Friday, April 18, 2008

I Thought I Was Done with the Whole "Foaling Thing"

This was me last night-- or very early this morning-- serving as midwife to a palomino colt. You're probably wondering what the backstory is to this tale, so here it is:

The dam of this colt is the last of our homebred warmbloods. Her name is A Kiss for Luck because her mother died shortly after she was born. We nicknamed her April, although her orphan-induced idiosyncrasies have caused her to be labeled other nicknames, one of which is "Monkey." At any rate, my sister and I tried to talk our mother out of ever breeding any horse ever again-- because our mantra had become, "You've seen one placenta, you've seen them all"-- but when April suffered a bad tendon injury during jumping training we were left with a gorgeous, well-bred, 16.3-hand warmblood lawn ornament. Ultimately my sister Jill and I capitulated and gave our blessing to the breeding of April with one caveat: She could NOT be bred to a warmblood. Why? Because we didn't have the commitment, desire, emotional fortitude, enthusiasm... whatever... to breed yet another potential performance horse. Jill and I are more into recreational riding now. Plus we're considerably older and creakier than when we were first breeding horses.

So April was bred to--- hold on to your hats--- a 15.2-hand cremello AQHA stallion known for his versatility and sweet disposition. The size was appealing because neither Jill nor I are thrilled about riding huge, thunderous warmbloods anymore. And that double-dilution factor guaranteed some sort of color, probably a palomino or possibly a buckskin. We all figured that if the genetic gamble paid off we'd get a lovely hunter-type English riding horse that might some day be show-worthy for the smaller circuits. Worst case? We'd have a nice all-around riding horse for the trails.

Or I should say JILL would have such a horse, as I am chalk full of horses and can't foresee myself riding a green anything several years in the future.

At any rate, Jill was scheduled to start her shift on Foal Watch on Friday night, when April would be 11 months and 9 days. In the meantime, our mother was staying up at night, checking the video foal monitor between catnaps on the couch. She made me promise to be available if needed and I blithely replied something like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah... Whatever."

So of course, you know what had to happen: I got the phone call at 1:30 a.m. that April had decided she couldn't wait one more night for my sister. That meant I had to stumble out of bed, jerk on some barn clothes, drive across town and help deliver a foal. Precisely what I had sworn I'd never do again!

I had no intention of aiding April. But being a maiden mare, she seemed to be struggling. The foal was only out to his knees. After about 20 minutes of not making any more progress, I went inside and did what I'd done with some of the big ol' warmblood mares birthing big ol' warmblood babies: I crouched down in the stall, grabbed hold of both front legs of the foal and gently pulled down toward April's hocks in time with her contractions. (By the way, here comes one of those, "Don't do this at home" disclaimers: I've foaled out probably 30 of our foals so this was rather routine for me, but if you ever find yourself in the same situation, I'd suggest calling your vet on speed dial).

Once the foal's shoulders were free from the birth canal I made sure the amniotic sack was broken and I cleared his nostrils with a clean towel. Then my dad snapped the photo and I stepped outside of the foaling stall so April could finish the delivery process on her own. The colt was healthy and vigorous. He gave a soft nicker and April pricked up her ears. Even in the dim overhead light I could tell he was a palomino. In his earliest attempts to rise he broke the umbilical cord and my mom-- the retired ER nurse-- stepped in to disinfect the cord's stump.

And that's when my sister arrived.

"You can oversee the nursing, pooping, peeing and passing of the afterbirth part," I said. "My job here is done."

I got into my truck and drove back home with the scent of fresh straw and Baby Horse on my hands. I knew that I wouldn't be able to sleep right away. Even after all the foals I'd seen born, I guess I never get over being amazed at the miracle of it all.


Have a comment? I read them all! Just click on "comments" below.


Anonymous said...

That's so cool! And even though babies are a lot of work, there's nothing so sweet and innocently beautiful than foals.


Anonymous said...

That's great! Maybe you will amaze yourself by playing a larger role with the training of this colt ;) I know I can't help myself around any horses! I helped deliver my cow's first heifer last year when I was 8 months pregnant, and it was incredible!

Anonymous said...


I love babies! That is - four-legged, hairy babies with long necks and ridiculously long legs.

I knew Bucky right from when he was six hours old. I met his sister Regala when she was two hours old, Bucky's other brother Ramses at twelve hours old, and I actually witnessed the birth of Ringmaster, Bucky's last brother out of Lucy (Bucky's mom). We currently have a mare in foal to Roulette the Oldenburg stallion. She's due the first week of May, but her udder has filled with milk and she's extremely hormonal, so we're all on foal watch. She about bit my head off on Thursday when I simply patted her on the neck after pouring out her fancy-schmancy pregnant-mare feed.

From what I've heard, Darcy makes an amazing mom. This is apparently her second foal. Her firstborn is somewhere in Michigan, where Darcy was before Diane bought her.

Keep us updated on the baby!

Anonymous said...

wow your so lucky i love to see babys born even tho you have to get up in the modlle of the night its still fun:).

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! How precious! I missed all 3 of our foals being born. But you should've seen me when I found Just A Dream (a.k.a. Justin) I jumped up and down and laughed and cried like a lunatic, it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. His reaction? He whinnied at me, and stuck his head between the stall rails as if to say "Just where have you been? I've been waiting for you!"
Golden palomino is my favorite color, and I had hoped at least one of our foals would have been palomino, but no such luck!
What a sweetheart!

Cindy Hale said...

Wait a second. Christina says she delivered her cow's heifer when she herself was 8 months pregnant? I am in awe!

I think the most amazing thing about newborn foals is watching them race around the foaling stall and thinking, "Oh my gosh, that THING was inside that mare just a few hours ago!"

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous baby! Part QH huh? I think he will look like Banquo, the cremello SWB at stud......