A Foal Called Minnie - Our Christmas Miracle
We recently welcomed a new member to the family on Christmas Day 2014 - a foal called Minnie. No, she wasn't born in a manger nor was it immaculate conception! In fact, it was a long road with many set backs, and like any other DIY project sometimes it is easier to buy a horse than to try and breed your own. Of course the DIY final result usually brings great joy and a sense of pride.
Our journey started back in 2010, it's quite a long story with many details - so I'll paraphrase to prevent boredom. We started the process by choosing a lovely stallion and sending a mare over to his place for a holiday romance. Unfortunately the stallion passed away very unexpectedly during her stay.
2011 breeding season rolled around and we found another handsome suitor. All was going well and according to plan - the mare had been scanned in foal so we brought her home. Soon after for some unknown reason she had lost her foal.
2012 arrived so we sent her back to the same stallion to try again - hoping last years miscarriage was just a case of bad luck. She was later scanned in foal and returned home. Despite lots of TLC she foaled prematurely (around 300 days) - too early for the foal to survive.
Feeling a little deflated we decided we would give her one last try in 2013. It was getting quite late in the season to be trying to breed her. So off she went on holidays again and was soon scanned in foal with a due date of 29 December 2014. The mare returned home and we were diligent in trying to cater to all her needs, keeping our fingers crossed for a live, healthy foal.
Time rolled around quickly and December was almost here. Everything looked to be progressing well, she had a large pendulous belly, her udder was full and already running milk - all signs that foaling wasn't far away (google made me an expert).
After the complications of the past I was determined to monitor her closely and be on hand to act quickly if anything looked unusual. For the non-horsey people out there horses are finicky animals. Compared to other farm animals their needs are many, if the slightest opportunity to get sick or injured arises they generally do. The associated veterinary treatment almost warrants taking out a second mortgage.
So night after night I would venture out into the paddock with my torch in hand hoping to see signs of impending labour. This is the part where I should mention that I was a midwife for humans prior to having my own child. Some nights I would be certain that tonight was definitely "the" night - so I would be out checking every three or four hours. Of course the morning would come and still no foal and no sleep. Before long I had worn a path into the paddock from the back door. The routine the same every night - tip toe out of the house trying not to disturb the family, sneak past the dog and drift quietly out the yard hoping not to wake the pet lamb who's "baa-ing" would alert the cats to my presence outside (yes our house yard is over run with pets of all shapes and sizes). Eventually the slightest noise would alert everyone to my presence and by the time I reached the paddock I would resemble the pied piper with a motley crew of pets in tow.
Finally it t'was the night before Christmas, not a creature was stirring not even our mare. I checked her just after 11pm and she didn't look to be showing any signs of labour. So after a hectic night of present wrapping and bike assembly I headed off to bed setting the alarm for 3am just in case.
In no time at all the gentle sounds of my blaring alarm woke me from my slumber. I traipsed out into the dark to perform another check not expecting to see much. Initially I could not find her - which made me worry that she had got sick of my over protective checking schedule resulting in her packing her feed bin and leaving home. I soon stumbled across a tiny, tiny foal sitting up in the grass - she whinnied as I approached. The mare was laid out still pushing and obviously struggling. As I got closer I realised a second foal was stuck - yes a second unexpected foal. This little guy had already died and at this point it was really important to get him out quickly for the safety of the mare. This was no easy feat but previous experience of pulling calves and lambs came in handy.
Once both foals were out and the mare was up on her feet we left them to bond. It was still dark and there was little we could do. After a shower I headed back to bed, but I could not stop thinking about all the complications and the likelihood of this tiny, tiny foal surviving - which led me to consult Dr Google again.
I headed back out to the paddock just before dawn to observe from a distance hoping to see the foal up walking and suckling. I noticed the mare still had her placenta attached so by 9am it warranted an after hours call to the local on-call vet to have the placenta removed and to check the foal.
The vet arrived promptly and did a great job - she was amazed with "Minnie's" size and vigour - as were we. The first 24 hours passed quickly and other than helping her attach to the mare to feed there was little we had to do for her. The weather was quite cool at night and given that she had very little body fat she resembled a skeleton with skin draped over her tiny frame. Of course I made her up a little coat complete with zebra print fabric and Hi Vis embellishments (it wouldn't be very Country Kids Collection without some Hi Vis!). To give you an idea of her size - the coat pattern was one that I had used to make for a customer's kelpie. I could easily pick her up and carry her whilst leading the mare to the stable during a big rain storm on Christmas Day.
Eight weeks have now passed and her growth and development is amazing - Minnie is now the approximate size of a normal full term foal. Her little legs have straightened up a lot, although she does remain a little "cow hocked". Her bay coloured coat is starting to shed and dark brown/black hair is growing in its place. Not only have we been blessed to have received a live foal (twins don't usually survive in horses and are rarely carried to full term) but our mare proved to be a wonderful caring mother with enough milk to consider a career change to a dairy cow.
So in closing the worlds longest blog, it was a long process but we were blessed and lucky to have our Minnie. The future of my horse breeding hobby remains undecided at this stage.