Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting the Routine Down Pat

Today when I caught Ace to take him back to the stall, I put a lead rope on him. I didn't want to do this in the stall the first time in case he fought. Out in the arena, I could handle him without worrying about him crashing into a wall. He accepted it well and only pulled back a bit but I stayed with him. Since he already knows the routine, he started trotting back towards the gate. I let him stay a step ahead of me, and kept my hand on his rump encouraging him to walk alongside while I guided with the rope. He got back to the stall without even realising he had just gotten his first leading lesson.


video

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pictures

Thank you Mom! Not only did she get the Baby out today, but she got his halter on, and got pictures too!




Old Wives Tales

While ya'll are waiting for pictures... I'm not teasing... honest I'm not. I am very frustrated with my supposed computer skills and the lack of video link. Really I am.... Anyway, while we're waiting for pictures, let's discuss the evaluation of our new little bundle of joy. Naturally, as a breeder, I like both his sire and dam. I am also thrilled to death to get a healthy, sound foal. Just the sex and color I wanted to boot. Now it's time to do a little objective evaluation. That's pretty hard to do when they are this age. You honestly never know how they will look when they grow up.

You can always go to the old wives tales.

3 days, 3 months, 3 years: According to lore, these are the points in time you should attempt to evaluate your new colt. It is at these stages you can get a truest picture of what his mature confirmation will be like. In between, they are going through rapid growth stages. What looks like a big ugly head today, can look beautiful next week. And lets not even talk about balance. The hind legs don't bother coordinating with the front ones.

Measuring the Canon Bone: Many people use canon bone length to predict height. The basic theory behind this is that the long bones in the legs are close to the mature length. Everything else may be miniaturised, but those canon bones don't change a whole lot.

Whorls: Now we're getting into a little superstition. Many horsemen swear by whorls and other color or hide traits when predicting a horse's temperament and intelligence. I must admit, there are certain physical traits I associate with certain personalities. This art of prediction goes all the way back to the Bedouin tribes and some scientific studies have been done and seem to support the traditional beliefs. Some people also see a connection between the whorls on the forehead and left and right brain dominance. Left-handed horses had more counter-clockwise whorls and right-handed horses had more clockwise whorls. I had always heard that the way the foal lay in the mare determined the left or right handedness. A foal laying on his left side would naturally have longer muscles on the left, and shorter muscles on the right and would therefore be more comfortable galloping on the right lead.



Markings: Now we one up the superstitions and resort to nursery rhymes..

One white foot, buy a horse
Two white feet, try a horse
Three white feet, look well about him
Four white feet, do without him

Or...

A four stockinged horse is a horse for a fool
A three stockinged horse is a horse for a king
If he hath but one I'll give him to none.

And then the most drastic...

Four white feet and a white nose, take off his hide and feed him to the crows.

Oh my.

Old wives tales aside, I like my colt. He has a very fine little muzzle and his head reminds me very much of his sire's. His neck looks pretty standard for such a young one. I like the slope of his shoulder. He seems to use his forearm nicely. I think I see his dam's prominent withers. He has a nicely balanced hip. His tail is on straight. That might seem like a funny thing to say, but the last one we had came out with a tail like a corkscrew so straight is a good thing. And lastly, I've seen some pretty crooked legs on newborn foals. Those joints are soft and can turn in almost any direction. I can't get my eyes off Ace's strong legs. Those wonderful little hock joints look so perfect. And he sure is learning to use them.

As for the other stuff. I'd say he's going to be average sized. His forehead whorl is right between his eyes and appears to be a star burst with no rotation. If it were higher it would mean he would be erratic and difficult. So far, he's not. He does have whorls on each cheek which predicts debt and ruin. Well, anyone who keeps horses can relate to that. If they aren't putting you into debt, they're ruining something. The stall, the fence, their expensive blanket.

I just received a note from Mom. She got Ace and Copy out for 40 minutes wherein Ace put about 10 miles on his odometer - full blast... no fancy trotting for this guy. Everything is going well. The vet called back yesterday with his test results and he got plenty of antibodies from his colostrum. So, we're good to go.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Days Three and Four

Over the weekend, we were able to get Ace and Copy out into the small indoor arena for exercise each day. He was very bold and inquisitive. He has proven to be right handed as he will run only right handed circles. He likes to come up to people and visit. When he gets tired and needs a break, he will find the nearest person and talk to them in little nickers and snorts.

