Monday, November 18, 2013

The Foal

My computer took on some nasty malware last week, so I had to send it to rehab.

It took several days.  

Not having a computer for almost a week while camping is one thing, but trying to live an everyday life without one is another.  My daughter kept asking if she could look up words, so that she could do her homework.  I kept pointing to the dictionary.  She'd sigh.

I wanted to know the weather forecast, I had to wait for it on the radio (we don't have a tv connected to the outer world).  I wanted to check what the specials were in the grocery stores, I had to pull out the flyers that come in Wednesday's mail.  News? Radio, again.  Pay bills?  Call my husband at work to do it.  I was living in a time warp.

Now the box is back under the table and healthy again.  Now I can write about what happened last week, besides the time warp.

Every week on Monday, my husband feeds a friend's horses.  One horse has been looking ill and behaving strangely.  Last Thanksgiving, she had been found hanging out with the stallion, so they had some suspicions of what it might be.  The vet said, "Not pregnant.", twice, one of the times was just a couple of weeks ago.  Last Monday, my husband had all the feed buckets prepped and was toting them to the paddocks when he noticed a chestnut foal lying on the ground next to the ill looking mare.  After he called the owner, then he called home, my daughter, the horse nut, had her shoes on in record time.  We bundled up and dove into the car.  Twenty minutes later we pulled up, and charged over to the paddock.  The foal was lying on the ground in a little bed of hay that my husband had arranged for it, but it was still on the ground.  Usually a horse is up on its feet within an hour of birth, the baby was clean and dry, so it had been born more than an hour earlier. In a few minutes it struggled, placed its front legs on the ground, hoisted itself  a little and tipped over.  It tried again with the same result.  It lay back down in the hay and slept.

Preparing to "walk" the foal to the paddock.

The temperature dropped as the sun set, we put on our hats and gloves.  The owner arrived just as the light was disappearing and set right to work setting up a paddock for the mare and baby. Once it was ready, we prepared to move the baby.  It wasn't a simple job.  The owner and I bent over double to support the weight of the foal and tried to "walk" it the length of the original paddock, around the next paddock and inside to the sheltered spot lined with a foot of loose hay with a heat lamp.  His fore legs kept crossing and had to be uncrossed repeatedly.  He could not support any of his weight.  It was like carrying a bag of wood pellets bent in half, and having it get caught on something repeatedly.  My husband led the mom just a few feet behind us and my daughter led the other mare "D", who had been nickering to and nuzzling the baby more than the mother "R".  The object was to make sure that neither Mom nor the second mare freaked out over loss of sight of the baby.  About halfway through the promenade, the mom butted me with her nose a few times letting me know that as an infrequent visitor I was not a suitable person to be handling her baby.  The owner carried on despite her blown back and neck brace.  When the baby finally settled into the deep hay it disappeared from the mare's view and she thrashed back and forth in the little paddock nearly stepping on the foal with each pace.  I was sent to the feed room get some sweet grain. The owner grabber the scoop held the grain next to the baby's head.  Finally, spotting the baby, the horse's muscles palpably relaxed, she nickered to the foal, then ate the grain.

It was then an idyllic scene, a paddock with the mom  chewing her grain and baby tucked in the hay, a red heat lamp providing the warm glow.  The second mare quietly watching over everything.  We then went home for the night.

The next day the baby still couldn't stand, so he couldn't feed.  He couldn't suck well either, even from a bottle.

Trying to drink.

 For two days my husband and daughter (and the owner's daughter) helped care for the little guy, but he just wasn't strong enough to even nurse properly.  I brought food for  the humans,  as we spent the third evening trying to get a few ounces into the foal and help him nurse from Mom.  He fell over at one point and his eyes looked relieved to be back on the ground.

Before we left I reminded my daughter to say goodbye to everyone, so she did, including the foal, which was my intention..

On that, his third night, he died in his sleep.

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