Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Expectations

As the spring solstice arrives in the heavens, the foaling season arrives in our daily thoughts. We have two mares due in the next month, the first one around April 4th. Lena, the first mare due, looks as though the arrival of her baby won’t come a day too soon. She moves with great deliberation and discomfort, she places her feet cautiously and with effort as she heads to the hay feeder. Her belly is large and low with parallel ridges forming underneath as though they’re a pair of steel girders preventing the mare’s belly from dropping all the way to the ground.

Lena’s baby will have an athlete’s pedigree. Lena is a half-sister to the famous Shining Spark, a palomino stallion owned by Carol Rose, who in 2008, sired or grand-sired 40% of the NRHA Futurity Finalists. Bred to our stallion, Dudley, the bloodlines of Zan Parr Bar and Colonel Freckles add to the foal’s pedigree.

Candy, our second mare due, is a double-bred Poco Pine, a stallion who competed successfully in both halter and performance arenas. She’s bred to one of Dudley’s offspring, Baron, who has become a superlative performance horse. Candy’s off-spring have consistently been impressive specimens with beautiful heads. We believe this will be true again this spring.

Most spring foaling seasons we expect six or seven foals. However, this breeding season we wanted to breed several of our mares to our new stallion, Riggs. Because he was in Texas preparing for the show season, it was necessary to artificially inseminate these mares. Since Riggs was only two-years old when he was collected, we knew it would be a gamble. Unfortunately, none of the mares became pregnant and spent the year regaining their girlish figures.

As I write, a spring storm blows in from the west and the forecast says we’ll have old man winter with us for most of the week. That’s how March acts in North Routt County. One day you can work in a long sleeve shirt and the next you want to sit by the fire and simply witness the cold through the kitchen window. When it’s like this I feel sorry for the pregnant mares. They have enough to manage. They don’t need inclement weather to further stress their coping with the final days before their foals arrive.

At night now, Pete brings Lena in to a foaling stall in the barn. Some mares like Lena like the idea of having a cozy place to spend the night, but others like Candy try to avoid being caught and brought in. They’d rather be alone and unfettered, free to wander where they wish. Lena though, seems to feel settled in the stall and comforted somehow by being isolated and away from the elements. Pete’s preference for all his broodmares would be a mild spring so they could be out on their own to foal in the green meadows as they wish.

Once a mare begins her labor, the birthing process usually lasts only 45 minutes unless there are complications. The most frequent complications include a foal upside down or with one leg forward and the other back. A foal, just like a human infant, normally comes out like a diver with head down and legs out in front of it. Sometimes though, the foal can present backwards and the help of our veterinarian is needed. Over time though, our mares have foaled with relative ease.

To be continued…on or around April 4th!

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