March 19, 2011
Today, a nice warm sunny day, we are going to take the mare and foal out into the small grass paddock. The foal has the cotton lead in the “suitcase” fashion around his shoulders and but. He worked very well in the stall leading him around the mare so he is accustomed to the control and feel of the lead. Jay takes the mare through the back door, and out into the open. The foal comes to the threshold and says “No, thank you!” The figure eight hold allows me to be a bit more forceful and down he goes to his mom. Though the gates we go to the small paddock. The foal is very welling to follow his mom even though he is not sure of all his new surroundings. They are now in the paddock with the gate closed. I undue the lead and the foal scampers directly to his mom. The mare is released and they promptly take off at a dead run. Honey is kicking up her heals-“Watch your foal, silly mare”. This exercise is very good to expel the residue fluids from the mare’s uterus. Foal is running on wobbly legs that are not quite sure where and how fast to move. It is rather comical to see the babies run for the first time. Legs go every which way. If the mare turns too sharp for the baby to stop and turn, they loose their balance and find themselves on the ground. Now that is another dilemma to deal with, how to get those legs under them to get up. Well handled! Off they go again.Mare has now settled down to get that first bit of green grass. The foal is laying down- just exhausted from all this new excitement. We will leave them out for about 45 minutes to an hour. Leaving the mare out longer than that the first time may cause her to get sick (colic). What a joy to see the baby play for the first time! We just watch with happiness and relief that another one’s legs are correct, is healthy and safely running with its mother. The process is reversed to bring them in. We call Honey to come to us. The foal has gained a fair amount of stability and strength in this short outing. The mare is caught; we quietly slip up beside the mare to catch the tether on the foal’s halter. He wants to nuzzle his mom to get some reassurance from her milk. So it is easy to get a hold of the tether while he nurses. Slip the figure eight over his back and away to the barn we go. He is very happy to go along side the mare and up the threshold with a bit of stumble into the stall. While they were playing in the field Jay and I cleaned their stall, added more straw, putting fresh clean water in the bucket, more alfalfa hay, and most important to the mare- more grain. Now that the baby is on the ground she has plenty of room for food and she is hungry.Close their door and say good bye till the evening feed. Normally for the next couple days to several weeks Jay and I will lead the mare and foal separately to and fro the paddock. But this young man has been exceptional. In two days he is willing to follow the mare, on the lead without the figure eight. He stops and starts without any pulling or pushing. He is the first foal we have had that accepts this with very little struggle. I do believe that is due to the mare not having any other mares around her. Having others around forces her to push and shove the foal rather quickly to get away from the threat of the other mares. Honey has not needed to be the slightest bit aggressive toward her foal. Therefore the foal has remained quiet and relaxed. Many foals that we have raised do a lot of fusing, pulling and running off when they see the outside of their stall. It usually takes about two to three weeks before they settle into this routine of walking quietly along side the mare.Evening feeding goes well. The other horses are staying in their pastures for an hour. Each day they will stay out a while longer till they can stay out all day and all night. All is quiet with Honey and her foal. Everyone has settled in quietly for the night.The flower garden is another one of our passions. Each day that the ground starts to dry out and get warmer is another day closer to planting the dahlias, cannas, and annuals around the house. The beds need to be prepared with another coat of dried manure. So today, after about an hour, Jay and I have covered all the flower beds. We take two more loads to the vegetable garden. Tomorrow that bed will be roto tilled and ready for planting.
March 23, 2011
We have been taking Honey and her foal to the front paddock now for 4 days with no unusual occurrences. He has been a good boy to the point I now can lead him with his mother. He follows with no pulling or running ahead of us. The two of them go to the gate, wait for me to open it, walk through and I close the gate. Turn and they stand quietly to let me unlatch the foal first then the mare. They promptly fly their heels in the air and are down the field. Honey is so glad to have the fresh green grass, The foal is now starting to nibble on the grass. (Monkey see, monkey do) Babies learn by observing their mothers. He is not quite ready to eat grass or grain but he is interested. That is a good sign. After a few minutes of scampering around the foal has had enough and lies down for a nap. He is stretched out on his side with all four feet out. The only thing moving is his fuzzy tail flickering. Mom keeps munching away on the grass, but keeps a watchful eye where he is. We are now ready to tease Honey to find out when she will come in season to be bred on her 9 day heat cycle. Today she is 5 days. We will tease her with Ace (Shetland stud pony) each morning to see how receptive she maybe to being bred. Jay has chosen the stallion who resides in Lexington, KY. Jay is very pleased with the way this colt looks and acts that we arranged to go back to the same stallion. Hopefully Honey will show signs in the next day or so. If she is bred and gets in foal we will have a foal in 2012 in February early March.