Copy spends most of her time watching the open doors for marauders. I put a lead on her and walked her so she would get some exercise herself. Mostly she wanted to stand in the center and keep an eye on her colt which meant we had to spin in a circle. She got going very fast and once she got so far ahead of me I had to let go and catch her as she came around! After that experience, we went to the wall and walked while Ace rocketed around on the inside of our circle.

He got going so fast that he banked too sharply and wrecked. Luckily, the footing is soft sand and the only thing bruised was his ego. On each outing he was required to wear his halter even though we are not trying to lead him yet. He doesn't like that at all. I was able to get it on him easy enough, but there was no way he would let me adjust it. I got it to fit him better the second time. Until he learns the routine, I am just guiding him the 20 feet from his stall the the arena and it is working out well.

He is gaining strength everyday and unfolding into a strong correct little guy. He has his sire's head and just the right amount of white in his eye to show off when he gets fired up. Apart from being friendly on his own terms, he wants no part of being held or made to do anything. He does like his chest scratched and he will stretch his neck upright and flex at the throat in a perfect baby show horse headset.

I shot a lot of video on Saturday and have been working with my camera and computer to get some video posted but haven't gotten it accomplished yet. I promise I will take some still photos of him and get those posted soon.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day Two ~ Freshening Up

Day One was all about Baby and catering to his needs as he developed a routine and learned the basics. How to Get Up, Where to Get Food, and the all important How to Get Back Down. Since he has now mastered that, and has apparently turned his attentions towards training himself for the upcoming Derby, I thought it was time to turn my attentions to giving Copy back a little of herself.

I arrived at the barn on my lunch break. Ace has already done several miles round and round his patient Mama and was napping in the middle of her lunch. I grabbed a curry and brush and began to clean up my disheveled mare. As I groomed Copy, she groomed Ace, wiggling her big ole lip up and down his neck. And Ace groomed his front legs. After the basic grooming, I got a towel and a pail of hot water and began to wash the milk and afterbirth residue from Copy's haunches and hind legs. After two years, I have come to understand her language. She is an aloof and stoic mare, a cynic by nature, and she tries to appear unimpressed with most of my behavior. But, she does enjoy her grooming time and if I watch her expressions, she will tell me how I'm doing.

Today she was extremely vocal. As soon as the hot towel came out, she completely forgot about her colt and focused completely on her spa treatment. Her communication was loud and clear.... low nasal groans for the tender spots, nickers of gleeful approval for the itchy spots followed by expressive airy wuffles of sincere gratitude as I found the spots that really needed attention. I dipped the towel again and started on her udder. She waved her long neck around, leaning and squatting as she took full advantage of the washing. We finished off with a good polishing all over her coat and she looked and felt like a Lady again.

In the meantime, Ace had noticed he was no longer the center of attention and was running laps and seeing how high he could buck. He is built on springs like a tigger. My mother thought he needed to be held a bit so he doesn't turn into a complete wild thing. She suggested putting a halter on Copy, since all the grooming had been accomplished without one, but I knew if I kept her colt against her and didn't get between them she wouldn't get too worried about my messing around with him. I caught him up with one arm in front of his chest and one behind his haunches. He struggled and nickered and tried to fight off his attacker, but I just held him gently and Copy talked to him, touching his face and telling him to "be still Little Boy everything is fine". He soon relented and relaxed into my arms, and Copy stepped forward and laid her head in my arms along his back and neck in a horsey hug.

When I left them, Ace was napping, worn out from his efforts, and Copy was watching over him. Her window faces North, and is covered with a layer of plastic left over from winter so she cannot see out of it. But she can hear the geldings in the paddock right outside so she keeps a close eye on it.



The vet came later in the afternoon for a check up. They got tetanus shots, and he drew some blood to take back and test to make sure Ace got enough antibodies from the colostrum. Tomorrow we plan on some exercise in the indoor arena. The paddock still needs a little harrowing and it rained all day yesterday making it muddy again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day One ~ Still Bay

Baby Ace (seems like the right abbreviation for A Sensational Night Out) is on his feet constantly, eating, pooping and scampering. No one caught him napping until my sister came to visit at 4pm. He will doze on his feet and scope out a nap spot but he's afraid to drop. It's a long way down! He is very friendly and active. When he sees a person at the door, he trots over to say hello then resumes his routine...eat...poop...scamper. When I first looked in this afternoon I was afraid he had faded to chestnut, but the ankles are still black. In certain light he bays right up.

