John & Catherine Jacob - Crosswind Farm

Diary of Catherine Jacob – Crosswind Farm- Week 3

In the morning Honey is fine and there is no baby. After feeding the other barns, Honey goes out in her paddock to get some fresh air and exercise. I checked on her about three in the afternoon and she looks more restless than she did earlier in the morning. Her tail is softer and easier to rise up toward her back. She is waxing more and starting to drip her milk.Maybe Soon???? That is the interesting thing about foaling. It is totally a guessing and waiting game as to the exact time the mares go into labor. I will stay home tonight so I will be able to keep an extra close watch on her. The evening feeding goes as scheduled.  Jericho has cleaned the stalls so now we will clean off the outside concrete pads. The rain has washed some of the manure and hay away but there is more to be removed. The muck will be scraped off the pads to the edge where it will help replace the soft ground that has disappeared near and under the concrete pad.

Honey is tucked in for the night after the last visual check. She is more restless and not wanting to eat her dinner. Her water bucket needed to be filled several times so she is drinking well. About nine a clock we check the monitor to see if she is doing anything out of the ordinary. So far, No!  Okay, now I might be able to do some work on the computer. Life really revolves around these mares. I have not gone into the problems that can occur if the mare has problems. But that is our place to make sure we are there to be able to help them through this process. Jay has foaled many mares with both the baby monitors and stitched magnetic closures (“Baby Alert Systems”). He has been able to have very good sense to when the mare will foal. He can be in bed near the intercom and monitor to wake up to the slightest sound of the “mare‘s water breaking”. When it gets this close we don’t get completely undressed for bed. This allows us to jump up and watch the mare to see if we need to go. The stainless steel bucket is ready with long obstetric gloves, iodine-glycerin mixture, towels and most important is the pulling straps. The green 24” strap which has two “d” rings on each end. The strap is pulled through each “d” ring to go around the foal’s front feet. Another bucket is ready under the warm water tap to fill when we are ready to go.Now it is 11:30 PM. No changes. Jay and I will take turns staying up to watch while the other tries to sleep. 3:30 AM No change. 6:30 AM No change. Well we will see this morning when we feed if there are any other new signs.The mare was restless most of the night with much grunting and groaning.  Honey must have laid down 4-5 times trying to get comfortable enough to sleep. After checking several times during the night there was still no baby.

We go out to feed about 8:00 AM. The chores are the same almost every morning. Again we get to Honey’s stall, feed her and open the door so she can go outside. There is a slight drizzle, not enough to make her stay in the barn. If she is uncomfortable she can go in to stay dry. Jay checks her with no subtle changes. We finish cleaning the stalls, sweeping the isle ways in each barn. The number of bales of hay is down to just a few, so up into the hay loft, drop second cutting alfalfa hay down the slot to the bunker. This hay we put in each stall so the horses have something to eat while they wait to be turned out. Everybody is out for the day.

Jay and I filled the back of the gator with split wood for our living room fireplace. We don’t cut wood just to cut wood. We are out in the summer cleaning out the fence lines of trees that have fallen or that are intruding into the field. Many times the branches will grow down and inhibit the tall tractor to bush hog the grass under these trees. We will come along with a wagon, stand on the wagon with a chainsaw to get the branches down. We have kept our farm clean of the unwanted trees for years. This past fall we had piled wood around the silo five feet tall and 5 rows deep. As we are getting the wood now we are down to the last row against the silo. Everyone laughed when they saw the stacked wood last fall. But we have burned all that wood. The cycle of clean up will start again in May.

