Tag Archives: foal

Royal Diva Diary: 4 months old photo update

ROYAL DIVA, born May 2017, AES Dam: Tilly (Irish cob), Sire: Royaldik (OLD)


screen-shot-2017-10-11-at-11-46-54.pngDiva 2Foal in the field


This is one of my favourite photo taken by Becky Bunce on the day of this photoshoot. Something touching in this image of a foal that is about to be weaned soon, standing seemingly alone, looking ahead, so close to full independence. Yet, the mare is there right behind her, always watchful and always ready to protect her offspring.


Until next update 🙂

Breeding my horse of a lifetime: Nine minutes with Royal Diva – from heartbeat to 6 weeks old [VIDEO]

Diva being a diva
Diva walking Kelly back to her car in style 😉 4th July 2017.

The youngest Academy super star mascot, Royal Diva, is 6 weeks old and growing by day. She shed her first frogs and her foal coat is slowly shedding too leaving her face slightly moth eaten in appearance 😉

She has learnt to lead for short periods of time, pick her feet up, got acquainted with an overnight stabling, learnt to eat grass and come to call 😉 You can watch her giving Kelly a welcome HERE.  Her hooves are changing as her diet is expanding and you can see the deeper rings marking her date of birth now clearly growing down.

For most part, she leads a quiet life interspersed with short moments of human visits couple of times a day.

She’s feisty at times but overall appears to have a nice, inquisitive, confident level temperament, loves people and thrives on scratches 😉 Tilly is a fabulous Mum leaving Diva plenty of space to explore and has lost some of her constant protectiveness she showed at the beginning.


The little filly is oh so alive and such a personality and yet, exactly a year ago, on 5th July 2016, Diva was nothing more than a confirmed heartbeat on the vet’s monitor.

The video below will take you on a nine minutes long emotional journey that might make you want to breed your own little diva! You’ve been warned! 😉

Breeding my little horse of a lifetime: 2 weeks on – vet checks, getting to know the foal and choosing the name

By Kelly Hill


My little Tilly and Royaldik baby will be two weeks tomorrow. I didn’t expect her to be so pretty! Even though I hoped for the bay filly, I would have been happy with any colour by the end. I had her emergency checked at labour by Chess Valley Vets, she had tetanus antitoxin injection and later on my usual vet triple checked her for me, eyes, heart, conformation, gave me pointers on what to look for health wise in the next week or so.

Both the filly and mum are well, Tilly has plenty of milk and even though she was possessive at the beginning, she wasn’t aggressive, just preferred to keep everyone away from the foal. The baby has good conformation, is a nice size and I love her!



It took me a while to chose the name but I settled on Royal Diva, Diva as her stable name. It suited her character but having said that, she will probably have many more names too 😉


She’s very inquisitive, fearless, verging on rude, wants to know everything and everyone.  I think my best experience so far is watching her learn the world, trying to walk and run.



Until next update! 🙂

Breeding My Little Mare of a Lifetime. Part 4: She’s Here!

Royaldik x Tilly – bay filly with three white socks born early morning on the 19th May 2017. 


From Wiola


meeting tillys babyIt’s been such a privilege to see this little foal today. When Tilly and I met for the first time in the early 2006, I had no idea she will play a big part in my life. At the time, she was my working partner. Amazing one, but one of a good few. We taught hundreds of people to ride a few times a week for several years.
Some of these people became life long friends I still keep in touch with.
Tilly and I lost contact for a few years and little did I know we would meet again in 2015, that she would yet again become an invaluable teaching partner to me, that she would bring more wonderful people into my life and make many dreams come true.
Thank you Tilly for fantastic friends and for unforgettable moments.

Kelly Tilly and filly

Thank you Kelly for sharing this incredible journey on here, and thank you Mairi for helping me put it together.

Lots of love xx


Tilly collage1


Read the whole story from choosing the stallion to today: Breeding My Little Horse of a Lifetime 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Kelly Hill, Gemma Hill and Christine Dunnington Photography 

Breeding my little horse of a lifetime. Part 2: Counting costs, watching Tilly grow and a drama with daffodils

Story by Kelly Hill

Tilly in April 2010

Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it again. Not like I’ve done it with Tilly, anyway. I have a nice Welsh mare that I’d like to breed but would like her to run with a stallion and be covered naturally.

For the kind of foal I wanted out of Tilly, I needed a good stallion. Natural covering would never be allowed with those more valuable horses.

I wouldn’t breed Tilly again. It’s too stressful. I worry that I will either lose the mare or lose the foal. Hopefully, it will be all worth it.

