04/11/2013 12:29PM

Mare Stare website offers more eyes for foal watch


While a camera in a foaling barn is nothing new, Mare Stare has upped the ante by allowing the public to witness equine births while also providing a valuable security service to mare owners.

Founded in 2004, Mare Stare is a hosting site in which owners with a camera installed in their barns can make that feed publicly accessible to viewers, who can then alert them when a mare goes into labor.

“Mare Stare is a family, a community of camera owners and viewers who help each other share the miracle of birth,” the service’s official website, www.marestare.com, states. “The camera owners graciously put their foaling barns online for the world to see. In exchange, they get the watchful eyes of viewers from all over the world, who will call them as soon as their mare goes into labor. As a reward for their vigilance, the viewers get to see the birth live.”

The public cameras allow viewers to alert farms to other safety and security concerns, such as a loose horse, a horse cast in a stall, or an intruder in the barn.

“I found Mare Stare’s service to be invaluable,” said Laurie McDowell of Maryland-based McDowell Racing Stables. “As I don’t live on the same property as my horses, it allowed me to still be the one doing their foal watch as opposed to sending them out to foal...I used the service for all three of the foals I foaled out myself. I put the cam online about a month or so before her due date and kept it up until the weather was nice enough for them to be outside more often than not, as people really enjoyed watching them afterwards as well.”

McDowell cautioned that she didn’t rely on the Mare Stare community to do her foal watch for her. Rather, she used the service to remotely monitor the mares herself – with her mother, who lives in California, also taking a shift via the camera – and then stayed at the barn immediately prior to the births.

Mare Stare currently hosts 283 feeds on its public page, including farms with multiple cameras. In addition to Thoroughbred and Standardbred owners and breeders, other breeds represented include Quarter Horses, Trakehners, Arabians, Friesians, and miniature horses. Prominent users include the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s equine reproduction program and Team CEO Eventing of Georgetown, Ky.

The community also is vibrant on social media, with more than 8,900 fans on the official Mare Stare Facebook page.

“As far as the social aspect goes, I loved it, for the most part,” McDowell said. “I also think it was great PR, as people got to see for themselves the excellent care I provide, and my mare looked gorgeous.”

While most mares foal with no problems, occasionally viewers may witness a difficult or emotional birth, as was the case when McDowell’s most recent foal, now a healthy 2-year-old, was born.

“My last foal was actually born dead,” McDowell said. “I did eight minutes of CPR and got her back, and she has no difficulties as a result, but that all played out live on the Internet. I probably should have cut the feed to the camera, but that didn’t really cross my mind at the time.

“I don’t know if I would foal out a client’s mare on Mare Stare, at least on a public link, because it definitely puts you out there for all the world to see and opens you up to criticism that could hurt your business.”