Foal Patrol Providing Quarantine Boredom Buster And Education In One Cute Package

As horse racing fans begin a new week of quarantine, and as the weekend that was meant to open Keeneland has come and gone quietly, many of us are growing more desperate to see live images of Thoroughbreds on our screens. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has us covered.

The Museum’s popular Foal Patrol project is well into its third year of hosting online livestreams of broodmares and brand new foals. The project generated over 1 million views in each of its two previous years (or “seasons”), and thanks to stay-at-home orders in many places throughout the country, it could top that this year. Foal Patrol houses cameras mounted on fences and in the stalls of several pregnant mares, giving viewers all over the world a live look at the birthing process and the first months of life for their foals.

“We have a lot of people who have been following since Season 1,” said Sheileen Landrey, program assistant for the museum. “We have some people who have been in the barns helping to deliver foals for years, to people who are just getting into the foals and learning what a Thoroughbred horse is, how people take care of them.”

In addition to the video stream for each mare, viewers get a copy of her schedule, pedigree, race career, even her diet.

For the past two seasons, the project has also featured stallions — Frosted last year and Gun Runner this year. Although they’re not accompanied by adorable foals, people still tune in to see where they are in their paddocks. The stallions have more consistent schedules than mares and foals, whose turnout schedules change as the foal ages, and who move paddocks into increasingly-larger social groups.

Each year, Landrey reaches out to farms to see which would be willing to participate in the program and if they have a mare they’d like to highlight. Several have kept coming back after doing it once — Three Chimneys has participated all three seasons, and Gainesway Farm and Godolphin have had horses appear in the second and third seasons. For both the museum and the farms, Foal Patrol is a great chance to educate people about what a Thoroughbred’s life is really like.

Landrey authors updates on each mare and foal on their page below their video stream, and also writes a blog to answer common questions about nutrition, anatomy, behavior, and the lifecycle of a Thoroughbred.

Of course, life with horses isn’t always easy or perfect.

“We’ve seen a lot of different types of foalings over the past three seasons,” said Landrey. “We try to remind people that it is nature, these are animals, and things can happen.

“We’re always thinking about our followers and thinking about their education. We’re always working with the farms to determine what their comfort level is for educating the public. We’re doing as much research as possible to present information to people in a way that can be understood with the least amount of assumptions made.”

It’s up to the farms to decide how much information they feel comfortable sharing about a horse, but Landrey looks for teaching moments in situations where the horse has gone off the playbook.

“It’s is important to show people what it really takes [to raise a Thoroughbred] and what it is like and open up that world to the public,” she said. “It’s important to show people when things don’t go 100 percent right, how it’s handled, and that really good decisions are made for the horses.”

Doing that well requires buy-in from the farms and their staff, too. Two of this year’s foals encountered some health issues early on. Magical World had a colt born with an angular limb deformity which required a special type of shoe to fix, while Vaulcluse had a filly with a contracted tendon who needed a corrective brace to help stretch it out. Vaulcluse’s filly also experienced some colic and had to wear a muzzle to keep her from eating too much too quickly while she recovered. Both foals are now doing well. Along the way, Three Chimneys and Gainesway shot videos of veterinarians and farriers at work, explaining each part of the process. Farm workers provide video updates with views of the foals playing with newfound friends.

Landrey said running this particular educational program lends itself to some unusual hours — for her, and for the viewers.

“It’s something I end up doing too, is staying up with the farm managers,” she said, noting she’s working throughout the foalings too, answering viewer questions. “They’ll text me and say it looks like we’re a couple hours out, can you watch?”

“Sometimes the deliveries happen at two or three in the morning and then there’s all of the happy stuff afterwards — the first steps and standing and nursing. It is new to be up at that time of night but it’s what the work is.”

For those who fear they have missed their chance to see a foaling live on this season of Foal Patrol, fear not — Alpine Sky is due to deliver a foal by More Than Ready on April 21, and Emotional Kitten is due to foal April 25 on a cover from Dialed In.

Landrey also wants to be sure people looking to entertain and teach children during the quarantine are aware of the museum’s STEM educational resources. The info packets are now available for free online and were developed to New York State Education Standards for third graders, using horses to teach science, technology, engineering and math. Those resources are available here.

Visit Foal Patrol here and click “Menu” to choose from a list of horse cams to watch. Catch up on the projects blog here.

The post Foal Patrol Providing Quarantine Boredom Buster And Education In One Cute Package appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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