Parts are still a blur...Our first maiden mare of this year caused me to second guess this whole program. 9 Days of on and off 1st stage labor! Indy was just not sure what was going on and she was bound and determined to figure it out before she let that baby out! I spent 9 entire days watching her around the clock and waiting for her to commit to having that baby. Each day I knew would be his birthday and for 8 more consecutive nights it wasn't. Indy waxed up on about day 338, she started leaking, like actually leaking white milk(and unfortunately all her colostrum) on about 341 days. On April 24th, Day 351 at about 3:55 in the morning she gave birth to a stunning blue roan Friesian Sporthorse. It was perfectly timed in between my hourly checks, I missed him by about 5 minutes. On about the 6th night of no sleep I purchased a foaling suite camera system. My only regret was not purchasing that the minute I had a confirmed pregnancy back in 2020!
At about day 7 of 1st stage on and off labor I called my wonderful vet, she was coming out for another horse at the farm and we knew that with his moms condition the soon to be foals immune system was at risk. This relationship is the most important aspect to establish in a breeding program, a strong working relationship with your farm and repro vet will be priceless. It was for me, it saved our little guys life. Most of that week plus timespan before the birth I don't really remember, I was in walking zombie status pretty much from the 4th night on.
My poor partner, my poor kids, my poor clients and employees...everyone suffered. Then! The actual birthday came, it was beautiful and fast. I saw she was laying down on the camera, grabbed my headlamp, foaling bag and my muck boots and headed out to the foaling suite. She had him out and she was just standing when I got there. He was beautiful and you could already see his roan coat coming in. Indy was fantastic, she was also relieved and you could see how proud
she was to have him. The first thing I did after I made sure he was doing ok was offer her a fresh bucket of water. This gesture has now become my first step when I introduce myself back into the pen with mom and her new foal. It takes the edge off, it's something they really want but don't yet feel comfortable leaving their newborn who isn't ready to stand and walk for a trip to the trough. I stood with her, petted her head and then refilled her water bucket. I proceeded to then take care of him. He was strong from birth, he stood within 20 minutes, nursed within 45 and pooped pretty much directly after that. Indy was swollen and sore, she wasn't exactly sure what was happening with the feeding situation, she needed a little help and encouragement during his first few latches because it was painful. I watched the sun come up with them that morning. Drank my coffee on the ground, with him cuddled in my lap and her standing over both of us.
It was the biggest relief to finally have him here and know that things were ok for the time being. We knew she leaked her colostrum for days, we knew there was a chance he would not have enough to boost and protect his immune system so I was quick to call one of our farm vets for an IgG test. Dr. Adams had already been making phone calls to find plasma just in case he needed it, unfortunately our area is so small that none of the local vet clinics had any that wasn't expired. We drew his blood 12 hours after birth and she went to the lab to process it. She called immediately and explained she ran it twice to be sure she was getting the accurate numbers. Regulus(Reggie) did not even have a number that registered on the first test. The second was still showing under 400.
We want to see over 800 at 12 hours and 2000 is ideal. The risk of sepsis and infection was way too high to wait to draw another test, I made contact with our closest equine teaching hospital in Pullman and we loaded them up and made the 2.5 hour trip the next day. Reggie was in the best care available and Dr. Gold went right to work. He had a total of 3 plasma treatments while he was there. He was monitored daily for any signs of infection and given antibiotics to ensure we weren't already dealing with sepsis. I learned that failure of passive transfer is a common and very serious situation. Foals do not receive any antibodies in utero or through the placenta and they rely on colostrum only. There is a short window after birth that their digestive track stays open to allow the colostrum into their bodies and after that plasma is the only other option. I had originally looked into foal colostrum replacement but bovine colostrum was the only thing I could get here in time, when I checked with my farm vet she informed me that the bovine colostrum and plasma were not able to be used together, the safest choice in these situations is plasma. I have since secured a colostrum bank, an oral plasma alternative and I plan to ask both my local vets to have a supply on hand when we get closer to the 2022 foaling season. Indy was stressed, not use to being in a stall or around all of the new people and she was pretty nervous. I made use of the stellar care offered while they were there and had their Repro Specialist look her over and make sure she was healing and doing well. She also received acupuncture treatments to help her appetite, stress levels and milk production.
