Tuesday, March 13, 2007
As a horse owner you try hard to monitor a pregnant mare as she approaches her foaling date. When Diva, my young bay mare, came near her expected delivery date, we moved her and her best friend Shaboura, another young mare, to a paddock near the grooms' room so that they could watch her more closely. Just before foaling, there are usually signs that we were hoping to catch so that she would start spending nights in the box, which would be a safer place for her to give birth. Diva, however, had other ideas. The evening of March 8, one of a neighbour's grooms stopped by to give us the sad news that the stallion who had sired Diva's foal had died that evening just as one of my grooms was setting out to check the horses. I got an almost unintelligible phone call to say that Diva had given birth in the paddock.
Making sure that the dogs were securely stuck inside the house garden so that they couldn't run amok and terrify the new mother, I dashed outside with a flashlight. There in the middle paddock stood Diva over her soaking wet daughter. We gathered the baby up and walked the mare to the box at the end of the row of paddocks where clean dry straw was waiting. We carefully laid the filly on the straw and watched Diva as she nuzzled and cleaned the little creature. As we rubbed her with straw to dry her and stimulate circulation she began to struggle to stand. Organising four long legs under a tiny body isn't easy at all. We called the owner of the sire who lives just down the road and he came over to help us get her nursing properly and taking her first poop, both the essential tasks of birth. It all took until about 2 am, time well spent in assuaging the pain of the loss of the stallion. We named the filly Negmat Sallamat (Greetings' Star) as her father had been a very well bred Arabian stallion Sallamat.
The next morning, we put the mother and filly out in one of the paddocks in the sun to give her a chance to meet the world during the daylight. We had allowed the dogs out the night before once the horses were in the box and they had all lined up at the door to greet the new arrival, who wobbled over to sniff noses. Now they lined up at the paddock fence and waited for permission to enter to meet the filly. Sabah the Sloughi and her partner in crime Demon were the first ones in to greet. Mother stood quietly just watching as they approached. Negmat was interested at first but quickly decided that it was naptime and dogs just weren't interesting enough to keep her awake. At this point most of the dogs decided to come and have a good sniff while the filly slept. She was utterly fascinating. The other horses also watched carefully from the other paddocks nearby, Shaboura crying out every so often to Diva. She had been extremely upset the evening before when we moved Diva and her daughter to the box. When we'd arrived we found the donkey family, Shaboura, and the gelding Jack in the next paddock all standing along the fenceline watching intently.The horses and dogs have a very good relationship for some reason. The dogs occasionally go into the large paddock and bark to see which horses will run so that they can chase them. I don't understand why the horses don't kick the dogs, but they don't. They seem to tolerate the canine foolishness very well, much better than I do. Both Negmat and Fagr, Dorika's last foal who is now about four and a half have made friends with the dogs immediately on birth.A foal's first few weeks are very much a matter of nursing, sleeping, and a bit of play, with a great deal of time spent asleep. The soundness of the sleep of a baby anything is a wonder to behold. I couldn't have slept a wink with a dozen dogs nosing me, but she certainly managed to. After a short nap, however, Negmat decided that it was time to get up again.The next day we had yet another arrival when one of the goats who share the paddock with the donkey family had two daughters as well. Baby goats are tiny, about the size of a cat, and have to be some of the most adorable creatures in the world. Our new ones are both black with some white spots on the face, ears and legs. The grooms decided that the best solution for these tiny babies was to spend the nights in the room with the groom who would be sleeping over, to be sure that no one bothered the newborns and that they would be warm enough.So far all the new ones are doing very well. Negmat is proving to be an easy handler with all the cuddling that she's getting. She's gaining control of those long legs and promises to be much taller than her mother. She's also going to be grey eventually rather than the pale chestnut colour that she currently sports, but the process will take years and she will turn a new colour every time she sheds. I had a birthday barbecue yesterday evening, just a group of my neighbours and friends, and after dinner we all went trooping about to visit the babies. The kids were a big hit and the experience of holding a sleepy baby goat in your arms is unforgettable.
copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani