Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The New Filly Arrives

After an unsuccessful attempt to sleep in the barn last night, I gave up and came in at 0200. The coyotes had been howling, Ethan the puppy was cold despite being curled up between my ankles, and every time Ethan growled at the yelping of the 'yotes, big-eared Mattie-K8 the Papillon - kept inside the house - heard him and barked in response. Chica was quiet and the stud horse, Ziggy, was keeping guard.

At 0530, Guitar Guy checked the barn as he left for work. I watched him drive off, meaning there was nothing going on,  and I drifted back to sleep. At 0720, I heard the distinctive sound of horses greeting a new arrival. I'd slept in my clothes; I had only to turn on the coffee and make my way down to the barn.

There, beside her mama, was a perfectly healthy, vigorous filly. She was already dry, walking well, and was nursing. She promptly passed her meconium - the first movement of hard fecal matter that had been in the bowel prior to birth - and came over to greet me with confident curiosity. 

Sandy War Chick "Chica" and new filly
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Chica, the mare, had already passed the placenta (thankfully, it was in excellent condition and had no missing pieces) and had no apparent bruising, tearing, or other injury. She was ready for breakfast. It was a textbook delivery. Chica's a smart horse. Russ has been checking on her every morning at the same time for weeks; it wouldn't surprise me if she waited until he drove off and then promptly got to work at delivering her foal.

Any time I welcome a new foal, after I do the immediate obligatory routine - treating the umbilical stump, checking to make sure the placenta has been passed, and other tasks ensuring safety and health of mama and baby - I look for two things that always amuse me. I look at the foal's tiny hooves to see the "golden slippers" on the toes, soft protective coverings that nature provides to protect the uterus from damage from the baby's hooves. They are only there briefly before they fray and vanish as the baby walks. Then I look for the "milt." The milt is a gelatinous mass of sorts, rubbery in texture, that is in the baby's mouth until birth. I'm not always able to locate it; it's easily lost in straw or dirt. Today I found it, nestled in the straw in the foaling stall.

Now, granted, this may not seem exciting to those of you who turn ashen at the sight of raw biology in action, but for me, it has a certain earthy charm.  Back when, in my past life working with Arabians, I was told the Bedouins used to save the milt and dry it on the top of their tents for good luck. And in a nod to tradition, I'll do the same. Not that I'm counting on the extra good luck; I'm already lucky, with a healthy foal on the ground and a happy, proud mama horse beside her.

Ethan the McNab pup realizes he's no longer the baby in the family

And now it's time to brew another pot of coffee and head back down to the barn. These are the joyful moments - the great pleasures that make the hard work of horse keeping worthwhile.

(c) 2018 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No portion of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without permission of the author * Thanks for visiting!