Read part 1: Choosing the stallion, measuring follicles and hoping for a heartbeat 

The first scan back home

Alas, we made it to the 28-day scan. I could see the heartbeat on the vet’s monitor. The baby was there! No regrets!

tilly 2 heart

It was all good so she went back into work. I rode her until the day I moved her in November last year to the field she was supposed to have the foal in.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to move her from my yard until I really had to, but a friend of mine with another pregnant mare found a field to rent that suited us both.

Cruising along

Tilly collage
Top left: November 2016, Bottom left: December 2016. Top right: January 2017, Bottom right: February 2017. She appears to be changing shape depending on time of the day. Sometimes she looks huge, sometimes her belly disappears somewhat. Apparently it is all to do with the position of the foal that can lay flat or “starfish” some days!

So far, with about 20 days to go, Tilly has had a problem-free pregnancy. She had herpes vaccinations at five, seven and nine months. People worry a lot about pregnant mares aborting their foal. Equine herpes virus can cause abortion in pregnant mares at any stage of the pregnancy.

One girl I know of had a mare who aborted at seven-and-a-half months. She was 15, the same age as Tilly. Someone on The Foaling Hub , a Facebook group I am a member of, had a mare that aborted three weeks early, so the fear is always there at the back of my mind.

Mares gestate for an average of 340 days but they can give birth from as early as 320 days or as late as 365. The foal grows the most in the last trimester. It’s all really slow and small, then it goes from a “rabbit” to a foal!

I keep a constant eye on Tilly’s changes and udder development and take photos most days to make comparisons. When mares get closer to foaling (around 4-6 weeks from delivery) their udders start to change. When they begin to “wax up” and produce milk you know you are close!

Early days…

Feeding mum

At first I grazed Tilly in a field that had been rested, so I just had her on Alfa A and Youngstock mix . For the last three months of the pregnancy I put her on Bailey’s Stud Balancer because it has all the vitamins and minerals pregnant mares need, especially in the last trimester when the foal grows the most. Tilly held her weight well over winter and is looking great.

Tilly 2 blog

If I could afford it, I would have left her at the stud to foal but I had already spent nearly £3,000.

I drive to Tilly’s field every morning and as I get closer and I get nervous that I will find her with the foal aborted. When she is looking peaceful, I think: “Oh my God, she is looking lethargic!” I look at her back legs and if they are clean with no discharge, I think “Phew”!

Scary googling

If something worries me I Google it to within an inch of its life! Google is the bane of my life. It’s terrifying what you can find on there.

I have joined various online breeding and foaling groups. The one I like most is The Foaling Hub. It’s been the best page ever. They are all so nice and helpful with any questions or worries I have had. Most of the members have a lot of experience and some have their own studs. Many have had BOGOF or “buy one get one free” experiences, which is when you buy a horse not knowing they are in foal. Then spring arrives and they pop out a foal.

Tilly from underneath
Waiting game…

Breeding costs

My first advice to someone who wants to breed their dream horse would be to check out the costs first. For me, it has been way more expensive than I thought it would be. If I knew it was going to cost me nearly £3,000 before the foal was even on the ground I might have reconsidered.

I don’t regret it at all, though. I wouldn’t have done it if I wanted to sell the foal. It wouldn’t be worth it because before the foal is born I will have spent more than its value. I would say only do it if you are going to keep the foal.

Having said that, I maybe did more than your average experienced breeder would have done. I had more scans than I needed to and I kept her at the stud longer than I needed to. Usually the mares go home straight after insemination, but I kept her there for an extra few weeks to be sure she had took and to minimise the risk of her reabsorbing the foetus. Maybe I could have cut my costs, but I knew it was something I was only doing once so I wanted to do it properly.

The daffodils


One of the most stressful moments of this entire journey was in March/April time when thousands of daffodils sprang up covering one third of the mares’ maternity field. They are highly poisonous plants and every part of them, if eaten, can kill. Daffodil toxicity symptoms can include loss of coordination, gastrointestinal upset and convulsions.

There was a sea of them in Tilly’s field and she was attached to the other pregnant mare with two months to go until her due date. I wanted to move her but had nothing lined up and we had put so much effort into making the current field foal safe.

Except, now it wasn’t safe at all.
Story to be continued…Part 3 coming Sunday 30th April 2017

Behind the scenes tilly storyStory put together by Wiola Grabowska

Edited by Mairi Mackay

Photo: Listening to Kelly recalling all the events leading up to the current day – less than a month to due date…


Please see the story of Dotty, the pregnant mare that tragically might not survive giving birth to her foal. Urgent foster mare search is on (by 25th of April 2017) – please see: Dotty’s Journey