Foals still providing joy 20 years on

Imelda Skinner with Pencarrow Stud mare Lafleur and her filly.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Imelda Skinner with Pencarrow Stud mare Lafleur and her filly.

There's nothing quite like the first few minutes of a foal's birth. 

Imelda Skinner's smile broadens as she talks about her babies. 

The 49 year old helps with the arrival of thoroughbred foals at Tamahere's Pencarrow Stud. 

Imelda Skinner has been helping mares have foals for over 20 years.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Imelda Skinner has been helping mares have foals for over 20 years.

Three times a week, Skinner is on duty from 9pm to 6.30am to monitor pregnant mares.

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"I give them a bottle and then they think I am the mother.

New foals are checked on every half an hour for the first few hours of their lives.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

New foals are checked on every half an hour for the first few hours of their lives.

"Then, when I come back from doing other jobs, they recognise me and call out to me and even though mum is giving them their milk, there is still a connection with me."

Skinner has learnt to keep herself occupied on the overnight shift, especially if it's a slow night. 

"The other night it was a bit slow, so I scrubbed foals' covers and washed towels. And I do have the odd look at Facebook." 

Skinner is dealing with thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of dollars' worth of horses. 

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"When I worked in Australia when I was young, and had so much responsibility, my boss said: Don't stop and think what the horses are worth. 

"Some of the horses in the foaling paddock are worth over a million dollars and some are only worth twenty or thirty thousand. 

"But you know that all of them are worth a million dollars to their owners, so that is how you treat everyone." 

The responsibility doesn't end once the foal has arrived. 

"When the foals are born, I wait until they are what I class as stable. That means that they're drinking really, really well by themselves. I will check them every half an hour until they're three or four hours old.

"Once they get to three to four hours old, you can check them every three-quarters of an hour and the key thing you are looking for is to make sure they're drinking." 

The foaling season is between August and December, which means Skinner has to consider her work clothing carefully.

"One of the worst things is if you get a cold - you'll still have it in November, because you are only up at night and it's cold and dark. 

"I start with a thermal singlet, a singlet over that, two T-shirts, a light sweatshirt, a vest, a heavy sweatshirt and then a thermal jacket, a scarf, a beanie, and most nights thermal long johns underneath my pants.

"And then, when you have a foal, you pull your rain pants on over top."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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