The eyes of the world may be gazing upon them, but the two rising stars at Delaware Valley University would never know it.
From the bucolic, quiet pastures set against a landscape of rolling hills and red barns, the 3-week-old foal, Gouda, nursed as his mother, Thistle, nudged him gently.
But his ears perked up at the sound of Cory Kieschnick’s voice, and the caramel-colored foal frolicked across the pasture, jumping and skipping, his hind legs soaring in the air before sprinting to the wooden fence where Kieschnick stood ready to cradle his nose in the palms of her hands.
The general public now has a chance to see the endearing moments unfold in the pastures and in the stalls, as livestream cameras will be there to capture them through the end of April.
The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, partnering with Delaware Valley University and Chester County breeding center Whysper Wynd Farm, is giving the public a livestream view of expectant mares as they prepare to give birth to their foals. DelVal is expecting 13 foals to be born this year, five of which will be showcased on the live cams.
“The general public can log on, and they can see what’s happening in the stall and in the fields,” said Kieschnick, the university's chair of the Department of Equine Science and Management. “They can watch the pregnant mares; we have five that will be on camera this year. Hopefully they can capture some of the live births, which is really exciting.”
Cameras are now installed at two breeding locations, Delaware Valley University’s breeding center and at Whysper Wynd Farm in Chester Springs, where four other mares are expecting. The public can watch free of charge on the PHRA’s website — pennhorseracing.com — through the end of April. There are cameras in the barn and one external camera, so viewers can see horses out in the field.
“A big benefit of this partnership is that DelVal’s Equine Science and Management program can truly showcase what we do here and our strengths in experiential learning,” Kieschnick said in a university statement. “It’s also a great opportunity for people to see the whole foaling process when they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. It’s a magical experience and a unique opportunity for the general public.”
While the foals and the mares are in the spotlight, so are the students who care for them. Students work alongside their professors and become an active part of the birthing process.
“At DelVal, equine students learn by doing,” Kieschnick said.
One recent day, as most of the university’s students cleared out for spring break, animal science major Meagan Frees toiled away, gathering hay for the mares. Standing beside one of the stalls in charcoal overalls, she reflected on the attention the equine program is getting because of the live cameras.
“I think the livestreaming is really cool because it shows what we do here at DelVal and shows to other people how great of a place it is. (People are) able to have a chance to learn about everything that goes on here,” said Frees, who was feeding the horses and cleaning stalls.
“I also do any other chores that need to be done, if they need medication or anything,” she said.
Kieschnick said that those graduating with Equine Science and Equine Management degrees from DelVal head into the industry or go to veterinarian or graduate schools.
The degree prepares students for many different career paths.
“Our graduates are managing equine breeding operations, working in the veterinary field, working in the equine media field, training and riding professionally, and more.”
But they don’t leave DelVal without carrying on a naming tradition at the equine center.
Every year, the students in the advanced equine reproduction classes get to name the foals. They also chose a theme, and this year, it’s cheese.
This explains why DelVal’s first foal of 2023 was named Gouda. He was born Feb. 7.
As students get ready for the next foals to arrive, she said, “I hear a lot of discussion about different kinds of cheese.”
It will be up to the two students, who are assigned to care for the next mare, Ocean, who is expecting, to negotiate and come up with a “cheesy” name for the arriving foal.
Kieschnick added, "I'm hearing a lot of cheese names in discussion — Brie, Havarti, Colby Jack... I'm really rooting for Nacho."
To watch the mares and foals, log on at: pennhorseracing.com/foalcam.
The foals and mares can also be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.