I went in and brushed Copy a little and gave her some carrots. She is mostly concerned with her baby and is gazing towards the window with a happy, far away look. Eating is a secondary concern. You can do whatever you want as long as you don't get between her and her beloved. She keeps a close eye on him and only takes short breaks to eat which prompts him to come over and investigate the hay pile too. He must be getting enough milk though. It's going through in a satisfactory volume. Is there anything stickier to get off the side of your boot than baby poo? I had forgotten about how it feels to step out into the aisle with a slippery, straw covered chunk of slime-goo suctioned to my instep.

Still, foals at his age are so fascinating. He manages to fill his day with the wonders contained in a 12x12 box stall. When ever he notices a new being peaking over the edge of his horizon, he must come and make friends with it with his tickly little wiskers. Then on to the next adventure! His eye sight is still pretty dim. Those walls keep sneaking up on him. Mom is easy to find with her warm bulk stationed in the middle of the stall. Last night I was amazed at her seeming sixth sense as to where those spindly legs were hidden in the straw. Once he crashed in the middle of the stall, and she hurried over stopping just short of one long fragile leg. She withdrew a few inches as if she knew just where it was way down there in the straw.

It's a Bay! I mean a Boy!

I went back to the barn, and Copy was still down and quietly laboring. Mom and I decided to wait it out. Within 10 minutes I checked her with a flashlight and was suprised to see the tell tale blue bubble already emerging. When I checked the clock it was 9:43.
Our girl seemed very tired, and not interested in pushing. One white hoof was showing and it looked like a normal presentation, but after 10 minutes she had not strained or made any progress. Mom went to call the vet to make sure he was available. By the time she got back, Copy was straining hard and had half a head out. Mom went in to hold traction to keep her from losing ground, and soon those big shoulders were out. It never seems like they will fit! Naturally everything else is all down hill from there.

Copy was nickering the whole time, yet showed no interest in getting to her feet. She was still in pain, and all tuckered out from her recent sleep deprivation. The colt was on his feet within 15 minutes. I've never seen a stronger more determined colt. Because we were drying at the time, we were able to steady him, and he made it on his first try. Amazing!

I was pretty sure I had a chestnut, but after we dried a bit and turned on the stall light, lo and behold he had turned bay! I had to call my sister back and make a correction. Of course he was beautiful no matter what shade of brown he had on. He has a roundish star, a faint snip like Mom, both front pastern and the left hind pastern white.

We didn't expect Copy up right away, and although she tried it a couple of times, she went right back down. We left her for an hour and a half. We had the colt dry and half trained by the time we decided he needed that first meal badly. He had been up and down several times, and was dozing on his feet. I went in and clipped a lead to Copy's halter, and she got right up as if she knew the plan and that there was work to be done.

Mom steadied the colt. He was investigating, but all his other attempts had been fruitless and he was losing heart. On the plus side, he had moved his bowels 6 times before he even got to nurse. That's the last time we'll be happy to see that! 12 minutes of trial and error, and he found the faucet. Copy spent the time nickering and smelling him. She had already talked to him each time he had wandered past her. I kept steering him in her direction, because as her interest grew in him, so did her resolve to get on her feet.

With a full belly, our boy made a couple of rounds of the stall trying to get up the nerve to let himself fall. Finally he crashed by accident and stretched out immediately for a much needed nap. Copy positioned herself over him and stood resolutely napping on her feet. Shortly I heard a big Plop, and she dropped the whole placenta (which we had tied up out of the way). 2 hours flat, foal fed, after birth out! Hooray. I sat down on a hay bale, and Mom went to the house for hot water.

After a half hours nap, Baby woke up and started looking around. I knew he was going to try getting up, and we stood back to watch . He got up in one try (he's a child prodigy) and came to the door looking for dinner. I slid it open and turned him around, shuttling him back to Copy's side where he found her teats immediately. After his second meal (and tenth poop) I unwrapped Copy's tail and took her halter off. We added some more straw gave her hay and she drank a pail of warm water. We left them both napping. It's now 1:00 am. I'll check on my way out, then Mom will be on foal watch periodically through the night. I'm headed home for some sleep. First, I'm a bit hungry myself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lamaze

Copy is lying down doing her Lamaze breathing and checking her side. She didn't get up when I peaked in so she is concentrating now, but doesn't appear to be sweating yet. When I got to the barn a little before 8:00 she was restless and pawing, so she has progressed quite quickly in a littleover an hour. We will check her again in about half an hour.

