The privately owned Shade Oak Stud, established in 1973 by David and Anne Hockenhull, is at Bagley, near Ellesmere in North Shropshire.
Situated in a fertile, lowland area of the county and surrounded by mixed arable and livestock farmland, the enterprise is run by Peter and his wife Emma, with the help of permanent, and temporary staff taken on for the stud season. Enjoying a pleasant Southerly aspect, the whole is contained within a ring fence.
There are over 150 loose boxes, situated close to Shade Oak House, some in the converted traditional brick farm buildings and over 70 loose boxes within an American barn system. All boxes are light and airy, warm in Winter and cool in Summer. Each box with white-washed walls and creosoted woodwork, is mucked out daily and replenished with plenty of clean, fresh wheat straw. They are all washed down with anti-bacterial wash during the stud season for hygiene.
Electric taped and railed paddocks, of various sizes and all within view of Shade Oak House, surround the building's complex, while close to the stables each stallion has it's own paddock for daily exercise. The extensive housing facilities enable the paddocks to be preserved throughout the Winter so as to be unspoilt and ready for the demands of the stud season.
Sheep follow the horses each year as part of a clean pasture policy. Grassland management includes top-dressing pastures in the Spring and mechanical topping in the Summer to remove fibrous, stemmy grasses. Outlying fields are cut for hay and haylege.
The feed ration consists of fresh rolled oats with an oat balancer, which has been specially formulated to accommodate the stud's own hay, to provide the mares with a complete balanced diet.
Careful observation determines when a mare is in season, with the aid of our veterinary surgeon. Coverings are timed to keep the mare's womb in pristine condition and minimum contamination techniques are used for mares with high risk wombs. A special barren unit is available to simulate "day light environment" which enables the day time to be extended, therefore aiding an early oestrus cycle of barren mares. Scanning the mare's womb enables pregnancies to be detected 16 days after covering and subsequent scans are used to establish a healthy growing foetus. Early detection of twin embryos offer our veterinary surgeon the chance of "removing" one embryo wherever possible.
The Oaks - Foaling Unit
This isolated unit was built to offer our customers the best care and attention for their foaling mares. It has 26 loose boxes all with cameras to observe the foaling mare 24 hours a day and heat lamps for the new born foals. The mare also wears a foaling alarm strapped to their chest which works by a moisture meter. Immediately prior to parturition perspiration rate increases which, when sensed by the monitor triggers the alarm. The mares have their own isolated paddocks all within view of The Oaks, foaling unit. Once they have foaled they have a recovery time before moving up to the main stud.
All mares entering the stud are required to have negative tests and swabs in accordance with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association Code of Practice.