Foal Patrol: Lots of Baby Horses on the Way

Foal Patrol: Lots of Baby Horses on the Way
Kate Smith, farm manager, Dr. Jim Alderson and Lauren Erk look over an ultrasound during a pregnancy check on MHR Mystery at the Arabian Horse Center.
Spring Fortune runs with her month old filly in a pasture at the Arabian Horse Center in 2004.
“The Romance of the Kellogg Ranch: A Celebration of the Kellogg/Cal Poly Pomona Arabian Horses From 1925-2000” by Mary Jane Parkinson is for sale.

It's going to be a busy spring at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center. As of late 15 mares are pregnant, which is more than double compared to last year.

Eighteen mares have been artificially inseminated and 15, possibly 16, are expecting. Normally only 60 percent to 70 percent of artificial inseminations are successful.

“Anything above 80 percent is considered excellent,” says Animal and Veterinary Sciences Professor and Veterinarian Jim Alderson, who gives the horses their checkups. “We're doing really good.”

The Arabian Horse Center relies heavily on the sale of its horses to survive financially, so the surge in foals could result in a big boost in sales. The center has sold horses from anywhere between $1,500 and $75,000.

“We just got really lucky this year,” said Farm Manager Kate Smith, who conducted the inseminations.

Luck might be part of it, but probably not.

Smith meticulously monitored the Arabian mares' menstrual cycles and ordered stallion sperm just at the right time. Mares have a 12-hour window in which they can become pregnant, so the logistics can be tricky. The stallion sperm is extracted, chilled in a cooler and flown in from a few locations across the country.

On a few occasions, the FedEx shipments arrived at Ontario International Airport at 11 p.m. When the shipments arrived late, Smith picked up the specimens at the airport and returned to the horse center to conduct the inseminations in the middle of the night.

Prize-winning breeders donate the stallion specimens to the Arabian Horse Center. The donations are a much-needed cost savings because the fair-market value tends to be in the thousands, Smith said.

The first foals are expected this February and several are due in March. In one week alone, six babies are expected, Smith said.

Near the end of their 11-month pregnancies, an electronic device is attached to the mares' bodies. When they begin to give birth the device sets off a buzzer to alert a few students who live at the center and sends a page to about five staff members, Smith said.

The work will be daunting birthing up to 16 foals, so the horse center is looking for student volunteers to create a foal watch club.

“We definitely would like to have more students involved down here,” she said. “It's almost impossible for us to do it on our own.”

The horse center is apart of the world-famous Kellogg Ranch, which was established in 1925 by cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg. Kellogg grew to love horses as a boy when he owned a half-Arabian pony, but when he parted with Old Spot he vowed that some day he would have horses and that they would all be Arabians. After achieving outstanding success in the cereal food business, he realized his boyhood ambition by establishing the Kellogg Ranch as one of the world's foremost Arabian breeding farms.

In 1949, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation donated the 813-acre ranch and horses to the university under the condition that Cal Poly Pomona would continue to utilize the Arabian horses in equine science education and breeding. Today, the university's comprehensive educational program includes instruction at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, Sunday exhibition shows that run from October to May, the Equine Research Center established in 1980, and clinics offered to the surrounding community.

A new coffee table book “The Romance of the Kellogg Ranch: A Celebration of the Kellogg/Cal Poly Pomona Arabian Horses From 1925-2000” by Mary Jane Parkinson is on sale for $99.99 at several locations. Information: (909) 869-4988.