They spent a total of about 4 days at the hospital, both were cleared to go home with an excellent prognosis and a clean bill of health. She was really happy to see me when I pulled up to get them. We got them home, settled into a private stall and run and did our best to leave them alone. Regulus needed some controlled exercise and physical therapy for a few weeks and Indy was still so patient and understanding when it came to handling him. It was a beautiful ending and I learned so much from them. The support from fellow breeders, my wonderful friends who offered to do foal watch for me, from my our Farm Vet and the amazing specialists at WSU will be forever remembered and appreciated. After a few months when I knew that they were both going to be perfectly healthy and ok, Indy and Reggie found an amazing home with a family full of kids who adore them tremendously. I can't wait to get updates and pictures of the first 4H show!
I expected our second mare to foal without issues. She's a pro and her previous owner had told me that I probably wouldn't know or see any impending birth signs. Of course I knew I would, I check these mares thoroughly multiple times each day and I am in tune with them and notice everything! Yea right...
I moved her into the birthing stall and mare suite pretty much right after Indy and her baby headed to Pullman. She was content, never looked uncomfortable and settled in easily. I fed and did checks that Friday morning and everything was just the same as it was the previous week. No wax, no sugar beads, bag didn't look any different than it had for the whole month. She scarfed down her morning grain and supplements and then started right into her hay. No appetite change. She was itchy two days before her birth, I am writing that to hopefully remind me for next year! I finished filling her trough and headed to work.
I'm a Massage Therapist for one of my "day jobs" and I have to silence my phone while in session and typically I don't see any notifications until I finish the massage. 10 minutes into my first session of the day I glance over and see my phone notifications going crazy! Luckily I have the best clients in the world and I quickly explained that I needed to grab my phone and make sure things were ok at home.
I could not believe my eyes! I had text messages, pictures and an adorable video of Gitana and her beautiful new foal from my partner! On May 7th at about 8:45 AM and on day 328, Gitana had her colt.
I called him immediately, put him on speaker phone while I continued to work on my client. I explained where everything was in the foaling bag and asked if he felt like he could do it for me. He is the type that is up for pretty much anything new and he's really good with the horses. He grabbed some grain, the enema, the umbilical treatment, a towel, the placenta bag and headed in!
He said that the foal walked right over to him as soon as he walked in the gate and he couldn't believe how sweet and friendly he was. Everything went perfect, I got texts and pictures for every "first" milestone he hit and I spent the next 3 hours in agony waiting to go see my new baby!
It was the type of birth that you pray for but you're sad and disappointed that you missed. I was so proud of Gitana and extremely proud and grateful that Keith was home and that he happened to step outside to check. Destacar SW is the name I chose, Dez for short. He has a tiny bright gold spot on his left shoulder that looks like a highlight, destacar means highlight in Spanish. This little buckskin going grey PRE colt made an instant and immediate impact on my soul. For the time being I have decided to keep him around(he still needs to be with mom anyways), I know that there really isn't room in my program for this little guy but I want to make sure I find the perfect match for him and I enjoy every minute I spend with him in the meantime.
The grand finale!
Our first homebred Warlander foal was the last of the 2021 babies. Excited and anxious and worried were the primary emotions that I had during the first 3/4's of July. The first 2 weeks of this month were ridiculously and unusually hot, like 115 hot. I spent countless hours hosing down the horses, chasing the babies back into the shelters to get them out of the sun and trying to keep poor Allie cool. You see, initially she thought that I was probably trying to kill her with that hose.
She wanted absolutely nothing to do with my sprinklers or my misting systems and she would get herself as far away from all the water sources as the fence would allow. I wasn't going to give up, I wanted her to find relief and she wasn't using her shelter for shade so I kept trying. I am pretty sure I gave my self a bit of heat exhaustion one day trying to coax her, in the least upsetting way possible, to the hose. Alameda is a smart cookie, she also learns and retains everything very quickly. Day 3 of triple digits and I had her convinced that the sprinkler was the spot to be. She spent every afternoon parked underneath her sprinkler from that day on.