It has drizzled all day with the temperatures in the low 40’s. The weatherman said it will freeze again tonight. The evening chores are done, we now check Honey one last time before going in the house. After dinner we settle down for a nice quiet evening by the fire. I have a few things to do on the computer, so I go upstairs. Jay is reading and watching the TV.  We each check the mare every half hour. She is showing that she is more restless than ever. She is about 348 days now. Every night we think she is going to foal but so far we are early. She will foal when she is ready and hopefully not sooner. Foals are usually safe to arrive a few days early but not too early. Our vet does not like to induce (artificially bring on the birth) the mare. This can cause more problems then you need or want for the foal. It is about midnight and still no signs of Honey’s water breaking. We can observe that the baby has moved from her belly to higher up into the pelvis. The baby should be positioned so that his front feet will come out first.  Her tail becomes very loose so you can bend it back toward her croup. Her muscles, ligaments, and the pelvic bones have been separating over the last month to allow more room for the foal to come out. When she is ready, Honey will start to have uterine contractions. This can be seen sometimes when the mare becomes very restless and starts to make a “nest”. These contractions make her very uncomfortable. This nest is made by her walking in circles around the stall. The more she does it and the more she lies down the closer she gets to the time. Well, not to night. Thursday, we have continued with the normal routine for the morning feeding and turn out. Today we have to keep a close watch on Honey as she is very restless and uncomfortable. The sun has come out and the ground is starting to dry out with the help of a good warm breeze. Jay has taken her out to the lawn to get some fresh green grass. She will enjoy this treat since she and all the other horses have not had grass since December. We want her to have too much grass the first time in the spring. Her system needs to adjust slowly to the grass to prevent colic. While they two were in the yard, Jay took a brush to her mane and her body to loosen the dead hair and stimulate the skin. Before he puts her in her stall, he takes a bucket of warm water and sponge to wash her utter off. Cleaning her tits and the concavity between makes sure that they are ready for the foal to nurse. By this time in the stage of the pregnancy, we have touched her utter many times, pulled on the tits to see if the fluid is clear, honey colored, waxy, or milk.  This prepares the mare when the foal starts to nuzzle that she is not so reactive.We are watching her all day and trying to juggle all the other activities that need attention this time of the year. The gardens need attention, picking up the sticks and branches that have fallen during the past wind storms. Each garden is bordered by brick blocks that have mud and mulch on them. Now is the easiest time to clean them off and straighten out the beds. Also add manure so it has time to work into the ground before the cannas, dahlias, and annuals are planted. The garden around the house has daffodil and tulip bulbs popping their heads out of the ground showing us that spring is finally here. The manure needs to be spread again.  The pump house needs to be cleaned out and more hay and straw has to be taken to the foaling barn.  The man has stopped by to give us an estimate on new vinyl fencing between the back field and the yearling paddock. It seems like I have very little time to ride but I will find some time today. The evening chores are now finished with all the horses put to bed or in the run-in area. Dinner is finished and I am back upstairs cleaning out some file drawers, throwing away old files making room for more. About 11:50 PM, we have been watching Honey the all evening; Jay calls me down from upstairs. The mare is VERY restless. She is starting to have contractions and getting up and down several times a minute. This time she stays down and her hind legs are stretched out behind her. She is in the throws of contractions. The water has broken.We can see the water leaking out of her vagina because she conveniently lay with her head away from the camera. Thank you, mare! We can start to get dressed, throw on our shoes, fill the hot water bucket and grab the steel bucket. We wait a minute to see the placenta be presented. There it is. Let’s go. 100 yards to the foaling barn takes us a few seconds (less than a minute). Slowly we open the sliding door to the barn, quietly go to the mare that now has gotten up. There is the placenta and one front hoof of the foal. Jay puts on the long plastic sleeve to protect him while he checks inside the mare to make sure the foal is positioned properly. There is the second front foot and the nose. This one is. If it would be presented wrong, he can turn the foal so it would be able to come out properly. Jay pulls away some of the sack, and wraps the green strap around the foals ankles. I get the mare positioned so she will lie down again. It is much easier to work on the foal if the mare is down. She’s down. I go back to help Jay keep a steady downward pull toward the mare’s back hooves. Each time the mare has contractions to force the foal out, we steadily increase the length that the foal comes out. The nose is now out. Off comes the placenta from over the nose and I start to wipe the liquid off his nose. The head is out. Then a quick fall back on our part because the neck was easy to get out. The shoulders are big and hanging up. Steady as we go and let the mare relax for a minute. Our steady pull keeps the foal from going back in the mare. A little bit more. There they are, the shoulders are out. A bit more and the ribs, and hips are out. We take the straps off the foal’s legs. The mare is not completely exhausted but needs to catch her breath and relax for a bit. The longer she stays down, the more blood goes into the baby from the umbilical cord. I am ready with the iodine glycerin mixture in one hand and the other on the umbilical cord waiting for the mare to move. (When the mare gets up, she breaks the umbilical cord). Fortunately she is down for a good 10 minutes. Then the foal kicks his hind feet out of the mare. The cord breaks. And the iodine is squirted on his “Belly Button”. The mare gets up. This is always a bad time to be in the stall. The mare is thinking about her foal and not you. If you happen to be in the wrong place she may step on you or even worse, the foal.  Jay already has the fork and muck baskets ready for the removal of the wet straw. I will dry the baby’s nose, eyes and ears with the towels we brought with us. Fortunately, the temperature in the barn is fairly warm. We can wash our hands, put the green strap in the hot water bucket. Baby is alert and nickers to mom. She returns the sound. I am on my way to the house to get the three shots for the two of them. 10 cc of antibiotic for the mare, 5 cc of antibiotic and 2 cc of selenium for the foal.  While at the house I write on the calendar that Honey Bee Mine has had a bay colt with a slight stripe, small star at 12:30 AM March 18, 2011.Returning to the foaling barn, the foal has been trying to stand up. Jay has the stall cleaned and bedded with fresh straw. The mare goes over to get a drink of water, and a bite of hay. She now has room to eat and she is hungry.  Honey gets her shot first. Then Jay holds the foal down for me to give his shots in fleshy part of his hind leg. He kicks out but misses both of us. We laugh at his spunk. Honey is a dutiful mother. She starts to lick the foal dry to encourage him to try to stand. After 45 minutes and several failed attempts he finally makes it up on his very wobbly, long legs. He is afraid to move in the thick straw. Then he gets some coordination and moves in the right sequence of leg movements. 10 minutes or so he is able to find the side of Mommy. He thinks he knows what to do but somehow has not found the right spot. About 45 minutes later he has nestled against the mare’s hind leg and under her belly to find her utter (tits). Bumps the mare hard and she wenches with pain. He tries again with his tongue and finally finds the tit. Sucks a little and losses it. Tries again with no avail. Tries again and finds the tit. This time he is getting some colostrium (the most notorious and essential part of the milk. It is very important that the foal gets this first milk that contains the antibodies the mare has built up and passes on to the foal through her milk that will help him survive. The next crucial event that has to occur is for the mare to pass the placenta. We do not tie it to her tail. The weight of the placenta helps it to come free of the uterine wall. This is the sack the baby developed in and is also connected to the baby though the umbilical cord.It’s time for us to leave Honey and her lovely foal to do what nature does best. We pack up our bucket and towels to head for the house and do what we have not allowed ourselves to do–SLEEP!

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