03/07/2003 12:00AM

Breeders anxiously await spring


Spring can't come soon enough for some New York farm owners and operators.

New York's breeding farms have been blasted by harsh winter weather that also has wreaked havoc with racing schedules at many tracks in the Northeast.

Gus Schoenborn Jr., the owner of Contemporary Stallions, the home of sire City Zip, said it is the worst winter he has experienced in two decades. Schoenborn said heavy-duty manpower has been required this winter to keep roadways clear of snow and ice at Contemporary, which is located in the town of Coxsackie in the Catskills.

"There are a lot of inter-farm roadways that lead to paddocks and icing can be a problem," Schoenborn said. "We are expending a lot more energy than we normally have to. This is my 20th year here and it's been the toughest winter, even though we have better equipment now than we did back then."

Schoenborn, who noted that more than five feet of snow has fallen at Contemporary since December, said the difficult winter has had an impact on getting maiden and barren mares in foal.

"The cold, high winds have the mares thinking it's the end of November, instead of a couple weeks to spring," Schoenborn said. "Their [reproductive] cycles are thinking it's November."

At Highcliff Farm, about 20 miles west of Albany, the weather conditions haven't been much better. The bitterly cold temperatures prompted Doc and Suzie O'Cain, the managers of Highcliff, to get a little creative. The O'Cains outfitted their foals with tiny sweatshirts, which became a theme for a Highcliff print advertisement, featuring a young foal sporting a Highcliff sweatshirt above the words, "We do sweat the small stuff."

While the O'Cains are looking forward to spring, Suzie said there is one thing that a thaw brings that any farm could do without - mud.

"Think about these farms when the snow melts and if there is a lot of rain. I can't bear to think about it," she said.

January foaling a warming story

In spite of the cold and snowy winter, a heart-warming story took place at breeder Anne Morgan's Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, near Saratoga Springs.

Despite the odds against Carabid, the broodmare was able to produce a healthy Lycius filly on Jan. 27, a day when the temperature plummeted to 20 degrees below zero.

Carabid, a New York-bred, broke a bone in her right front hoof in late September and it was doubtful that she would be able to carry her foal to term.

Rather than euthanizing Carabid, which also would have killed her foal, the staff at Mill Creek Farm and Battenkill Veterinary Equine worked as a team to keep Carabid comfortable for four months until the mare could safely deliver her foal.

The decision was made to induce labor Jan. 27.

"The foal was weak and probably would have been born dead if we had not induced [Carabid] at that time," Morgan said. "The foal had her own problems due to all the stress and almost didn't make it. Everyone worked around the clock, and the foal is now doing super."

Morgan, who said Carabid is "like a member of the family," and is doing well while nursing her Lycius filly. Lycius, a son of Mr. Prospector who has sired stakes winners in North America and Europe, is owned by B. E. Stables and stands at Mill Creek Farm.

* Fasig-Tipton, as it did last year, will conduct its New York-bred yearling sale during two evening sessions Aug. 10 and 11 in Saratoga Springs.

* Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine will host its 95th annual conference for veterinarians Friday through Sunday. Among the topics to be covered through lectures are soft-tissue and orthopedic surgery and pain management.

The registration form is available online at www.vet.cornell.edu/extension/conedu.