Astound

Returning guest blogger Kathleen Delaney has a very

special story to tell about a four-legged friend.

It was all my idea. I’d been thinking about it for some time, and finally made up my mind.

“Don’t we have enough horses?” my husband asked.

“Can you ride a horse who’s going to have a baby?” asked eleven year old Kris, eyeing her reliable but plain mare with interest.

“My pony doesn’t want one,” seven year old Laura stated emphatically from her usual perch atop her long suffering but elderly friend.

Neither of them had a thing to worry about. I had picked my candidate for motherhood, my  half Arabian mare, Sheilani.

I’d found her, a starving two year old, and brought her home to exclamations of dismay from my husband, and clucks of sympathy from my friends. “You’ll be lucky if she’s ever strong enough to ride,” they had said, “and, of course, she’ll never make a show horse.” It’s wonderful what faith, food, and hard work can accomplish. Five years later, our family room wall was filled with Sheilani’s championship ribbons, and it was time to try something new. Something I had dreamed about for years. My very own foal. Well, partly mine. I didn’t think Sheilani would mind sharing.

Picking the father was serious business. This baby was to be beautiful, athletic, smart, willing, the perfect horse. Sheilani’s pedigree was studied, as were those of many famous champions. How were they bred? Could we utilize some of those blood lines? This was before the days of transported semen, so distance and, of course, stud fees were also factors. Finally I found a young stallion with perfect blood lines, and only a few miles from home. He was starting his show career and had no sons or daughters to examine, but it seemed worth the risk. His owner was delighted with my mare, and the match was made.

I thought eleven months would never pass, but they were finally up. Each night I sat in the barn aisle, waiting, wrapped in an old quilt, my well read book on foaling mares beside me, and each morning greeted the dawn without a baby. This morning I was about to give up, go into the house and have a cup of coffee before I started the ritual breakfast, lunch box, hurry or you’ll miss the school bus routine, when I heard a noise. A banging noise. What on earth? I got up and quietly crept over to the stall and looked in. My lovely mare was pushed up against the wall, trying to rub through it. She stopped, looked at her side, pawed the straw, and rubbed again. Wet patches showed behind her ears and along her flanks. It was time. Should I get the family, find my book, call the vet?  Instead I stood, transfixed. The mare started to move, first in a large circle, then smaller, and smaller, until finally her knees buckled. She groaned as she slowly went down on her side. A trickling noise sounded as her water broke. She stiffened, her sides contracted and there was the long awaited small white bubble. Another contraction, the bubble grew. A tiny hoof appeared, but seemed to disappear again as the mare took a breath. A stronger contraction, and the bubble was large. One hoof, two, and a nose. I was breathing with her, and could feel my hands tighten on the bars of the stall door as the mare strained. A head, ears, a neck were visible under the white membrane. The tongue was out. Should it be? Was it dead? Should I go in? One more huge push, and the rest of the foal was propelled out onto the straw. It lay there for what seemed an eternity, then tried to move. Legs struggled, a head went up, but the white membrane didn’t break. I rolled the door back, praying I was doing the right thing, pulled at the tough sack until it broke, peeled it off, and backed away. The foal shook it’s head, as though amazed at this strange new place it found itself, then tried a nicker. The mare answered, soft and low, her head turned to examine this thing she had produced.  The foal moved, pushing it’s long, unmanageable legs out in front of it. The back legs appeared as it tried to scoot closer to it’s mother. I crawled behind it.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” asked a sleepy voice from the stall door.

I lifted a back leg to verify what I had already seen, and answered. “We have a boy.”

“Cool,” said one of my sons.

“I wanted a girl,” said Kris.

“Why is it so wet?” asked Laura.

“Are you going to make coffee?” tentatively offered my husband.

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