“It’s one hell of a journey,” says Sarah Brayshaw of the breeding process. “Choosing your sire, maybe even importing semen with the wonders of modern medicine, working for your positive pregnancy, the elation when the pregnancy holds, then 40 days later it’s still holding, then guiding your mare through the ensuing 10 months safely… the dollars invested, the anticipation and the plans and dreams for that foal’s future.” It’s a journey Sarah has been successfully a part of many times before, however, nothing could prepare her for the second pregnancy with her beloved mare Jazzabelle.
“I fell in love with the World Champion seven-year-old dressage horse, the Dutch stallion Jovian. I thought the beautiful moving, imposing type over Jazzabelle could be a lovely cross.” Sarah’s circumstances changed and as a result, her horses landed on a beautiful property in Seville in the Yarra Valley owned by former clients of hers, Grand Prix dressage rider Louisa Smith’s family.
“Louisa and I agreed together, based on Jazzy’s history as a mother and given that she appeared fit, well and a picture of health, that we’d move her into a beautiful foaling paddock and keep a close watch as we always do. A couple of days before her due date, Louisa rang me as foaling appeared imminent. I live an hours’ drive from Louisa’s property. I immediately jumped in my car at 11pm and by the time I drove there and walked up the hill to the paddock with Louisa and her partner Kerry, Jazzy was down, and the foal was lying next to her, devastatingly, stillborn,” explains Sarah of that heartbreaking night.
“There are no words to describe that moment. Sadly, it can go with the territory of breeding horses – I’m not the first breeder, and I’m sadly not the last – however, none of us were prepared for that outcome. You can’t help but think how you could have done it differently, but the vets assured us that the outcome wouldn’t have been any different. There was just no obvious reason or sign that there would be anything wrong, and there was nothing obviously wrong with the foal, he was a perfect bay colt.”
A couple of days passed, and Sarah was home when her phone rang. It was Louisa; she tactfully delivered a proposition: “She had a client with a Gypsy Cob mare who’d sadly rejected her little colt. She wanted to know what I thought about the possibility of Jazzabelle taking him on. I didn’t really know what to say, but I said, ‘give me five minutes’. I hung up the phone, had a moment to breathe and think – it needed to happen fast. It was a long shot at best.
“I thought, I owe Louisa so much, and I would love to help her, the owner of the colt foal and of course the rejected foal. Jazzabelle was grieving and not doing very well. The day before I was holding her in the crush, her head in my arms, her bulging udder spewing milk everywhere whilst the vet flushed her. She had developed a serious uterine infection post-delivery, which she fortunately recovered from thanks to great love, determination and dedication on Louisa’s behalf and some expert veterinary care.”