Monday, April 9, 2007

A Baby Boomer Dreams of Arabian Horses Part 9 The Foal

Part 1

Back in those days, I was probably just like every first time mare (Arabian horse) owner when it came time for foaling. By that I mean, my thinking included the presence of a vet being a mandatory part of the foaling process. After all , human babies are born in hospitals with medical professionals in attendance, why wouldn't that be the case for my dream Arabian horse? I had accepted the fact that maybe the vet wouldn't be quite there for the actual foaling but most certainly soon after to insure that everything was fine.

In fairness I didn't come to that thinking entirely on my own. I had worked at the training/show facility for Arabian horses with an assistant trainer whose husband was a vet. She had been ready to calm all my fears with recommendations to call the vet, her husband the vet. That made perfect sense to me, so that was my plan.

So imagine my surprise when I called the vet (her husband the vet) and was told he would make it out sometime that day to look over my Arabian horses. Now today, a response of sometime that day wouldn't bother me, but in those days those words were cause for panic. Sure the foal (Arabian horse) was on the ground and looked ok. The mare liked him, that was good BUT the colt needed COLOSTRUM. (Colostrum as in on my God it can die without it, colostrum) That meant that colt had to stand and nurse and there was a TIME LIMIT on when this should be accomplished and it was up to ME.

I think I've mentioned before sometimes I'm not good with patience. Unfortunately times of stress in particular contribute to my weaker moments in that department. Having a time limit to get colostrum down a foal (Arabian horse) translated for me into one huge major stress moment. no episode would probably be more like it. But one I had to deal with. The vet wasn't coming!!

Did I mention how long this colt's legs were? The only problem with really long legs in newborn horses is newborns don't know how to use their legs and long ones, well, they're really hard to control.

If I had video of those first hours trying to help this colt (Arabian horse) figure out how to use his legs, it would make me cry. Actually, just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I didn't know then what I know now the key is to help the foal find it's center of balance. I clearly remember this precious newborn foal (Arabian horse) lunging forward, flipping over and banging into the walls repeatedly while I frantically tried to help him. It was not a pretty sight.

I tried to support or hold the colt (Arabian horse). I tried anything I could think of to keep the colt from falling or stumbling. When you don't really understand the way that horses move, it's not easy to figure out what's coming next or the way to get the horse to put its foot where it needs to be. It took what seemed like hours to get the colt (Arabian horse) to his feet.

By the time the colt finally did figure out how to stand, the horse wasn't taking any chances. He wouldn't lay back down, instead the colt (Arabian horse) propped himself against the wall to rest.

Nursing was a problem because the colt (Arabian horse) was so tall, he had to duck his head down low to reach under the mare. The horse's instinct seems to tell them up not down. The colt didn't want to be helped and even kicked me a couple of times for interfering. While I did try to get him to suck on my finger, I didn't know enough to get some milk on my finger to assure that he would follow. Don't ask me how, it took even more hours to get the colt to nurse. But we got it done and the colt didn't seem to be any the worse for wear.

To this day, getting a foal to stand and nurse make me crazy. I've definitely got much better skills but I still feel the weight of the time line like a life or death battle. I know how to stimulate difficult foals to get to their feet by running my thumb and fingers firmly down each side of the spine. I put all of my newborns in a foal blanket because it's a great aid in helping stabilize a foal when it's trying to stand. I know to milk a mare and hand feed colostrum to a foal that's having problems standing. But no matter how many tricks I learn, I will always be haunted by the memory of my precious first born dream Arabian foal bouncing off the walls as he tried to learn how to use those mile long legs of his.

To be continued.

Part 10


  1. What a great photo. Mom taking a well deserved break. Very nice.

  2. LOL MiKael he sounds like he was quite a handful. I have been really lucky in that only my one foal (Wiggle) has had nursing problems and getting up problems. BB would not lay down because she was so long legged and I eventually had to physically lay her down after over 24 hours of standing and then she had no problem after that.

    I Love the babies!!!!!


  3. I wanted to add, thank you so much for keeping up to date on my blog when I was having all my troubles and for leaving comments and e-mails it meant and still means a lot to me and your great way of writing always makes me smile