Hello everyone! Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many posts for The Horse Midwife!

So, who am I to be writing this “horse midwife” column? And why “The Horse Midwife?” you ask?

A little bit about me and what I do is probably a great place to start!

I remember getting a card from Santa left on the front doorstep when I was six years old, and inside it was a voucher for my first ever riding lesson. I remember it like it was yesterday – and I remember how deliriously excited I was. When I started going to riding lessons I even got excited about picking up riding school horse poop allllllll day. Anything to be near horses.

So the horse thing started pretty early. I never had my own horse or pony as a kid because we all thought I’d grow out of it. At 17, we realised that probably wasn’t going to happen and I bought my first horse, who I still have – he’s 28 this year and going strong (if you ignore his complete lack of manners and bad attitude)!

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Teddy – still going strong at 27 years old!

When I left school I started working in a racing stables and studying a Bachelor of Applied Science in Equine at Massey University in Palmerston North. Now. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really an early morning person – so it goes without saying that I was probably never destined for the world of racehorse training in any permanent capacity. The natural transition was to the (slightly but not much) later starts of working on a stud – which I did for the best part of five years.

Of everything I learned on the studs – foaling was my thing. If you’ve never foaled a horse before it’s very difficult to explain that amazing feeling that you feel the first time a new mum nickers at her foal and he tosses his head up and gives an excited whinny in response. It makes your heart warm – there’s nothing like it. Maybe having your own kids? But that’s not something I can comment on yet – I’ll let you know my opinion when I do have kids, but I’m pretty confident foaling would take the cake 😉

One day I was standing in a paddock in the pouring rain and freezing wind that makes the Manawatu such a wonderful place to live. The mare I was trying to bring in to the yards had a foal that didn’t want to follow her and was tearing around the paddock calling out for her to come back. Needless to say Mum wasn’t exactly calm about this. As she spun to try and get back to him the really hard bone down the front of her face collided with my nose and it began to bleed. Standing there crying, in the pouring rain and freezing cold I remember thinking to myself “This is NOT where I want to be for the rest of my life.”

So I retrained. I went back to uni and studied HR. But as much as I moved on from the stud world I never left the foaling behind, returning to the stud every year on a part time or casual basis to assist during foaling season. I couldn’t let it go.

And I began to realise, while looking through copious numbers of Facebook groups dedicated to foaling and all the questions and pictures of pregnant mares and their udders in various stages of development, that there was actually a huge gap for people when it comes to learning about foaling.

Currently there are very few options available – you either study at University or Polytech, ask someone you know, or google it and hope you find the right answer and all the right information!

I remember thinking to myself “Surely there’s a better way to do this? Maybe I could teach people?” After all, I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Equine, I’d been working with horses for about 15 years and in 10 years had foaled over 200 mares –surely this combination of qualifications and practical experience could help somebody?

My brain child was born, and I named it FoalEd. FoalEd was founded in 2015, with the aim of providing basic education and skills training for horse owners, breeders and workers who want to learn more about foaling.

In 2016 FoalEd started growing in leaps and bounds – which is fantastic. But I wanted to do something else. I wanted to connect with more people, help more people, educate more people.

I’ve been foaling horses for more than 10 years, and during this time I’ve been asked repeatedly at parties and when meeting new people the standard ice breaker question – “so what do you do for a job?” It’s been easy enough in the past to explain my previous jobs: “I’m a student, I work at McDonald’s, I work for a racehorse trainer, I work on a horse breeding farm.” But when I would tell them “I’m a foaling assistant”, you could just about predict the identical blank, confused look that would come over their face.

So I learned to word it differently – in a way that helped non-horsey people understand what I do – I told them I was a horse midwife. And then the lights would go on and they’d begin to look quite interested. It’s not every day you meet someone who puts their arm up the back end of a horse for a job (unless you hang around with a lot of vets!).

And so, the expression “horse midwife” was born and became my ‘go-to’ description for my slightly abstract vocation.

So here I am – The Horse Midwife at your service. Some months it might be tips and advice, other times it might be answering reader questions or recounting particular foalings that stand out in my memory. The purpose of this section is to build your knowledge of foaling, and hopefully provide some entertainment as well! I can’t wait to hear from all of you – feel free to get in touch and ask questions or introduce yourselves by emailed info@foaled.co.nz, and I look forward to writing for you!

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Ashleigh Davis is the Founder and Trainer at FoalEd, with over 200 foalings to her name she is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with those wanting to learn more about foaling.

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