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Let’s Go Ridin’ – for Mar. 19, 2009

Last time we talked about breeding your mare, so this time I thought I would tell you about witnessing the miracle of birth, horse style.

In all my years of being around horses, I had never seen a mare foal. They like to do it under cover of darkness most times, they like to be left alone, and in my experience, a mare seldom needs help from us humans. But a horse can fool ya, as we all know.

Well, we had a mare that we figured was getting fairly close. But by her breeding date, she was a little ways off from giving birth. The mares were still running with a few geldings in the paddock out front where the grass was good and there was lots of room for exercise.

One day about noon I happened to look out the window and wouldn’t ya know it, there was this mare with two feet sticking out of her. She was foaling in the middle of the day, right in front of everybody!

I was so excited I nearly turned inside out! But I didn’t go outside, deciding instead to just watch from the window so as not to disturb the course of nature. A few minutes passed and by golly, she was ready. She laid down and got up a few times, and then she stayed down and started to push. They were short, powerful contractions, and I could see progress with each one, so I figured everything was OK. Then she gave one final push and out came a beautiful baby. I was astonished at how little time it took, and with what seemed like minimal effort.

The mare lay there for a few minutes resting, and the baby did not immediately try to get to his feet. Then as I watched, I witnessed another amazing event, one that leaves you in awe of horses and their instincts. An old gelding ventured over to check things out, sniffing the new foal as if to be sure he was OK. A younger gelding decided he should see what all the fuss was about, and as he approached the baby, that old gelding ran him off! Then he began to circle the mare and foal, and proceeded to run at any horse that came near, and drive them away. He continued to circle the pair for a spell, keeping curious onlookers away, until the mother and baby were on their feet and bonding. Then he relaxed his vigil and went back to grazing, his sentinel duties done.

I was blown away by the whole experience. Not only had I been lucky enough to see a mare foal, but I had also witnessed an amazing display of guardianship on the part of that old gelding. Perhaps it happens all the time, I don’t know. As I said, our mares normally foal at night with no one around to watch. As far removed from the wild as these horses are, they still possess the natural instincts to protect their own. I felt very privileged indeed.

I have long believed that horses have a language all their own and they communicate to each other in amazing ways. That experience confirmed my beliefs. Horses are truly amazing animals that can teach you something every day, if you are fortunate enough to get the chance to watch and learn.

Till next time, stay in the saddle, and never say whoa in a bad spot!

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