Summer goes fast in Alberta. Seems the snow is barely gone before the grasses along the ditches are heading out. The countryside changes from greens to golds and yellows and hints of red. The days shorten even more rapidly than they lengthened or so it seems.
Before you know it, it’s weaning time.
At first it is all very exciting to be back in the paddocks you were born in and racing around with Mom and mates.
Then Mom is gone and you are left with old George and your buddy Hawk. George waits patiently while his newest charges figure out that looking for Mom is a waste of time. He soon lures them over to the nice hay and bed that have been set up and gets them learning about “life after Mom”.
Marco got busy figuring out what it was he was good at.
Racing in the snow…
A few dressage moves…
He made some mistakes…
For which he appeared to almost lose his head…
But soon he learned how to get along in the herd and join in the dance.
Not everyone has the opportunity to watch baby horses grow up. Only the very luckiest. When you spend lots of time out watching this process, they get into your heart. They become your friends.
As Dave and I stood watching Josie and Keeper who were showing obvious signs of impending birth, we discussed how cool it was that both Josie and her daughter were foaling at the same time and how bad it would be if they did the same as a couple of our cows a few years back and lay down together to give birth and then walk away with the wrong baby.
We stayed up late. For us. We even sat in the car for an hour or two after dark in the hope that something was happening. It is so hard to tell exactly when a mare is going to foal. They can keep you in suspense for hours if not days. Then you slip away to go shut a gate or make a coffee and sure enough… you come back to find she popped him/her out already. Finally we went to bed.
Dave went out at daybreak to check. Keeper had foaled. And, luckily we didn’t have to wonder if there was any trading going on as the other baby was still safe in Josie’s belly.
Keeper didn’t waste any time letting us know that she didn’t like Josie being around her baby. Josie had been there at the birth and being the boss mare she made Keeper feel intimidated. Mother or not. The baby was with Keeper but Keeper was worried so we moved Josie to another paddock to wait for her to foal.
Oreo, Keepers filly, is just the sweetest little thing. Dave was waiting for a black baby with 4 white socks but when he laid his eyes on Oreo, he immediately claimed her. Keeper was my saddle horse for a few years and really likes me so getting my hands on her baby was no big deal. Like Maggie’s filly who is now a week old, she was instantly friendly and trusting.
Watched Josie all day. Even phoned a vet at one point but they were too busy to do much of anything and we ended up deciding we were just helicopter midwives and that really nothing much was wrong except that we were a bit impatient. She was still a bit crampy and it had been awhile but she wasn’t up and down or sweating or particularly stressed.
Watched Josie well into the night. Sure enough next morning at day break we had another baby. This time a nice big colt. Josie was proud and had him up nursing and all was well. Watched her teach him to tuck in by her shoulder and travel with her. She stood over him (right over him) almost every time he went to sleep.
By 4 in the afternoon we decided to put them all together – they have been together for years and all know each other. Josie will be boss but every herd has its boss and now Josie has the youngest foal which tends to make them more cautious for the first few days.
Checked a couple of times before bed. All was well.
Checked early the next morning. Josie parades by proud as punch with Oreo, her granddaughter at her side. Keeper is nursing Josie’s colt, Swap who is really her brother. Keeper has a confused look like she knows something is not quite right but… the boss mare has informed her they are trading, Keeper really likes Swap and Josie is making it really clear that the one she has is the one she wants and therefore the one she is keeping.
Both mares are good milkers. Both mares love the baby they have. Just going to let it be. Besides I had a premonition.
Here are some videos of the new babies.
Keeper and Oreo
Another one of Keeper and Oreo
A video of Josie and Swap (before she swapped him out).