Today was finally the day for one of our broodmares and her filly, to go back out into the “baby” pasture. At our farm in Regina, we have a special, large pasture for the mares and foals that is centrally located, so we can keep watch over it every day from the kitchen of our house or pretty much anywhere else we might be on the farm.
This pasture was also done up in special fencing – the spaces between the rails are much narrower than what you will find in our pastures for older horses to prevent foals from crawling through. The fence is comprised of white, recycled plastic rails that have been proven to cause minimal damage, should any animal ever come into contact with them. We love this fencing and trust it to take care of the precious horses inside.
So back to today: time for “Dressy” the mare, and “Bella” her filly, to go outside and join the rest of the broodmare band. This is always a tense time for Clay and I, because the mares in the field are always very interested in new babies. It’s quite amazing to see how they will completely stop what they were doing to greet the new addition. We even try to lure and distract the other mares over to piles of supplement, before bringing the new mare and foal in, to give the new pair a chance to acquaint themselves and get some space.
Despite the fact all the mares know each other (they have been pastured together all winter), things change when foals are involved. And on this day, I saw something I\’ve never seen before. But please let me highlight just a couple of points before I explain…
1. I know everyone has an opinion on the subject but foaling indoors is what works best for our operation. What you should understand is, we deal with a lot of mud in the spring time and therefore it is healthier for our foals to be born in the large foaling stalls we have in our special baby barn.
2. Doing so allows us to be present for each foaling, in case there is a problem. This also provides easy access for dipping (disinfecting) the navals and ensuring the foals pass their meconiums and take a good, first drink.
3. Then we keep the foals and their dams inside for a couple of days longer to do a SNAP test (to ensure the foal got enough colostrum) and to allow the mother and baby time to bond together before introducing them back into the herd.
Of course, this is the part that is so exciting for everyone. So once Dressy and Bella are turned out to pasture there is a brief moment of calm. But all of sudden, all the mares and foals start running towards them…
And in a blink of an eye, Dressy loses track of Bella, her filly…
The next thing I know, Dancer (bay mare on left of picture below), took Bella under her wing in addition to her own colt (he can be seen at Dancer\’s right shoulder).
Of course, Clay and I were very concerned at this point – we weren\’t sure if we would need to intervene and put Dressy and Bella back together. While Dancer was incredibly careful and kind with Bella, we couldn\’t have a \”foal stealer\” among the herd. And meanwhile, Dressy started to become worried.
What I found interesting at this point was, although Dressy was concerned about Bella, she didn\’t start to panic and fire out kicking at anyone. It was as though she knew her filly was hidden amongst the herd and there was a chance she could accidently strike her own baby in the process. Therefore, she kept her wits about her and continued searching for Bella.
Finally, Dressy catches a glimpse of Bella and is able to call to her…
Bella proceeds towards her mother with a friend as if to say \”Hey Mom! That was so much fun…!!\”
Promptly, Dressy breaks Bella off from the rest of the herd and is able to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the rest of the mares.
It was an exciting moment for all involved. But what blew me away was the mentality of the herd – although something exciting was happening, none of the mares lost their cool and started kicking. It was as if they all knew their foals could get hurt if hooves started flying for no reason. Clay and I held our breath through the whole thing but seeing Dressy and Bella relaxing in the pasture afterwards was totally worth it. Sometimes, you might have to intervene but if the herd can work it out themselves, that\’s always the best option.