Friday, June 01, 2007

Horse Day

Houston and I met a professor, Twink Allen, here at Cambridge when we first arrived. He's in the veterinary research department, doing research on horse placentation. His lab and horse estate is about 15 miles from Cambridge, in the horse racing country of Newmarket. He had promised to take us out to show us the facilities. Well, Houston didn't get to go, but Garrett and I went, along with a visiting professor from Japan, Mr. Tran. Forrest opted to chill in Cambridge. Newmarket is home to some of the best race horses in the world. Also, Twink's son-in-law is Britain's best loved jockey, an Itialian named Frankie Detorri.
Frankie rode 100 winners in just one season. He and his wife, Catherine, who I met just briefly, have 5 kids under the age of 7 (!) and she's just a wee thing too.
Oh, and the day before we went on this excursion, Twink had lunch at Buckingham Palace with the Queen (and only 6 other people). He said the corgis were running around the table and he fed them a bit of lunch.
The countryside is beautiful, rolling hillsides, lush pastures, a lot like Middleburg, VA. We visited 5 stud farms, each with their own style of buildings. These farms are top knotch, perfectly manicured, but very charming too. It was a very interesting day. We started out at the research facility where we witnessed 2 mares getting artificial insemination, and I mean up close. The plastic gloves come up to the armpits for a reason!
There are about a dozen people working here, only 2 of them men. We all had tea in the main lab at 11:00, went on a tour of the neighboring stud farms, and came back to a delicious lunch of watercress soup, various breads and cheeses. Mr. Tran brought out some traditional Japanese desserts. They cleared off the dishes, closed the blinds and we then got to see a slide show on elephant and horse placentas.

It was a beautiful day to take a trip to the country and see these shiny horses in the fields.

They let the horses out while we were there. What a sight!

"Hey, I can't see. What's going on?!"

Pet me! The horses were all so friendly and all vied for our attention. We were happy to give it.
Their name is on the blue tags. French Kiss, Phoebe, Patsy Pavlova and Karma Sutra were just a few.

Mr. Tran is a Japanese scientist researching elephant placentas. He was here giving a talk and looking at what Twink is doing with horse placenta research.

Mr. Tran admiring French Kiss.

Garrett, Twink and Mr. Tran walking down the farm lane towards the stable area.

I was impressed at how there were nice gardens everywhere, even in front of the simplest of buildings.

We visited many different stud farms in the area and they all had their own style.

All the buildings at this stud farm barn were thatched.

We visited Dalham Hall Stud farm. It's owned by Skeikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai. He had come to school here when he was a young child and fell in love with the horses here and horse racing. He came back as an adult and bought his first estate and a few horses. That has now turned into an empire. He has bought up all the surrounding estates. One owner of a nearby estate siad he'd never sell to the sheikh. He held out for years while the Sheikh bought up all the places in a 'horseshoe' shape. Finally, with enough money waved in his face, he recently sold out so now one can mount a horse and ride continuously for 12 miles without ever leaving the property. Above is just one of the barns we saw. There are dozens of buildings like this, some just holding hay. There are even 2 helicopter pads. Each family member has their own estate home.

One of many of the signs on this estate. It's so big, there are directional signs!

One of the roads leading to the barns.

This is the front of the stable area. This is the view that the horses have, looking out of their stalls. This is part of the Dalham estate.

This gorgeous horse is named 'Destination'. He is such a sweetie. He nuzzled us and when we walked away he'd call us back. To bring a mare in and have her 'covered' (mated) to him costs £20,000 ($40,000!!!!). He cost $1.5 million. His 50 yearlings last year sold on average for £100,000 with the most going for £656,000 ($1,312,000). I think he has covered his cost! There is a barn just for covering with a network of delivery areas for the big horse trucks. During the season, 20 - 25 mares come in for breeding per stud and it takes 5 or more handlers per horse. The studs are busy guys!

All the stalls had the lineage of the horse that occupied it.

The inside of one of the stalls. It was so clean, I could've curled up for a nap on the floor! Solid oak paneling around the room.

This was one of the stables. It was spotless and made with the finest materials.

Yep, they're elephants.

The stable/research place we visited had these on display. Fascinating and a bit creepy!

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