Last Friday, after a full 367 days of gestation, the newest addition to the herd finally ... finally ... arrived. Now, depending on which expert estimate you adhere to, the normal gestation period of a pregnant mare is either 340 days or 11 months + one week from the final breeding date. My mare, Zippin Cody Bertie, long exceeded that day.
It was a long, long wait. When I have a mare coming due, I prepare early, as most of us do. I keep my calendar clear the week before her due date and a full week after. I stock up on straw bales and, as she starts showing signs of pending parturition, I begin to line the sides of the foaling stall and turnout with them to prevent a foal from slipping beneath the bottom rail. I open bales of straw so there is clean, soft, fresh bedding. I begin washing the mares udder regularly, and wrapping her tail if it looks like the event will soon occur. I check the mare every two hours throughout the nights I suspect any activity.
This went on for the week prior to Cody's due date, the week after, and then a full three weeks after that. She gave me no false alarms, bless her heart: no turning to look at her sides, no lying down and spasming, no night sweats. She bagged up early and stayed bagged up. She was comfortable. Too comfortable, I think. At night when I'd wander out, flashlight in hand, watching carefully for rattlesnakes in the brush, she'd be standing in the exact same spot -- in front of the turnout gate.
I began to worry. I even wrote about it, in as humorous a fashion as I cold muster, equating the waiting process to the five stages of death and grieving: The Seven Stages of Foaling. I pictured a terribly dis-mature foal, not fully formed (as occasionally happens on really long pregnancies). I had visions of a grossly deformed foal, with two heads and five legs. I feared a non-viable foal, and watched carefully for the tell-tale signs: discharge, colicky behavior, sepsis.
I got nothing. I began to wonder if the foal had been resorbed, even though I'd had Cody palpated and ultrasounded many months into gestation. It's a surreal experience, waiting for the foal to arrive, and having weeks pass with no grand debut.
And then it happened. The most beautiful of fillies arrived at last. It was a textbook delivery: minimal bruising to the mare, no tearing, no placenta retention, nothing but a wonderful, healthy, well-formed, mature, BIG, straight-legged, gorgeous filly, who passed her vet check with flying colors, nursed promptly, and is the picture of good health and good breeding. I was giddy ... I still am. I was shocked that she was healthy, stunned that she was a filly (colts often take longer to cook than fillies), and surprised that she was so big and mature.
But then I found the deformity. The little girl had been so tightly packaged for so long, her little tailbone was bent backwards at the end, and she has a very distinctive, permanent, curly tail. There's no mistaking it: it's a little oinker tail at the end!
It matters not, though: our little Poppy is perfect.
Meet our Smart Lil Poppy, who was so worth the wait!