It was a chilly spring morning (for Texas), meaning I needed a sweatshirt with my shorts. I had just started a pot of coffee at 6:30 am, and was sneaking out with a bag of plastic eggs filled with chocolate and small toys to play the part of Easter bunny before Offspring woke up. It was still dark outside as I began to hide or more like strategically place in plain sight my sack full of eggs. The chain link fence to our backyard is the border between yard and pony paddock. While I’m stumbling over toy construction equipment that Offspring tends to leave everywhere in my pre-coffee stupor, Beau Pony bumps the chain link with his nose and whinnies. I look up thinking that he is begging me to find something edible in the house that a pony may enjoy. I glance past him looking for his side kick the expectant Summer Cloud, and she’s not alone or expectant any longer.
There standing nose to nose with her is a still wet, shiny new foal. Beau Pony looks at them, then back at me like “How does this keep happening?”
Then it hits me what I’m looking at. Like I said pre-coffee stupor. “Oh shit!” I yip, and run back into the house. “Babe, babe wake up!” I whisper as I shake Darling Husband out of his slumber. “Guess what the Easter bunny brought me?!”
“Huh?” Darling Husband grumbles.
“A baby pony! Summer foaled this morning!” Then I run right back out leaving Darling Husband to fall back asleep or get up, he’s a total after thought now.
The baby is standing and bumping around Summer’s sides trying to figure out what comes next. When he gets close her udder, she squeals and pushes him away with her hind leg. The baby begins his shaky walk around her again, bumping her with his nose, and again is pushed away when he comes close her udder. He loses interest when he sees me, and approaches me nudging and hoping something will happen. He’s still very wet, but otherwise beautiful and walking well. In the next few minutes Darling Husband is there leaning over the fence, and Beau Pony is now right behind me trying to process the soaking wet hairball in his paddock. Summer pins her ears and comes at us both and nudges the foal away.
When the foal tries to suckle she pushes him away again. We decide momma and baby would be better off in a box stall in the barn where they can rest and bond, but baby lays down and begins to shiver. I take off my sweatshirt, and begin to dry him with it trying to rub some warmth into the tiny body, but over the next few minutes the shivering gets worse and not better. Momma is still refusing to let him suckle and now I’m starting to worry. We sit back and watch the pair for a while, I estimate it has been at least an hour since he was born, and I’ve not seen any promising signs of milk.
I guess I should stop here and explain, that this baby was totally expected…in three weeks from now. Summer was field bred by Beau during the foal heat when her last foal was born premature. Our best guess of the date, conception actually took place, had this little bundle of joy arriving in early May, not the first week in April. We were totally unprepared for baby to be standing here at this moment. “He’s not getting any warmer. Where’s the heat lamps?” I ask Darling Husband. The last time I saw the heat lamps they were attached to the pillars on the front porch where we had made a little hideaway for lambs.
If you weren’t aware, no area of our property is off limits for animal husbandry. In fact I’ve given up on landscaping because we frequently keep barnyard animals in the front and back yard for various reasons. Those reasons usually are 1) We are impulse buyers. 2) Either we totally fail to plan, or the impulse buy made it impossible to plan. 3) We are super bad at guessing due dates for any species of livestock. 4) We have limited space. 5) I prefer not to mow when we have a variety of animals capable of keeping the grass neatly trimmed, but that means they also eat shrubbery.
Back to the heat lamps. “The sheep knocked the lamp down and the last bulb broke.” Darling Husband replies. I look at the little colt shivering in the hay. “Well, they’ll just have to come in the house. Give me a few minutes to set something up.” I say running back to the house. Like I said, no area of our property is off limits. So, an owner or so before us, converted the actual garage attached to our house into a huge, wide open laundry room with three huge closets making up the entire back wall. We really don’t use the room for much, and until a few months ago, this room had been functioning as my tack room. Now it’s just an overflow room for Offspring’s toys.
I go about pushing toys against the wall, picking up anything I think a baby could trip or get tangled in, and then throwing rugs over the linoleum we didn’t bother to replace during our remodel because we couldn’t make up our minds what to do with this room. I have a huge stock pile of rubber backed bathroom rugs, that won’t slide and allow both mommy and baby to find some traction. “All good!” I say returning to the barn, and grabbing Summer’s halter. Darling Husband picks up baby, and off we head to the house. We lay baby down on a rug, and bring momma over beside him.
They chill for a few minutes and baby gets up and attempts to suckle again. Summer pushes him away with her hind leg again. I’m getting really worried. I’m not concerned that she’s rejecting him, because she is being very gentle, but I’m beginning to worry her milk isn’t in yet. It’s Easter morning and the last thing I want to do is call a vet. I know the clock is ticking for this baby to suckle and get that all important colostrum in it’s system. Our neighbors have goats in milk though. I send them a text. They haven’t left for church and they have this morning’s milk that they will share with us. I run over to get some, and we attempt to bottle feed the little guy. He drinks a little and perks up a bit, but when he attempts to stand he seems weaker than when I first found him.
I call the vet who just the day before was searching for a nurse mare for one of her thoroughbred foals. “I’m so sorry to call you on Easter Sunday!” I blurt out when she answers and immediately go into details of the situation so far. She gives us instructions not to feed milk replacer and continue with the goat milk if possible, and come out around 10:00 am to pick up Equidone which will help bring on Summer’s milk supply. By this time Offspring is up, and its time to give him the Easter experience. Our plan was to head to church, but we don’t feel safe leaving baby alone for a few hours. Darling Husband and I switch out watching baby and celebrating with Jasper.
As Jasper is digging through his Easter basket, I discover the dogs have been pilfering the chocolate from the eggs in the back yard. They’ve gone through almost a dozen. Thankfully I have extra candy, so while Jasper is distracted with his basket, I’m hunting all of the eggs I hid first thing this morning, and refilling candy the dogs managed to steal. I threaten dogs within an inch of their life, and shove them all inside the house. Jasper and I go out to find eggs. Darling Husband and I switch out. Finally the color is starting to return to the foal’s gums. He stands up shakily again and makes for momma. She stays still and lets him have a short suckle. We’re not sure if he got anything, but it looks more hopeful.
By noon, the sun is out in full force, and we decide momma and baby would be better off in the front yard. Baby has managed to suckle twice, and seems well enough. Momma has had her first dose of Equidone. She’s much happier to be grazing in the front yard, than standing on the rugs in our laundry room. By four, the sun seems to have baked some life into the baby who is up and about more and has managed to suckle a few more times. We decide its safe to go over to an Easter cookout at the neighbors house and walk over periodically to check on the pair.
By the end of the day, baby is doing much better and we feel relatively certain he’ll make it through the night. I set my alarm to check on him several times through the night just in case. By Monday morning baby is still doing well and running along behind momma. The Equidone seems to be working its magic. The vet was already scheduled to come do dentals, coggins tests, and vaccination for all of the horses on Tuesday and she gives us a thumbs up on baby’s situation.
A week in, baby and momma are doing great. Momma is super protective and baby is super inquisitive which makes for a bad combination since he really seems to like people. Momma gives us the death stare when we are lavishing him with attention and occasionally shows us her rear to let us know she isn’t above kicking the snot out of us for messing with her kid. Baby is also enjoying the Offspring’s toys scattered about the yard like the water table and kicking/biting the soccer ball. Baby is also loving hanging out in the shade under the trampoline where momma can’t get him. I’m pretty sure he inherited his sire’s mischievous streak because he loves to dart under there and ignore his mum when she calls for him! We have yet to name the little one, but I’m sure Easter wouldn’t be the worst name in the world.