A medication protocol that can induce lactation in “open” mares has changed the way prominent Kentucky Standardbred nursery, Walnut Hall Ltd., manages its nurse mare herd, while giving more than 20 rescued mares a new

Walnut Hall’s vet, Joe Lyman, DVM, based the technique on presentations by Peter Daels, DVM, PhD, and John Steiner DVM, Dipl. ACT. Using their methods, not only can unbred mares that have previously had at least one foal be persuaded with medication to produce milk, but the procedure also seems to stimulate maternal behavior, greatly simplifying the tricky process of getting a nurse mare to adopt an orphan foal. For an operation like Walnut Hall, which uses nurse mares routinely, it was a revolutionary idea.

“We breed to a lot of New York-based stallions,” Lyman explained, “and New York state laws prohibit semen being shipped out of state. So we have to ship our mares to them, and that has usually meant leaving the foals behind with nurse mares, rather than putting them through the stress of shipping.” Farm owners Alan Leavitt and his wife, Meg Jewett, have always been uncomfortable with the usual method of deliberately breeding mares, then removing their foals to make the dams available as nurse mares, he added, so this protocol presented a new opportunity.

Mare during acceptance
Mare with accepted foal

Standardbred Presidential Wall in the stall while bonding was taking place, and after the foal was accepted.

Shortly after his return from the Orlando meeting, Lyman began sourcing mares from adoption and rescue organizations, such as the New Vocations Racehorse Adoptio