Cute little foals don´t grow up to strong 3-year-olds all by themselves. The importance of proper procedures for raising young stock is still underrated, Antoinette and Arjen Schrauwen say. They are keen to explain how the young stock at their foal-raising yard Raepshille receive a stable basis that lasts them a lifetime. ‘We offer more than the normal standard but the horses feel the benefit of that for as long as they live’, Antoinette states.
Just like breeding, raising young stock is an entirely different line of work and Antoinette and Arjen Schrauwen have made it their specialty. But they have chosen to specialise in Friesian horses. ‘When we also had Warmbloods in our yard we always had to make sure that all Friesians got their fair share of the feed.’ So ‘Friesians only’ has become Antoinette and Arjen´s slogan. Another reason for accepting only Friesians is the difference in behaviour. ‘When Friesian horses are ill they won´t show it that easily. It requires specific expertise to recognise it’, Arjen says with Antoinette adding: ‘When a Friesian´s behaviour is out of character all alarm bells should start ringing.’
The horses arrive when they´re around five months old and return to their owners when they´re approximately 2½ – to 3 years old. One of the most important success factors in rearing young stock is even growth because it prevents muscular- and joint disorders like OCD. ‘The horses are given ad lib haylage day and night. The haylage we feed is analysed in a laboratory so that the hard feed they get can be custom-made’, he adds. Their hard feed varies mostly in calcium, phosphorus and protein content. The foals get a different composition of feed than the yearlings and 2-year-olds. This is because yearlings and 2-year-olds have a more even growth which means they need less hard feed.
Every day out in the open, also in winter
The horses at Raepshille are turned out in the field in early May. ‘Before they are turned out we feed them freshly-mown grass once a day for a whole week so that their systems can get used to it’, Antoinette says. Half October they come back in. ‘It may seem pretty early to bring them back in already but at this time the grass no longer contains nutrients. This practice helps to avoid fluctuations in their growth patterns’, Arjen complements. Finally, exercise is a key ingredient for the growth and development of muscle, tendons and bone. That´s why the horses get out in the open every day, also in winter time. The age at which the horses leave the raising yard depends on how the individual horse has grown. ‘We can judge if a horse´s growth is satisfactory just by looking at them’, Antoinette states.
Growing up in the herd
At Raepshille the horses are divided in groups. Young horses don´t get an upbringing when they cannot grow up in a herd. ‘Two horses don´t represent a group, not even three. Then all you have is a top dog and an underdog’, Arjen emphasises, indicating that at their yard the groups consist of roughly eight animals. ‘In a herd they are constantly fighting for leadership, but at the same time they are put in their place. Just compare it to a children´s playgroup’, Arjen explains. ‘There too it´s a matter of trying out and accepting over and over again.’ The price for raising young stock at Raepshille is around € 1,600.- per year, that excludes expenses for the vet, the farrier, de-worming and vaccinations. Antoinette and Arjen treat all horses as if they were their own. ‘We love being able to contribute to the success of ‘our’ young stock we have raised. Sometimes we are even more pleased than the owners when we see one of ‘our’ horses receive a first premium at inspections’, Antoinette says with a smile. ‘But another client who relishes going on a hack with the horse we find just as rewarding.’