Later that evening

Copy is so nonchalant about all this. Yes, she is very waxed and her vulva is very relaxed and it looks like we're ready to go. The only difference in her behavior is Mom said she wanted to be back in her stall this morning, and she is nickering at all the other horses. On my lunch hour, I took her for a walk and we looked for some grass to pick, then she wanted to jog back to the barn. She doesn't seem crampy or anything. I've been watching for that since her previous owner, Kerry, said last time she had colicky symptoms for a couple of days prior to delivery. She's bright and happy, stood patiently for her grooming and asked for her carrots. I cleaned her up and dusted her off (again) and braided the switch of her tail so I can wrap it up later tonight. When I left she was learning to snap it like a lash whip.
Mom just emailed me to say Copy is very grumpy. She got confused when Mom walked her and called several times after returning to her stall. Her foal is very active. I am off to the barn. I hope this baby doesn't take until morning... but you never know!

Washed Waxed and Ready to Go

Copy's due date is tomorrow, and this morning we have wax. Mom is betting on tonight and has notified the vets.
I'll go and give her a good grooming today and we will see how she is progressing.

P.S. Thank heavens I've never had my own children. I'm already nervous.
Will everything go OK? Will the foal be healthy? Will we manage to raise it as a good citizen to adulthood through all it's formative years? Training it to stop for fences, lead and tie, stand for the farrier load and haul quietly....
Well, we have two full grown happy well adjusted horses standing in the barn to prove all can go well. And they are just the two latest examples of our many foals who turned out just fine. I remember the first foaling I watched. I was about 11 or 12 and it was my Mom's Quarter Horse mare. That foal was "Noble" the first horse I ever trained to ride. He went on to win many many blue ribbons, and that was so long ago he has since lived a productive life and died peacefully from old age. Obviously, this stuff doesn't get easier with practice!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Baby Watch Begins

Copy has bagged up and could be mere days away from foaling... or this could stretch on indefinitely. You just never know. I can say she is as anxious to get this baby out as we are. The foal has repositioned so the legs are no longer on her right flank, but appear to be where the currently belong ~ underneath. Now when the foal moves, the whole packaged goes "boingggg" or more accurately "bonnngggg" causing Copy to grunt and brace.
We had a spa day on Saturday. I cleaned her up and gave her a trim partly in anticipation of her upcoming photo ops, and partly because I suspect that the foal will interrupt our grooming routine.
The foaling kit is mostly assembled. I've checked the stall from foal height to make sure there is nothing obvious to get hurt on. Mom has begun to bed her with straw. Daily hand walking has solved the edema problem. I think we're good to go.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sleep Deprivation?

I think I've figured out why Copy is so cranky... she is sleep deprived! When I read this article on thehorse .com this morning, I thought "What will they think of next?"
A quote from the article "Sleep deprivation occurs in horses and might be evident as excessive sleepiness during the daytime or collapsing episodes unrelated to narcolepsy or cataplexy (excessive sleepiness with sudden loss of muscle tone triggered by strong emotions). "

Mom told me that she watched Copy dozing in the sunshine the other day. Her knees kept buckling, and her head drooped within about 6 inches of the ground. Mom said she thought their joints locked when they dozed, but even in the crossties lately, I've noticed her poor ole knees buckling a bit as she deals with her ever expanding midsection.
The rearrangement of her bedding also speaks to the fact that she is finding it increasingly difficult to lay down and get a good night's sleep. Obviously her sleep habits are being disrupted, and with an infant on the way, I don't see her getting much restful sleep any time soon. Motherhood interfere's with your personal life, no matter what species you are.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The wait begins...

The vet was here earlier this week to open Copy back up since she was sutured closed at conception to prevent infections. We have switched her to a Mare and Foal grain which will give her more of the necessary nutrients, and started her on a supplement recommended by our vet. She has not been exercising herself well enough and is showing some edema in her chest and legs, so since the weather has been nice, my mother has been handwalking her each day in addition to her daily turn out.

We are now exactly 3 weeks away from the projected due date.