(Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by a dear friend of mine, Karin Danapas, who also lives on a small farm in East Texas. I hope you will enjoy Karin’s story of the birth of her newest foal.)
The arrival of a new foal is by far one of the most exciting events on our farm. My husband and I raise and race Thoroughbreds, and this year is particularly momentous as our mare Joule (pronounced Jewel) had her first foal!
Joule is a horse we bred, raised, and raced. She was born in the middle of the night, a night full of lightning fingering rapidly across the sky. Joule was at the top of the hill and, as the lightning flashed, you could see a big white blaze down her face and four white socks on her legs.
Now, our Joule is bringing the next generation into the world. So it was with great wonder when we awoke on April 24 to a new filly gracing our pasture. I say “awoke,” because my husband “slept” all night in a trailer next to the pasture, and I slept fitfully in the house. My husband had repeatedly checked Joule (and our other heavy bred mare) throughout the night but had fallen asleep after being awake for so long. At 6:50 a.m., as I stepped from the shower, my phone rang, and my husband reported excitedly, “She had it!” I quickly dressed to head outside and greet our new baby. We also needed to move our more seasoned mare to another area.
The little filly was up, and Joule had passed the complete sac and placenta. We stepped back to observe, as we were not sure the baby had been able to nurse. Joule was careful to keep the filly directly in front of her. As the baby turned and tried to move along her mother’s side to nurse, Joule would carefully back step and return the baby to the front. We quickly haltered Joule.
Upon checking Joule’s “bag,” we realized her teats were somewhat hard. My husband expressed colostrum to make sure the new filly had what she needed, and we assisted with the nursing for about an hour off and on. After her first attempts to nurse, the baby was tired and ready to lay down for the first time to get a bit of a snooze. I watched something I had never seen happen before. Joule nosed the ground and, seeing a fire ant mound near her baby, she gently pushed her foal away from the area so that she would not lay down there. After Baby slept, we worked with them a bit more, as Joule was still uncomfortable with the baby nursing on her off-side. By about 9:30 a.m., we were able to begin backing off, as the two of them got the hang of it.
The first question many ask when we talk about a new foal is: “Have you named her/him yet?” Naming a foal is usually a laborious process for us. We take into consideration the names of their sire and dam, names in their pedigree, as well as their individual personality. For this particular foal, we have reserved a name with the Jockey Club in record time (compared to our usual, which on occasion has taken us up to a year), but even with this reserved name, we have not decided on a “barn” name for her yet. So, she will continue with her pet names such as “Lovey,” “Baby,” and “Little Bit” until a suitable name can be agreed upon.
Today, May 9, our little filly is 15 days old. She is running huge circles around her dam, stretching out her front legs, rearing, and kicking in flight. She loves to be scratched, has had her first hours with a halter on, and is already used to natural fly spray being applied to her legs. We will continue to do our best by her, watch over her, and enjoy her as the weeks and months pass.
There are many wonderful things about new animal life, particularly a new foal: the softness of their fur, the innate sense of self they each have, their ability to run and maneuver so easily, their high pitched nicker. It’s amazing to interact with these incredible creatures and develop a relationship with each unique individual. These are moments we never tire of on the farm; they are times that sustain us. New life is precious and the life of a new foal is for a us, priceless.
(Editor’s Note: Karin lives on Beyond Words Ranch with her husband and a menagerie of animals such as dogs, cats, chickens, cows, dwarf goats, and, of course, horses. Thanks, Karin, for sharing such an incredible experience!)