March 24, 2011
Each day starts and ends with feeding, cleaning stall, bringing in and turning out. This is the daily routine. I have avoided mentioning it each day so that I may spend time on other matters with Honey and Brad. We asked several people what we should call him and Brad worked. We have made a practice of not naming the foals that we sell so the new owners have that privilege. The Jockey Club wants the foals registered before their first actual birthday, but they can be named up to 2 years of their birth date. Most the time we name the foals their dam’s and sire’s name for our farm purposes. Helps to remember the sire as well as keep them straight after they are weaned.
March 27, 2011
Before we take Honey and Brad to their paddock, Ace comes make an appearance. So far Honey has looked at Ace with “You’re not my type”, but today she says” You are beautiful and I think I am in love”. Good. We call the Vet who comes out later in the morning. He palpates Honey and says she has a 40 mm follicle and is ready to be bred. We have already called the stallion farm and they penciled us in on the schedule for 2:00 PM in the afternoon. Great, I call them back to confirm that we will be there. It is now 11:30AM. I have just enough time to get to the farm by 1:30 PM.Honey has been groomed every day so she is clean and presentable. We place the mare and foal in the yearling barn stall. The reason for this is to have the foal in a totally enclosed stall so that he doesn’t jump out. We will leave another horse in the next stall to keep him company while the mare is in Lexington. Honey comes out of the stall and we leave the foal in. The mare is loaded into our horse trailer. I have all the paper work required by the farm, and most important –DIRECTIONS. The breeding farms prefer not to have the foals in the trailer or on the farm as it is a distraction for the mare while being bred.Honey is upset and the foal is also crying for his mother. We will be 2 hours down to Lexington and 2 hours back. If I get there about a half an hour before, I can be the first mare in the breeding shed. At the farm, I find the stallion manager who tells me when to unload the mare. I hand him the paperwork and pass the time of day for a minute or two. I am first today. So, off the trailer to the barn Honey goes. She is washed and her tail is wrapped. The stallion manager has already retrieved the stallion. He is in the breeding shed waiting. There are 5 men in the shed that will assist in this operation. The vet usually oversees the procedure, with 3 men who hold the mare and 1 stallion manager. The mare is ready and so is the stallion and the breeding is done. The stallion is put back in his corner, cleaned up and lead back to his pasture. Honey’s tail is stripped of the wrap and we walk back to the trailer for the trip home. Sometimes this process will take 10-20 minutes. That is if you have a speedy breeding stallion. We have been the first in line but last to breed because the stallion is slow to get ready and needs more time. I’ll usually stop to pick up a sandwich on my way home, but I still make the round trip in 5 hours.I pull in to the yard at Crosswind and Honey knows she is home. The foal hears his mother’s calls. They are ready to see each other. The foal is hungry and the mare is squirting milk. Honey is in the isle way next to her foal. Jay opens the foal’s door so he can come out in the isle way. It has happened, if the mare goes into the stall with the foal before she recognizes it, she can hurt the foal. So we have made a practice of letting the foal out in the isle so the mare sees the foal before he nurses. All is well. Both mare and foal go out in the pasture for a while.We will tease the mare to see when she goes out of season. We mark the calendar with the date of her breeding. 19 days later we have the vet out to ultrasound her to see if she is in foal. We are on our way to having a foal for next year!
March 30, 2011
The next week or so Honey and Brad will be by themselves in the paddock. Brad will be strong enough by then to run and get away from the other mares. We will slowly introduce them into the mare herd. The mares without foals are jealous of Honey and will want to have the foal for themselves. So we have to watch the other mare of the herd for several days till everyone is settled down with the added foal. We are not too worried because Honey is the alpha mare of the heard. She is the boss! The end of the month has come and I hope everyone has enjoyed this journey. It has been a pleasure to give you a small glimpse into the life of a horse breeding farm. It has been Jay and my pleasure to share our love, passion, and lifestyle on our Butler County Farm.
Till we see you at the Butler County Fair- Enjoy life. Cathy & Jay Jacob