John & Catherine Jacob - Crosswind Farm

Diary of Catherine Jacob – Crosswind Farm- Week 4

We are delighted the foal is a colt (boy), healthy and here! That is the start of all the real joy and work that goes with breeding.  We are now in the house getting about 1.5 hours of broken sleep when we realize the foal has stood up on his own but still hasn’t found his mother’s milk. You can sit there watching the foal struggle to get up onto his spindly legs or you let mother and baby work it out. When you have an experienced mare, you feel quite confident that she will help the foal along. She will lick dry him which stimulates the foal to stand and to nurse. Once the foal staggers, falls several times, he does stand on his wobbly legs. He catches his toes in the fresh straw but regains his balance and staggers forward. Shortly he is walking around the mare. He starts to lick on the walls, his mother’s chest, thigh and elbow. Trying to find that all important first drink of nutrition. In nature it is essential the foal be strong and drink as soon as possible to avoid wild predators. But when the mare and foal are safe in a barn the process may take a little longer. Now we are down in the foaling barn, a few minutes later, the foal has found the mare’s hind leg. This time it only takes a little assistance to get him to position his head under the stifle and start to nuzzle on the mare’s utter. Occasionally if the foal is stubborn, a bit of honey on your finger inserted into his mouth help him find the tit covered with honey. You lead his mouth down under the mare to show him the right spot. There! The moment you have been waiting for-the sucking sound and the swallowing of the first drops of colostrum (milk). In a few minutes he has a good rhythm going and drinking quite well. The mare will continue to lick on him each time he nurses. She will also nicker to him so he recognizes her when they go out side.

Now it is time to pay attention to the mare. While all this excitement is going on about the foal, the mare is still going though contractions that have two primary functions- one her uterus needs to contract in size and two expel the placenta. In this case it was textbook perfect. In about 45-50 minutes the placenta had dropped onto the straw. With a long sleeve on my hand and arm, I pick up the placenta, placed it in a grain bag that we had ready. She will continue to have these contractions, diminishing in intensity for the next several days. The sucking on her utter will also stimulate the contractions. There is a fair amount of blood and fluid still inside that needs to be expelled. When she gets to the paddock later in the day or the next day, much of the fluid will be expelled.Back to the rest of the farm, Jay and I go off to feed the rest of the horses. They hear the mare and foal’s nickering. We can tell they are aware of the new baby’s arrival. Everyone’s ears are up and they are standing near the foaling barn, just waiting to see the new born. While everyone is in their respective stall eating breakfast, Honey and her baby are allowed to come out into the morning air. It is most important to get them outside in a controlled small paddock as soon as possible. It helps the mare and the foal to get stronger. Having no other horses around, the foal and mare can concentrate on each other. Also the mare is less likely to push the foal away from the “intruders”. She definitely will protect her foal at all costs. An hour has gone by Honey and foal are back in their stall eating breakfast and resting from the strenuous early morning ordeal. The rest of the horses are turned out in their fields for the day. Honey and foal will go out in the paddock to do some running around later in the day when it is warmer. We are off to the house to get our breakfast and a quick nap. Being up most of the last several nights have left us a bit weary. Jay and I find a foal halter and a piece of baling twine. The twine is cut about two feet long, doubled on it self then looped over the bottom ring of the foal’s halter. This tether allows us to catch the foal without getting real close to his head. We go into the mare’s stall to put the halter on the foal. We expect a chase around the stall. Surprise the foal comes up to us and isn’t upset when I touch him. He jumps a bit but does not run. My arms cradle him front and back so he is confined. I have to be careful that he doesn’t step on my feet with his sharp toes. The protective covering on the soles of his feet when he is inside his mother have now worn off. With my feet out of the way, Jay brings the halter close to his head. The foal holds still till he feels the halter. He jumps but I still have a good hold. The halter is slipped over his nose and buckled behind his ears. We do not usually lead or pull the foal the first several days, but a long lead is attached to the left side of the halter. The rest of the cotton lead is placed over the foal’s back in a figure eight pattern, around the front of his shoulders under his but. This is a suitcase hold which allows us to push and stop power over the foal. Now that he has his halter on, we will walk around the stall with the mare in the center. He learns quickly that we are in control.

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