And here it is, the long awaited baby birth post!
As I mentioned in my last post, the mare I’ve been watching has been waxing and milking off and on for about a week. The birth could be at any minute, so I went out to check on her two or three times a day and the neighbors kept vigilant watch while I was away.
On Wednesday night it seemed like she was really close so I stayed the night at the farm so I could check on the mare throughout the night. I set a timer and got up to check on her every two hours.
Nothing happened that night. I went to work the next morning exhausted and bummed. The next day she seemed pretty much the same and I didn’t feel like another stake out, so I just checked her right after work. Still nothing. The evening feeder texted that she wasn’t waxing or milking, so I debated whether I should check her before I went to bed. On a whim, I made my way out to the farm. When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that the other mares had been turned out but hadn’t made their way up the hill to top pasture like they usually do after feeding time. I drove over to Cena’s (mommy horse) corral to check her out. Lo and behold, her water had just broke. I caught her literally right before she was about to give birth! I took a billion pictures. Luckily, horse labor is extremely quick so I didn’t have to watch her in pain for long. The foal was on the ground in about ten minutes.
Warning: graphic pictures. If you’re squeamish you may want to keep scrolling.
She did great and the filly came into the world healthy and big. She has a gorgeous head and looks like she’s going to be a really big girl when she grows up! Her sire approaches 17 hh and her dam is around 15 hh. I’m hoping she will be somewhere in the middle. I petted her a little, then left her to her mother for some much deserved bonding time. It took her forever to stand up. That has to be the worst part of the process. I wanted to just pick her up and help her but I left her alone to figure it out. She has mega long legs and she kept crossing them and uncrossing them. She would try to stand up for a little bit then give up and lay down for a bit like it was too much work to get up and she liked it much better on the ground anyway. Finally, the mare stepped in and gave her some stimulation by cleaning her up and nudging her and the filly wobbled up. The next morning I dropped by to make she she was nursing, since they are supposed to get the colostrum in the first nursing session within the first 8-12 hours.
If you look at humans and other mammals, foals develop and learn about survival impressively fast, but when you’re watching the process in real time it seems slow. It’s especially slow watching them try to figure out how to nurse. I scooted her up to her mother’s side and had her suck my finger, slowly drawing it closer and closer to the teat. She always pulled back right when I got her to the udder, because she didn’t know how to lower her neck and cock her head at the right angle to get under. I repeated this process for about an hour, trying her on both sides, and briefly considered running off to buy one of those livestock baby bottles to milk the mare into.
An elderly neighbor stopped by to ask if he could do anything to help. He must have noticed how flustered and tired I was, because he bid me farewell and came back a few minutes later with a thermos full of hot coffee. I gratefully sipped the coffee and bemoaned my failed attempts to teach the baby to nurse. He just nodded and told me to leave them be and they would work it out.
Voila! When I was two cups into my own coffee, I heard the sweet slurpy noise of the baby locking onto a teat and going to town.
I love watching the filly right after she feeds and she has her “got milk” face.
Now, two days later I can touch the baby anywhere on her body, handle her feet, and put a halter on her. We have several mini five minute training sessions per day.
She’s the chillest foal I’ve ever met. Her favorite activity is laying down to take a nap. Now, all babies are supposed to sleep a lot, but she takes her lounging to a whole new level. She plays for a while, then she’ll come over to me and lay down in the shade for snuggles with her head in my lap. She loves neck scratches and doesn’t mind doing some modeling.
I keep building a list in my head of all things I want to do with her while she’s tiny.
- learning how to stand tied
- “sacking out” with lead rope or training stick
- grooming and hoof picking
- giving to pressure
- basically any elementary desensitization processes we can get out of the way in short sessions
So yeah, she’s not “mine” per say…but I basically have free rein to do whatever work I want with her. We’re totally besties for life and she loves me and has chosen me as her one rider. In five years we’ll be performing at Devon.
Look out world.
Happy riding! Wish those mommy horses in your life a happy mothers day.