Saturday, May 3, 2008

Foaling Season 2008 on the Baby Boomer's Arabian Horse Breeding Farm

The harderst part of foaling for this baby boomer is the waiting. I hate just having to sit there and watch. I am a doer. I need to be busy. Sitting still isn't even in my vocabulary except on the rare occasion that I am so sick I can't move. So waiting on a mare to get busy is difficult. I try not to officially start the waiting until I'm sure there is really something to wait for..........

Over the years I managed to get pretty good at telling when a mare is in labor. I have misjudged a few along the way. I have spent way more time sleeping in the barn than I care to admit but I no longer spend weeks thinking a mare is going to foal anytime. Most of the time I can guess within a couple of hours when a mare will foal. Then along came Lucy.

Lucy is an eleven year old purebred Arabian mare who has previously had three foals. Only one of those was born here on my farm and that one was when I was out of town at a convention. So I don't really have any foaling history with this mare. All I know is what I see and have learned from other mares.

Lucy's official due date was May 18. She began "speaking" to me at the beginning of this week. Not only did she have a really bad case of edema that spread all across her belly and down her back legs but she was sending me signals with her tail.

The mare's tail carriage looked more like some kind of code than it did a happy Arabian horse. Sometimes it was angry. Sometimes it was sideways. Sometimes it was straight up like a stick but mostly it was never natural looking. It was obvious to me that the mare was pretty uncomfortable so I began checking her for other signs of impending foaling even though her due date was three weeks off.

Overnight the mare totally bagged up and her udder looked more like a blow-up surgical glove than a mare's udder. Milk came gushing in within twenty four hours and the mare's body began to change rapidly. Within three days the mare went from looking like she had three weeks to go to looking like it should have happened yesterday. By Thursday I knew that Lucy was definitely in the first stage of labor it was time for the waiting to begin.

The bad thing about that first stage of labor is that it takes as long as it takes. It can take an hour or it can take a day............sometimes it can take longer. The difference for me between "false" labor and that first stage is that "false" labor will stop. When a mare is actively in the first stage of labor, it just goes on and on until Mother Nature decides that foal is in the best position it's going to get. From there it's on to stage two.

With Lucy that first stage started Thursday morning. The mare was obviously uncomfortable. She was walking her stall a lot. Her tail was swishing angrily. She was biting at her sides while throughout the whole thing she was continuously eating.

For anyone watching Lucy it was clear that something was happening. Her body was changing even more dramatically. Even on the webcam where details can be lost people could see the sagging, loose muscles across her croup and down her hip. Her body was in the perpetual motion that only those who know that kind of pain can understand. You keep moving because it hurts too much to stand still. The mare didn't sleep.....she didn't rest........her body readied itself for the task at hand.

There was no doubt that Lucy was in labor. But it just went on and on. The milk that was expressed with each contraction began to collect on her back ankles and her tail. I began worrying about catching colostrum to store because of how much milk we were loosing. Lucy was grumpy but still grateful for any distraction from her pain every time I went into the stall to check her progress or to take her out to handwalk for a break.

Those handwalking trips were educational for me. Lucy wanted to walk briskly despite her huge lumbering frame. The expression on her face told the whole story. This labor was serious and the mare didn't want to stop........not even for a taste of lush spring grass. It was grab it on the fly or forget it. She needed to be moving. Standing still was just too painful for this Arabian horse.

The hours I watched crept by slowly. I'm sure they must have seemed even longer to poor Lucy. Twenty four hours later and we were still waiting and watching. There seemed to be no clue of any end to this torture. I resisted the urge to find something to do and kept right on watching Lucy sitting here at this computer staring at the screen. Afraid to take my eyes away lest I miss an important clue.

I saw a half a dozen other mares foal during that time. None of them went through the extensive first stage labor that Lucy did. I watched and I worried about why this stage was taking so long.

Knowing that Mother Nature doesn't want to send a foal into the world until it's position is right is some consolation. But knowing that it doesn't always work out that way began nagging at me just a bit. And I waited............that thing I don't do well..........I waited..........not wanting to do anything that might upset the mare and make this whole thing last any longer. Knowing that a mare can stop that first stage of labor if she is frightened or stressed made it important to me to be prepared without bothering the mare. I sure didn't want me or Lucy to be waiting anymore than necessary.........

To be continued......

The second picture is of Lucy's edema oh her belly. I probably should have taken one that showed how swollen she was down both hind legs as well.

Part 2

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  1. It was painful to watch, I cna't imagine being her.

  2. What a cliff-hanger!

    Love to Lucy.

  3. That is the cutest little filly! Poor Lucy!

  4. lovelee, it was painful to watch. I felt the same way. I just wanted it to be over for poor Lucy. She sure was even dispositioned throughout.

    kahless, yes, unfortunately I seem to be known for that. I don't do it particularly to create a cliff hanger, just seems like the logical place to break for me. lol

    callie, lucy was so patient with the whole process. She really handled it well.

  5. Well at least it's all over now and Lucy and you have a beautiful baby girl to fawn over. I'm glad it all worked out well. Lucy sure did look uncomfortable.

  6. Glad to hear the little filly is out and about! Poor Lucy :(

  7. I always managed to be half an hour, or less late, (I think I managed to be ten minutes late) to 2 or so of my goats kidding. But the point is, I missed all the wonderful babies being born this year! and 7 babies were born this year too! so I was really hoping to Lucy foal. I thought she was swishing her tail a lot, and holding it off... and looking restless. I guess I should of realized she was going to foal sooner than thought. But I thought she was getting that way, because she has 16 days to go, not because she was a day or even hour away from being so close to foaling! But I guess NOW I know better what to expect, and when! lol. Also, whats her name? I think she should be named Scandalous Speed! she came sooner and faster than I thought she would! and she was born 5 minutes before I checked the cam again... I was 5 minutes late, in seeing her be born!

  8. Awwwww poor girl, I think anyone who has had a baby can relate to how she must have been feeling. So glad it is over with good results, just waiting for the little tyke to poop now.

    I have noticed right from the start how attentive Lucy is, always checking her foal, touching her with her muzzle and aware of where she is. She is a great momma.