Sunday, April 13, 2008


I'm going to have to delay my opinion page on our prey/predator relationship with horses.
Instead,I have to tell you about the wonderful, horrible day I had yesterday.
On my way to work I got a phone call from our ranch manager. One of our broodmares had foaled, and died in the night. Now we had a live, healthy, orphan foal. My boss had managed to milk the dead mare and extract quite a bit of her colostrum.

After I arrived I saw the beautiful, hungry baby. We were soon immersed in calls to the vet, trips to the feed store to buy milk replacement, lots of well meant advice, and a lively debate on the merits of providing the baby with goat milk.

I think all of us were pushing back the fear that the foal would die despite our best efforts, the dread of raising an orphan foal, dealing with socializing the poor thing (I am NOT a fan of imprinting), and mourning the loss of a good broodmare and friend.

We settled my 34 year old "Granny" mare in the stall next to the baby. She is a talented baby stealer, and the only mare even our most cantankerous new moms will allow near their foals. We were hoping she would adopt our little orphan.

We then got a hysterical phone call from a near neighbor.
"You need to come quick, and bring a gun." she sobbed.

We did scoot right over there, but we didn't bring a gun.

We found the neighbor crying over the still form of a dying newborn foal. You could tell by the ragged bottoms of his little feet he had never even gotten up. We sat quiet on the ground and stroked him. Within a minute or two his heart stopped beating.

After the little guy had passed on we told her of our situation. There were a few more calls to the vet, a lot of hugs exchanged, and the next thing you know the boss is leading a hysterical Clydesdale/Thoroughbred mare down the road, as I followed carrying a bucket of horse cookies on one arm and a bucket of placenta on the other.

We removed old Granny, and replaced her with the very confused mare. As soon as she saw the orphan she gave out a deep "mother " nicker. We rubbed the baby with the placenta, and let the potential new mom sniff her.

Within ten minutes we were able to get out of the way. Although this mare's new cow horse bred baby is small enough to walk freely back and forth under her belly, she has eagerly taken her on. As for our little orphan, she was so excited to get a new mom, she dumped us and our clumsy efforts like a hot potato. You would never know we had ever touched her, or that she was pulling at our clothes hunting a bottle.

She stares at us with mild distaste as she huddles under her giant mom. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I don't know if yesterday was fate, luck, or if God was just messing with us. I do know that life has a way of working out sometimes.

I'll get back to you.


  1. I'm not sure how I missed this post, but it sure brought tears to my eyes. How is that foal doing now?


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