Alameda was well past 300 days of her pregnancy during this heatwave and I worried constantly that the heat stress would induce labor. Between 300 and 315 I make sure all of the vaccines are up to date, de worm the mares, spend extra time grooming and handling and cleaning their utters and teats, get their feet trimmed and then make any necessary feed changes and get them separated from the herd and into their own birthing pen. I left her in one of the main pastures for longer than I typically would or had for the other mares because she enjoyed her sprinkler so much and she was doing fine and didn't seem to be anywhere near foaling. At day 320 I started to really watch her, she looked fine and comfortable and her original owner had told me that she carried for a long time with her first pregnancy. 320 is the "safe" day, 340 is more typical... I reluctantly started cleaning the foaling suite and got help moving Gitana and Dez back to the barn. My son wants a new computer so he was easily motivated by chore money and went right to work with me Friday night. We planned on doing a bit more clean up and sanitation and then moving Allie in on Sunday. Saturday when I got off work, I wanted nothing more than to do chores and go to bed. It had been a long week, I was tired from all the shoveling and cleaning the day before and it was still too hot. I fed the mares, started refilling troughs and I noticed Allie was walking funny. I brought her grain to her and looked at her hips, she was definitely carrying lower and her tail head had no resistance. It was after 8 o'clock by this time and starting to get dark. I grabbed my PH testing kit and headed back out to see if she'd allow me to test her breastmilk. No wax still, no leaking or any signs of previous leaking and I had to try a few times to get her milk to express the few drops needed for the test. The milk was white and thick, it immediately tested at below 6.2. I have read tons of stories about milk ph and hardness and that when it drops below 6.2 the mare will foal in 12 to 24 hours. Indy proved this theory completely wrong, she was below a 6.2 for over 5 days. Probably longer but that was the day I got the supplies to test. I was doubtful that Allie was going to foal but I figured I better get her to the pen by the house just in case. I still needed to clean the trough, lay straw down in the stall and try and predict where she would foal if she chose to be outside to bed that area too.
I was done and had her moved in by 10pm. I checked the foal cameras before I went to bed and set my alarm for 12:30 am. I knew she wouldn't foal at 12:30 but I could at least check the camera and then set my alarm for another 2 or 3 hours depending on what she was doing. Alarm sounds, I turn it off and then open the camera. Nothing loads...we live pretty rural and the internet is spotty to say the least. I had no intentions of going out there, I reset the alarm for 2 hours tried to get the camera to work again without any luck and then rolled back over to go back to sleep. 5 minutes later my eyes popped open and I grabbed my headlamp and went outside. She was laying down, breathing hard and when I approached her and she lifted her head, her water broke.
I headed back into the house, grabbed my foaling kit and my water bottle. I turned the solar spot light on and got back to into her pen. The baby was already presenting, she pushed 3 times and he was out. This little guy was a little slower to get up. His mom is also the most protective and she tolerated me attending to him but was anxious for me to leave. I got him taken care of and brought her some grain. While she was busy with the grain I was able to help him latch. He still made all his milestones in time but I wasn't comfortable going back to bed until I saw him eat a few more times on his own. At 4 AM I was happy with what I was watching and Allie was doing great. I went to bed. I slept like a rock and it was wonderful.
I've been asked what I do to "imprint" my foals. I am sure everyone has a protocol that works for them and their mommas and babies but I don't have a specific list of things to do(after the health assessment and vetting) in any specific time frame from birth on. My main goal after I can see that both are fine and well is to just support the relationship between mom and baby. If I make mom nervous, I leave. If the foal feels overstimulated by touch I stop. Consensual interaction is what I want with every one of the horses. So far, as long as I don't carry around expectations or operate on time schedules, I have always been able to do what is needed to be done without stress and fear and I end up with little shadows for the most part. They are dewormed without restraint, they pick their feet up, they accept the halter and a bath and sometimes even get relocated without ropes or tools.
Our little Warlander colt is adorable. He is shy but he is really curious. I had to take a few steps back and give him and mom time to bond after he stood because he was getting a little confused about who the milk source was.
I have decided to name him Keane SW, the name means strong and handsome in Gaelic. He is definitely both. This little born bay going grey colt is going to be a big tall boy with amazing movement. I can't wait for him to find the home that will get him to his full potential.
All colts this year! All three are happy and healthy and thriving!
I don't think I have ever been this busy, this tired, this dirty or this emotional during any other summer. It was worth every minute. With each of these mares and their births I am left with the most intense feelings of gratitude, awe and happiness. Being able to be a part of each of their births is such a gift. Growing these foals up and finding them homes that love them just as much if not more than I do is even more rewarding.
I appreciate all of the love, the support, the fun conversation and the help that I have been offered through this. Thank you for reading our story and if you'd like to learn more about one of the foals, our program or the Warlander breed, send us a message!