The afternoon routine at Crosswind Farm usually starts about 4:30- 5:00. Jericho assists us daily after he is out of high school and finished with his FFA meetings. The stalls for the yearlings, Ace, the two boys as well as Honey need to be picked out, fresh straw spread around, and hay placed in the back corner of each stall. The water buckets get cleaned and filled with fresh water. Grain is placed in each stall before the horses return to their stalls. Now the mares are brought in through the back door. Adie is usually first with Godiva next, then Honey then Soto and Charming. The stall doors are closed and latched. Now is the time to go out to let Jay and Wilden into the barn run-in area. Both will run happily to get to the barn. They know it is feeding time. They go into their stalls and stay there for the night. Hay is thrown down and put in the bunker for the mares who will spend the night in the run-in area.
After haying the mares and checking their water, we go over to the yearling barn to bring them in for the night. The manure carts are emptied into the manure spreader located by the wood stack by the broodmare barn. The manure is spread when the ground is hard enough not to leave ruts. Sometimes the spreader gets pretty full when the weather is wet and rainy. When that happens we will pile in to the ground and later when we can get on the fields it will be spread on the fields. The extra small jobs that always occur around the farm are now looked into. Today we are going to prepare the stall in the foaling barn for Honey. Straw and hay are taken down in the gator. The barn is swept out, 3 bales of straw are separated and smoothed out. The water buckets are placed in the corner and filled. Hay is placed in the other corner and separated. Most important is to get the monitor and intercom from the house to make sure they are working. After caring the wire, camera and intercom to the foaling barn they are tested. This takes both of us to change the settings on the camera above the stall and one in the house to see if the camera and intercom are located properly. Fortunately, they are. Without them we would make 3-4 trips a night to the foaling barn to check on Honey.
Now her stall is ready for her in the foaling barn. We have been daily visually examining her for about a month. Let’s step back to last year. The decision to whom to breed to Honey is determined by several factors. We are breeding mares to produce foals that we can sell at the Keeneland Sales in Lexington, Ky. We want a foal that has a good chance of running successfully. The mares that are to be bred have successfully run and are fairly well bred. There is a stallion directory put out by the Thoroughbred Blood Horse magazine lists all the stallions standing for the current breeding season throughout the USA, Canada, and England. In December and January we compare pedigrees of the mares and studs, the breeding fee and the location of the studs. We like to breed the mare to stallions that stand in Lexington, KY. We pick the stallions we like. Call the farms where these stallions stand to see if their stud manager thinks our choice is a good cross. If yes, a contract is filed. When the mare is checked and is ready for breeding we call the farm and schedule a time. The mare is hauled to the farm in Lexington, breed, and hauled home. This takes about five hours for a complete round trip. Nineteen days later the vet examines the mare to see if she is in foal. If so, then we will ultrasound her in 40-45 days when a viable embryo and heart beat are detectable. The mare will carry 340 days + or – 10 days. That is where we are with Honey. She has developed though her pregnancy normally. Big belly and her utter is developing and getting full. Her tail and hind quarters are softening so when the baby is ready to appear, the mare has room in her pelvis to deliver the foal.
The foaling barn is now ready with the monitors up, intercom in place, hay, water, and straw in the stall. Honey is taken down about two weeks before her due date. This allows her to build up an immune system that she will transfer to the foal via her blood stream and her milk. Jay and I are physically examining her every morning and evening to monitor her progress. We can put our hand on her side behind the ribs and feel the foal kick. The mare’s sides are quite distended on each side of her as seen from her front. As her tail gets softer and her udder continues to fill till she develops “outies”. By having the camera and lights above her stall, we are able to check on her habits and attitude 24 hours a day without disturbing her. As she gets closer she starts to slow down in her consumption of hay and grain. Her foal is occupying a lot more of her abdomen and she becomes very uncomfortable with the added weight and lack of desire to move. She will also have smaller amounts of manure and will urinate more often. It is important that Honey keeps up some physical activity. During the day her stall door will be open to enable her to go outside into the foaling barn paddock. She can see the other mares but not be pushed around as she gets closer to foaling. Companionship is important for the mares to keep their bond.
Honey is today at 340 days in her gestation. She waddles and her eating of hay and grain is decreasing. Her udder is bigger with wax starting to form on the tips of her tits. At night her stall door is closed so we can observe her actions. She has been lying down and making lots of groaning and grunting noises while she tries to sleep. Her feet and legs are taking the toll of the added weight. Lying down does seem to help to take some of the strain off her legs. The noises are due to the added pressure her baby puts on the rest of her body while she is lying down. Tonight she starts to roll around and showing us she is uncomfortable. Maybe tonight?