The last few weeks, my husband has been calculating and recalculating Beauty’s due date and examining her girth for clues as to the gender of the expected foal. He calculated that since Shadow was born August 28 last year and he echó el caballo (brought the horse for stud service) 3 times the week after, the last day being September 9, to take advantage of the “foal heat”, the new potrillo (foal) should be born July 7 since horse gestation is 11 months. And he also took the odds that since the last 2 foals were girls, certainly this time it should be a boy.
However, this weekend, Beauty seemed quite ready to give birth, dates or no dates. We decided to place a friendly family wager on the birth date. I picked Tuesday. My husband picked Sunday the 6th, since he had done his calculations, by golly. And my son went with the middle ground by choosing Friday.
Much to my husband’s astonishment, had Beauty waited just 3 hours more, I would have won the bet. Just as we were finishing up dinner on Monday, Chokis started barking and barking. We thought he and Chivo Pestoso (Stinky Goat) were having yet another manly contest. Chivo hits the door and Chokis barks him down, which angers Chivo and he hits the door again, which…well you get the idea. But then we heard Beauty chuff and we were out the door running.
My husband went out the front door and my son and I out the back. I coaxed Chokis into the back yard and closed the door to keep him from more agitated barking and upsetting Beauty during delivery. My husband was yelling for the flashlight, which I had in my hand. I arrived seconds later to perform my vital role of lamppost.
My son’s job was to distract an agitated Shadow in the next stall. He threw some paca (alfalfa bale) in her dish with a mix of corn pieces and tied her next to her trough. She didn’t even lift her head from her meal until the corn ran out.
My husband had planned to modify Beauty’s stall for delivery but thought he had a few more days. Beauty is a big horse and although her stall is a good size, a laboring horse needs room to lie down and get up as she needs. By the time we arrived, she had already lain down to deliver and there was no moving her into the open.
The foal’s head and forefeet had already presented, but as Beauty took up so much space, the baby was squashed against the wall and unable to get the placenta off its nose. My husband dove in and tore the sac off its face, trying to convince Beauty to move just a little bit so the baby could come free.
His pleas must have worked because suddenly Beauty stood up and as my husband had ahold of the front legs, out popped this incredibly long legged foal. He shouted for a knife to cut the cord, but it had already detached when the foal fell out.
My husband immediately slid the baby out from under Beauty’s hooves and checked the gender. ALL RIGHTY! It was a boy. He checked again just to make sure and did a little happy dance.
This was the first birth we were present at with Beauty (See Beauty’s Babies) and it wasn’t anything compared to goat births. The placenta was so thick it seemed like a white plastic bag, and there was so much of it. My son said he felt a little woozy, although there was very little blood. But he manfully sucked it up and wouldn’t leave the area for any little stomach flutters. I reassured my son saying that his dad was woozy at his birth too, so it was ok.
We were concerned that the foal seemed weak. We stayed with mother and baby while she cleaned and bonded with her new son and watched his first attempts to stand. Again, the cramped quarters were a problem. The foal’s legs were so long (so much longer than Spirit or Shadow’s had been) that he didn’t seem to have the room or coordination to untangle them in order to get up. We waited about 40 minutes, but he wasn’t able to stand.
We thought perhaps we should give him some more time and went inside to finish dinner. My husband went out again and stayed with the pair until after midnight, making sure the foal did get up to nurse before he came back in.
We were all out at the crack of dawn to get a good look at our new addition and debate a name. Two of his hooves were white, one was black and one was half and half like painted fingernails much like Shadow has. Spirit had 3 white “socks” instead. He had a star on his head about the size of mark Spirit has and bigger than Shadow’s mark. My husband was puzzled at these coloring anomalies because the father had none of these marks. I suspect these are genetic markings from Beauty since all 3 babies had them. The foal’s fur was a dark brown, but the edges of his tail and around his mouth he was almost yellow. We think that eventually his fur will be more yellow than brown, since the father was a mustard color. None of these physical characteristics helped us decide on a name though.
So we tried looking for signs of his character. Spirit was incorrigible from the get go and we had no trouble naming her. The foal still seemed weak and wobbly in the morning. He wasn’t much into whinnying either. He stayed very close to Beauty, although he was curious about his surroundings, especially when we brought the pair out of the corral to pasture. He liked being outdoors so much that he refused to come back in, much to Beauty’s consternation. We finally decided that his name would be Joey, from the movie
We kept an eye on both Beauty and Joey. Beauty seemed exhausted and would lay down and get up like she couldn’t get comfortable. Joey was definitely eating, but still seemed so thin. My husband was positive that the thinness was because he was more than a week early according to his calculations. I countered that with the size of him, especially his incredibly long legs, there just wasn’t room in the womb for him to wait another week, dates or no dates.
In the late afternoon, we took them out again, along with Shadow and the goats. Chivo Pestoso was very curious as to the nature of Joey, but decided he wasn’t a threat and went to eat. Shadow wanted to be right next to her mother just like Joey, but Beauty wasn’t having any of that. She chased Shadow away and we had to finally tie Shadow so that none of the horses would be accidentally hurt.
The scene reminded me of the day Spirit, who doesn’t live with us, but does live near us, escaped from her enclosure and came for a visit. Beauty recognized Spirit as she didn’t kick up a fuss when Spirit came right to the gate. The mother and daughter touched noses. Then Beauty turned her head to look at Shadow, then back at Spirit. She turned completely around and kicked the gate, basically telling Spirit to move on, which she did.
Joey being a boy will eventually be an issue for us. We are already cramped for space. Shadow has her own stall and Beauty is sharing with Joey for now, but poor Fiona the donkey doesn’t have a place to call her own and is more often than not tied under the mesquite tree for the night. With 2 female horses and 1 female donkey all capable of going into heat, Joey will have to have a stall apart. It would have been just the thing had we been able to purchase that lot next door to adequately house our larger animals. (See Buying a piece of Heaven) Sigh! Well, we just will see what happens down the road.