the foal.
“She took an instant liking to the foal and was obsessed with the filly foal from the moment she first came across her,” Walker said
“She would not let her go into the box without being two steps behind her, and as soon as we’d open the sliding door to the house, she’d be straight up to the stables.
“She’d sit on a bale of hay outside the stables waiting for me to open the stable so she could go in and check on her.
“The foal was quite happy to have a mate, and it didn’t matter that it was only a foot tall.”
The little love affair between puppy and foal only lasted ten days after Walker accepted a kind offer of a foster mare from Tarcoola Stud on the Mornington Peninsula.
“Dotty wasn’t too happy because she was wondering where her friend went, and my daughter, Zoey, who named the foal Nayvy, also wasn’t too convinced it was such a great idea,” Walker said.
“We managed to get a mum from Tarcoola Stud and mated them up a few days ago, and they are still going great guns.”
Walker said after bottle feeding the foal and being on its own for so long, and she started to doubt whether they’d find a new mum and then there was the threat of rejection.
Local vet Hugh Cathels alerted Walker to the possibility of a foster mare, which had lost her colt, at Tarcoola Stud.
“We put a call out for a foster mare and had a couple of inquiries, but the first one was from up at Glen Eden, but I was sceptical sending her away because she had a droopy bottom lip, so I didn’t want to want to send her away too far where I couldn’t keep an eye on her,” Walker said
“It took her a few days for the lip to come right and for her to be going okay. Through no fault of anyone or anything else, it was just that I was pretty concerned with her, but she was okay.
“We had to nasal tube her for the first couple of feeds because of that lip, and I didn’t want to send her too far away.
“When this one came through, the timing was spot on, and low and behold, it worked.”
Walker said the foal would stay at Tarcoola until she is ready to be weaned or whatever works for the stud.
“She is happy down there, and it’s a beautiful set-up,” Walker said.
“They have offered to keep her there and said the only expense you’ll have is any farrier fees. They are just lovely people, and I couldn’t have been more fortunate if I had have asked for a better outcome.”
It was a rewarding experience to see the foal finally swap the bottle for the mare’s teat.
“We had to duck up the street and buy a bottle and milk the mum,” Walker said.
“They poured some of mum’s milk over the foal when we got there, but they didn’t have a bottle, and I’d left my sitting on the post near where we loaded the float, so we went and grabbed a bottle from the shops.
“We put some milk in the bottle and showed her how to find mum’s milk bar courtesy of following the bottle, so once we did that, we were pretty right.
“The mare just took to her. It was amazing. She was just lovely.”
Tarcoola Stud’s Alan Warry said the mare and foal had bonded well.
He said there was a good percentage of mares that adopt an orphan foal.
“You just have to know what you’re doing,” Warry said.
Warry said it probably took about three hours to get the foal on the mare’s teat. But (new) mum and foal are doing well.
After being sleep deprived with those three hourly bottle feeds, Walker said it was “wonderful” to try to fit in some track work.
It’s been a tough time for the Walker family in recent months. Dani’s mother Karen, a Cranbourne trainer who bred the orphan foal’s dam, Sequin ‘N’ Lace, died suddenly last December, aged 66.
“We lost mum the week before Christmas last year. So it’s been a bit of a tricky year,” Walker said.
Sequins ‘N’ Lace, which beat eventual Adelaide Cup winner Purple Smile in a 1950m maiden at Yarra Glen, was leased to fellow Cranbourne trainer Noni Shelton.
Walker said the mare had ability but was hampered by soundness issues. The mare’s half-brother Secret Sequin (Zuberi) won at Sandown for Karen and Dani.
The orphaned foal has a full Anacheeva sister who is currently at the breakers.
“Mum liked her so much that we sent the mare back to Anacheeva,” she said. Anacheeva stands at Riverbank Farm, Benalla.
At the moment, Dani only has one horse at work, and another two are at the breakers.
Walker breeds from mares Let It Go (Shinzig x True Spark), which has a Von Costa De Hero colt and is ready to again foal to the stallion.
Another mare is Nev’s Nevella (Dieu D’Or x True Spark), a Wayed Zain colt.
She also breeds from Sequin Delight (Lago Delight x Sequin Express), which dates back decades to her grandfather, former trainer, Des Walker’s mares – including Lady Sequin (Silver Rocks), Street of Roses (Tolerance) and Lomonic (Rhythymonic).
“They are mum and grandad’s original breed,” she said.
“Grandad originally bought Lady Sequin around 1951, and we thought we were going to lose the breed, but we got a filly out of Sequin Delight last year, and it’s only the second live foal we have had; out; of her, and it’s by Anacheeva.”
Karen was only 17 when she strapped Sandsequin (Sandastre x Lady Sequin) for her father in the 1971 Melbourne. The horse finished 12th.
Sequin Delight’s fist foal, Sequin Legacy (Zuberi), is a six-year-old gelding that has raced three times but is unplaced.
“I named him three or four days after we lost mum,” Walker said.
“Mum and I used to try to breed a couple of our own because we felt that commercially they weren’t viable to sell on or anything, so if we bred and raced them ourselves, it gave us a bit of interest and something to do, and we loved doing it.
“The ones that didn’t make it onto the track, we’ve had a couple of them rehomed and re-educated.
“One of the Sequin horses, his name was Sequin Dancer (Campo Catino x Sequin Express), was one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden, but he slipped down in the float and put his back foot through his front leg.
“He ended up with 40 odd stitches down his cannon bone. But, he was just stunning and ended up being a magnificent show horse and a charming model.”
Walker said the stunning black gelding was a horse model for the Ferrari commercials and a model for the Pierre Cardin commercials and appeared in photoshoots in the Herald Sun and other companies.
He has his own Facebook page – Quinn The Superhorse.