FoalQuest Brings Horses and Horse Lovers Together

By Marilyn Short

In the fall of 1999, Jan Turnbull of Olds, Alberta Canada, was looking to buy a couple of PMU (pregnant mare urine) horses for herself. In her search for the right horse to add to their small farm, she came upon a fledgling group who wanted to start placing the foals of these mares into homes. Several thousands PMU foals end up in feeds lots each year and end up at slaughter late in their yearling year.

Being in the middle of horse country, and in a province that had many PMU ranches, Jan got involved to help facilitate the purchase and placement of 12 PMU foals. These foals were purchased at public PMU sales. Jan caught the attention of one PMU rancher when he noticed her bidding against the kill buyers. Shortly there after, a relationship was born and with seeing the need and demand, Jan got a calling that this was an area where she could make a difference.

In the spring of 2000, PMU FoalQuest was conceived. To date, PMU FoalQuest has placed over 1200 foals into homes that other wise would have directly gone to the feedlot. Pretty impressive for an all volunteer crew, made up of folks form all over North America (the US and Canada) and come from all walks of life.

By the spring of 2003, PMU FoalQuest was working with 7 PMU ranches to adopt out their foals. It was a very rewarding year, as all years are, but this year, FQ placed in a new home over 500 foals: Every foal we represented. Not a single one was left behind this year.

Due to a study that was released and published by the Women’s Health Initiative regarding serious health side effects for women on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), doctors began writing fewer prescriptions for PMU based drugs. In addition, the FDA recently approved a lower level hormone drug that has replaced many of the higher-level hormone drugs. The resulting effect, was less demand for PMU.

In October of 2003, many PMU ranchers under contract with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals were informed that their contracts would not be renewed in 2004. The timing was bad for the ranchers as the mares had already been bred and were now in the barns for collection. They new, come spring, the mares would be out of a job and without the contract; there was no way to afford to keep all the mares. More cuts came for more ranchers just before Christmas 2003.

Thought FoalQuest was in the very middle of arranging hauling for and taking care of, the over 500 foals, FQ could not turn their back on the ranchers that they had worked with for so many years in placing their foals. It was new territory, placing mature horses that had been livestock. But with the dedicated efforts of so many from around the country, over 200 mares found new homes. 24 of those mares were adopted by Texans and made their way home February 8, 2004.

Many open mares as well as pregnant mares, did not get adopted this winter. The ranches that FQ works with will foal out the mares in late spring and early summer. When the foals become available in June, those mares will once again be placed for adoption through FoalQuest.

Some mares had a ‘job’ before becoming a PMU mare. Some are broke to ride and drive. However, while any training will be noted for each mare, they are being offered as broodmares nly. Any other benefits the mares may have is just icing on the cake.

FoalQuest has an application process that must be followed by any potential adopter. The applications for the mares and 2004 foals will be up on the FQ website at beginning March 15. We also encourage all potential adopters to contact their area or state representative before adopting. There is a link on the website for the US and Canadian representatives.

While it is very rewarding to adopt and PMU foal or mare, these animals do not make good first horses nor are they for the first time or novice horse owner. These mares have lived as livestock the majority of their lives and they are not as socialized as your typical backyard or family horse. The foals are born in a pasture setting. While they are monitored, they are in no way have been handled by humans. Some foals come around fairly quickly to their new adopters, while others, it takes some time to earn their trust.

As of this writing, the PMU mares that are adopted this summer will be eligible for a hauling subsidy made available by Wyeth pharmaceuticals and handles by NAERIC (North American Equine Ranching Information Council). At this time, no subsidy is being offered for the 2004 foals.

I encourage everyone who is interested in finding out more about PMUFoalQuest as well as the mares and foals that will be available to please explore the website. All new updated information will be posted by April 1st. There are many links that tell about who we are, what we do, and how the whole adoption process works. In addition, it will list the prices for the three types of foals that are available from the ranches: Light breeds (QH, paint, appaloosa), draft crosses, and full drafts, usually Percheron and Belgian. The price for the hauling of the foals will also be available.

If you have any questions, please contact the area rep closest to you who will gladly answer your questions as well as can assist through the entire adoption process.

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