Why You Teach Your Moose Well

I know I’ve been radio silent for a while on 2RM. Mainly because Two Red Mares has turned to Three Red Mares with my newest addition and because law school is designed to make you a recluse with to time or energy to anything creative. With finals done and still job hunting, I now can spend some time doing things I actually enjoy, like writing.

Have you seen that post that makes the rounds on Facebook once a month or so that says, “do your horse a favor and teach him well”? If you haven’t, I’ll try to find it, because I think it is something everyone should take to heart, with horses young and old. By taking the time to expose and educate your horse, you’re stacking the cards in his favor to have a soft landing and a fruitful life of exploration.

Before this post went around, I didn’t have the adequate vernacular to explain my “view” on developing the young horse. It was just something I knew, deep in my heart, I had to do. I knew I had to do it for my horse. So, Joy and I did weird things. Sometimes scary things, but mostly weird. We went swimming in a 12 foot creek full of flood water. We schooled in a frisbee golf course, full of people and frisbees, two miles away from where she lived in my front yard. She climbed stairs and surveyed an arena from the actual judge box. She wore my jacket on her head. I climbed under her and between her legs. She had ropes around her feet. If she was scared of anything, she learned to touch it. She learned to walk beside me, never behind or in front. Under saddle training was less important than a real world education.

Joy was neither coddled nor flooded; neither the queen or the servant. She became comfortable in uncomfortable situations, knowing calmness was rewarded. With this, her confidence grew, as did our partnership. I don’t lie when I say she’s my best friend, for all the reasons one can be.

So when my past-due pregnant mare stood up, two hooves protruding from under her tail, and began to back up into me standing in the corner, I got the message. She needed help. Not wanting to jump the gun and involve myself in a natural part of life, I waited, despite my heart pounding out of my chest, my anxiety making my knees quake.

Back up about 24 hours. Joy finally began to wax at day 347. Typically, that’s indicative of imminent (24-72 hours) foaling. She went out and wandered the property, pestering Apple, grazing near the creek most of the day with no signs of discomfort. Dinner was served around 7:30, and she was HUNGRY. She snarfed her food down like it was her last meal and vacuumed up her hay. There was more wax, but no other changes to raise my concern level. I watched her as I cleaned stalls, wondering if this was all a huge farce she had put together to get time out of work. At 8:30, I headed inside to watch a movie with my hubby. Part of my weddings vows were that I would watch one movie of his choosing once a week with minimal (but some) complaining. Once the movie finished at 10:30, I went to do my night check, complete with my fuzzy Ugg slippers. Joy was down in a corner she normally doesn’t sleep in and didn’t seem to care about me coming in. Full of trepidation, I checked her hind end to find two hooves, perfectly presented. Cue panic.

Now, back to standing contractions and panicked Bailey. Joy went down one more time for a couple set of contractions, made no progress after about 5 minutes, and stood back up. In total, 15 minutes had passed and she was struggling more and more. She backed up into me repeatedly, despite me quietly standing in a dark corner, and I told her I understood. Broke the sack, grabbed ahold of two tiny white hooves, and helped a little with each contraction that came, Joy using me as traction to help move the process along. A beautiful little head began to appear, and as quickly as I could, I cleaned the airway, concerned about how long she could have been without air. Then, just as I noticed a star on the beautiful face greeting me, the foal became stuck.

Joy and I both tried to maneuver the shoulders through the birth canal, Joy pushing like hell and me trying to keep the shoulders uneven to make passing them easier. We couldn’t do it. Taylor was called in for back up, and he was tasked with one of the legs to get pull on my say so. Together we were able to shimmy the shoulders through as Joy’s contractions came stronger. She needed a little more help with the hips, unable to lay down, and we caught the foal so it didn’t have a giraffe like birth. Seconds later, Joy was able to collapse, exhausted and sore, but a beautiful large foal as her reward.

After a quick check on Joy, laying out flat, sweaty, and heaving for air, I was able to return to the still half encased foal. Breathing and already suckling to the air, I grabbed a towel to stimulate the cleaning of a mare and began to dry to foal, Joy showing no interest just yet.

The drier the foal became, the redder she looked under the barn lights and the white hooves in the front were REAL socks, with a star to boot! I peeled the back half of the sack off, already shocked and praying to every god that exists that I would find little filly parts. One by one, I extracted hind hooves from the sack, exclaiming loudly with each additional socks on the hind legs. When I lifted the damp, curly tail to see a filly, I cried like a child, my heart on the verge of beating out of my chest swooning over the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Maiden mares are a bit of a crap shoot, and you have to really be prepared for anything and everything, particularly the flood of maternal hormones that turn a mare without a mean bone in their body into a dangerous and completely protective force of nature. Throughout the rest of the evening, Joy’s inexperience showed, but one thing that never changed was her trust that I was doing the right thing for her or for Posey. When Posey wouldn’t latch, Joy let me milk her to feed her very hungry daughter as much colostrum as I could get. She snuggled up to me, chilly as her sweat began to dry on the cool Texas night, and gave me a lick or two as a thank you for when I got her cooler on. When Posey started shivering as the temperature continued to drop, Joy didn’t bat an eye as I brought in an extra cooler to drape around Posey, asleep on the ground.

I didn’t sleep a second, watching for Posey to hit all of her milestones and inspecting the things placenta for completeness - all the sexy stuff behind the scenes of cute foal pictures. Everything went well, and in the past three weeks, I could not be any more impressed with the way Joy has handled things. While Joy was growing up, breeding wasn’t the first thing on my mind, but a well rounded horse was. Thankfully, all the weird things we did and all the trust that was built translated to Joy’s relationship with me and Posey. Maybe some of that is her hands-off parenting style. However, not once has she been overly protective or aggressive towards anyone or anything to do with Posey. Minus Apple, but that’s a different story.

You never know the situations you might find yourself in with horses, like assisting the birth a 120lb foal from a maiden mare with no clue what’s going on in her body, so all you can do is prepare your bond for those tests and trials that will unexpectedly come. That’s why you teach your horse well. That’s why taking the time to do silly stuff is important. That’s why unorthodox adventures lead to a better partner.

Posey’s adventures have already begun. In 3 weeks, she’s gained confidence in herself and me through silly fun games and exposure to things that will forever be a part of her life. Our bond is on the right track, and I couldn’t be more excited. But more on that for another time, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Lots of love from Misfit Farms and myself.