On our August 2018 issue cover is a gorgeous photo by Louise Sedgman of Jess Rae and her 4-year-old Thoroughbred- warmblood cross mare London.
A paramedic, wife and mum to children aged 2 and 5, Jess had been out of horses for some years when her husband Cam, a veterinarian working at the Gippsland Veterinary Hospital bought a batch of semen from Marion Shear’s warmblood stallion Merlin, as a Christmas present with the aim to breed a foal that would allow Jess to get back into horses.
This foal was very well planned. The couple had access to top of the line reproductive facilities where the stallion would be collected and the mare inseminated, plus they would be able to keep the mare with the rest of the embryo transfer herd until the foal was ready to be weaned.
“I always had horses” says Jess. “but I had never been involved in the breeding side of things, so it was very interesting to get back into horses in this way.
“To be so involved in breeding London has been the most amazing thing” says Jess. “Cam collected the stallion and we were both there to inseminate the mare, at all her ultrasound examinations, when she started to have contractions and all through the birth - it’s pretty special!”
And it was not just them who witnessed London’s birth but people all around the globe. The foaling stables at the equine hospital are equipped with webcams as part of the online community www.marestare.com that provides a window into the magical world of foaling.
The United States’ based website, which also operates a Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/MareStareLLC), is a welcoming community that brings together breeders and viewers from all over. The breeders install webcams in their foaling barns for the world to see and, in exchange, they get watchful eyes of viewers around the world who will contact them as soon as their mare goes into labour.
“It really becomes addictive!” says Jess. “And, because as well as in private barns many of the cameras are in vet clinics, you get to watch veterinarians at work. I think it’s pretty special for people to be able to witness that. The community is very supportive and non-judgemental too, they are a really great group of people.”
So, London was born and enjoyed growing up as part of the Gippsland Equine Hospital’s large broodmare herd, where she stayed for the first 12 months. “I wanted her to be out with other horses in an environment where she could do what horses do” says Jess. “I have a background in vet nursing and I’m interested in natural horsemanship and animal behaviour so, for me, it was very important that London had that opportunity from the time when she was born. It also allowed us to do lots of handling from day one.
“She’s just been a brilliant horse throughout. She was started briefly under saddle when she was two by Roseridge Stock Horse Stud, then went out again for a couple of years with ground work. About a year ago we started further training with Tabitha Moroney who does natural horsemanship and dressage, and I now continue regular lessons with her.”
True to their passion for providing natural conditions, London is agisted in 70-acres of Australian bush, out with another three horses and with access to natural shelter, watering sources, and totally grass fed.
“I love watching her and the other horses in such a natural setting. It’s pretty dry here in Winter but the horses seem to manage pretty well through the colder months until the Spring grass returns. I think it’s a good, healthy cycle.”
As to how Jess juggles work as a paramedic with family to find time with London... “It can be a struggle” she says, “but that was the whole idea - we knew the process of breeding and growing a foal would take quite some time so we’ve made it work.
“And, while riding London is pretty special, I also enjoy just being around the horses, watching them. They are beautiful animals with wonderful temperaments and I love that you can just be with them in the Australian bush”.
The photo shoot with Louise Sedgman was a birthday present from Cam, aiming to capture that very special bond between a woman and her horse that Louise is so famous for.
“It was an amazing day” says Jess. “I didn’t expect it to be so relaxed and beautiful. Louise is amazing, really natural and, while this photo is my favourite, I loved every photo she took. It was really worthwhile.“