When you operate a breeding farm, there is always the outside chance of an accident, or unexplained death
of the breeding stock. When it happens, you are knocked off your feet! No matter how prepared you are, knowing that there
are always risks, the death of an animal always comes as a shock.
My first tragic experience with the death
of a mare, after giving birth, happened in March 2008. The mare, KRH Mariah Moniet, couldn't have looked or acted
healthier the days prior to her death. At 6 a.m., my husband came in and told me we had a foal on the ground,
but the mare was dead. The words hung in the air. I was stunned! It took me a few moments before I realized what those words
meant, and that I needed to take action.
I ran out to the barn in disbelief. There was my beautiful, young mare
lying still, with a gorgeous little colt standing very wobbly in the corner of the stall. This was her second foal.
Her milk bag was huge, and I understood that her milk was like gold at this moment. I went back to the house and got a container
so I could milk that very important colostrum off the mare to give to the new baby. What I didn't realize is
that I probably could have milked her twice. I gave the milk to the little foal and he "drank" it down.
He really didn't know what to do at first, but then he got the hang of it. First, we had to use an eye dropper to
get him to taste the milk and know how good it was. Then he began drinking better. I was so worried about keeping him alive,
I couldn't grieve over my mare, so I still get teary eyed when I talk about her.
The next thing was to
get on the phone to my vet. (This is where it pays to have a real equine vet. My vet was a horse vet by inheritance.
By that I mean, he took over the practice from my old vet, who had retired. Mainly, their practice takes care of small
animals, but he would still make a farm visit to vaccinate my horses, and he did geld a colt for me once. But horses
were not his specialty.) I called the vet's number, but the office wasn't open. I called the emergency number and
talked to the vet on call. He said, " I don't know what to tell you. I don't know anything about horses. You'll
have to wait until the office opens to talk to Dr. _X_." The office wasn't going to open for another
hour. So what do horse people do when they need help? They call another horse person. I called my friend who boards
horses close to my farm. She gave me more information and help than my vet did when I finally got in touch with him. His attitude
was that the foal wouldn't survive. I was shocked! I knew better, for when I was a child, my father had raised a foal
on a bottle. Needless to say, I vowed to get a new vet and that's what I did - an equine vet, (there is a difference).
I called the breeder of the mare, who lives in Colorado, and told her the bad news. She gave me lots of advice and sympathy since
she had been through the same experience.
After finding a place to supply foal milk, and making a call to
the renderer, I had come down to earth enough to start enjoying my little orphan, which took some of the sting out of losing
my mare. He appeared to be healthy in all aspects. He had a good appetite and loved all the attention he was getting from
the whole neighborhood. We tried not to leave him alone too much and my dogs played babysitters. It was fun to watch the different
ways my male dog looked after the foal from the way my female dog looked after him. For instance, my male dog, Leo, was always
keeping him corraled, or confined, to a certain area and my female dog, Kate, was always "cleaning" the foal just
as she would have done for puppies. We began calling the foal the little Prince because of all the attention he was getting
By using the internet, going through my personal library, and phoning horse owner friends,
I gathered enough information to know what I should do for the foal - how often to feed him and how much; where to get
the foal-lac for the best price, to make sure I bought lamb's nipples and not calf nipples, etc. My husband
took care of the early morning feeding and I took care of the middle of the night feeding, and we took turns with the daytime
feedings. In the beginning, we had lots of help because everyone loves a baby and wants to do things for it. So our little
Prince got lots of attention and was photographed as much as my grandchildren.
At this writing, he will soon be
five months old. I can finally leave home without smelling like my foal. We gradually decreased his foal-lac intake from 8
feedings, to six, to 5, to 4, etc. He is on two feedings of foal-lac a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
He is eating hay, grain, and grass very well and is drinking water from a bucket, which took him the longest to learn. I still
feed him his milk from a bottle, otherwise, if it were placed in a bucket, the cats and dogs would drink it. He has shed off
all his baby hair and is a beautiflul black, for the time being. He will be a gray horse as he matures. His mane is growing,
but is still unruly. He halters and leads quite well, and picks up his feet. After he gets a little more size on him,
I will put him in with our pastured horses. I let him graze in the yard with our 17 year old mare. She will be the one
to teach him horse manners. His 2 year old full sister gets along well with him, as does his 2 year old half-sister.
We have a couple of other horses that I am not sure how they will treat him. As for his sire, Thee Bikr, they sniff
each other over the fence, with Prince showing his submissive "clicking" of teeth and Bikr smelling of his son but
not showing any signs of aggression. As for me, I am beginning to get back on a regular sleeping schedule. Once you prepare
a bottle, make a trek out to the barn at 3 a.m., feed the foal, pet the foal, talk to all the other horses in the barn to
let them know they are special, too, and wash the horse smell off before going to bed, it's hard to just plop into
bed and fall asleep. And, there's not much on TV in the middle of the night. So as I try to get back on a "normal"
sleep schedule, I am enjoying not having to be on foal call every four hours. But he's probably the most loved foal around.
Update 8/13/2008: Prince has been weaned from the bottle at five months and he had his first shots. He did very well
for the veterinarian.
Update 12-4-2011: Prince is now almost 4 years old
(March 2012). He is for sale. Depending on the market, we will use him for breeding until he is sold. He is still black. Anyone
interested in breeding their mare to him should contact us.
continued as Prince goes through new stages of development.)