Impromptu Foaling Internships

Impromptu Foaling Internships

Students shelter in place at a farm to help out a longtime breeder with a broken wrist.

Three girls stand in front of a barn, holding, from left, a black Poodle, a shovel and a smile.

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By Larri Jo Starkey

In January, American Quarter Horse breeder Tammy Lickliter broke her wrist.

“Sixty years of working with Quarter Horses, and then 2 inches of water off the beach in Venice, Florida,” Tammy laments. “The sand slipped out from under my feet, and I went straight down. I ended up with a plate and seven screws in my wrist.”

Back home in Xenia, Ohio, Tammy was trying to complete her barn chores with just one hand. She’s a 30-year breeder who needed to foal out four mares of her own and then others for clients. When Tammy explained that she might need to pull foals, the doctors told her, “Not this year.”

“I was pretty distraught about how I was going to get that done,” Tammy says. “I’ve had kids approach me before about doing internships for breeding, but usually by the time they get out of school (for the summer), the foaling is over.”

Tammy already had students hired to work for her during spring break.

“I used to show one of her horses,” says Sarah Twine, a high school senior who is one of the students working with Tammy. “She posted on Facebook that she wanted help on the farm. My mom told me about it, and we were able to call right away.”

That was about the time the COVID-19 pandemic surged to national attention, and those students’ schools closed. That’s when Tammy concocted the idea of giving three high school kids a hands-on crash course in foaling out mares.

“We asked the parents if the kids could work for me full time, and they said, ‘Sure, they can stay,’” Tammy says.

And that’s how Tammy ended up with high schoolers living in her RV by the barn, learning about foaling and the handling of broodmares.

three high school studentsSome students are getting a foaling education with Tammy Lickliter.

“They’ve been here three weeks, just hunkered down like family,” she says. “I’ve tried to teach them what I know, and right now, they could go out and deliver a foal all by themselves, so it has been kind of fun.

“They’re all high school seniors,” Tammy says. “They’re heading to different equine programs. Their retention has been amazing. They’re all really good students. I get pretty technical with my breeding program, and they just soak it up like sponges. It has been really fun.”

Bailey Gainey, Keara Knepshield and Sarah have been helping Tammy while, at the same time, socially distancing, completing their homework and getting a head start on their equine foaling education. Bailey and Keara are planning to attend The Ohio State University, and Sarah has signed on to compete for the equestrian team at the University of Kentucky.

“Foal watch is the most fun,” Sarah says. “We play card games and stay up late, and it’s like a party. Instead of watching TV, we watch baby cameras.”

bottle feeding a newborn foal
Foal care has been rewarding.

The hardest thing for the students to learn was handling broodmares, and the most fun part has been handling foals, Tammy says.

“And how hard babies can kick,” Sarah adds. “Handling the babies is definitely the hardest part, but it’s definitely rewarding, too.”

Tammy has trained the students in every aspect of foaling, from preparation to recognizing the signs of imminent foaling to how to pull a foal and help it nurse. They've also learned to recognize foal heat.

“They’ve all learned to give shots,” Tammy says. “They go out every six hours, even if it’s 11 o’clock at night, and they know how to pull a foal out – they’ve learned a lot in three weeks. We haven’t missed one yet.”

Every other day or so, the girls have a little time to ride Tammy’s horses. Groceries are delivered, making the lockdown enforced in Tammy’s area almost like a house party with horses.

“We’ve been eating like kings,” says Tammy, who takes the late shift watching the foaling cameras.

Photos of the foals have flooded social media channels, gaining interest from people who are isolated in cities.

“There are 250 people following our pictures and our story,” Tammy says, adding that she plans on writing letters for the students detailing all they have done and what they have learned so colleges will know what they have done at the barn.

“There’s one broodmare left to foal, and they’re all waiting on it like Johnny Bench,” Tammy says. “I’ve had a blast with them.”

Sarah says the time has been well-spent.

“I didn’t plan on doing anything for spring break, so this is 30 times better,” she says.