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<em>Journal</em>

The Rundown: Mare-a-thon

Broodmare owners deserve a nod of respect and a cup of coffee raised in salute.

By Tara Matsler
The American Quarter Horse Journal
April 17, 2014

mare and foal in yellow flowers

Want to see your 2014 foal featured in the Journal's "Barn Babies" pages? Send your photos to bnewell@aqha.org or post them on AQHA’s Facebook page for everyone to see; be sure to include the names of both the dam and sire. (Credit: Journal)

“Blessed Are the Broodmares.” So was titled one of my favorite pieces of literature from my early days of horsey infatuation. 

The broodmare-care tome actually belonged to my parents and served as their bible for healthy conception-to-delivery practices of the equine nature. I couldn’t, and still can’t, help but put my hands on anything related to horses, even if it deals largely in placentas and amniotic fluid.

Yet anymore, I wonder if it’s not just the broodmares who deserve blessing, but maybe their human midwifes merit a toast, as well. 

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to foaling. Option A: Let nature take its course the same way it has for thousands of years. Option B: Consider the time, money and emotion one has poured into producing that foal … and be there for every moment of parturition to ensure nothing is amiss.  

Now, I have relatives from both sides of the table, and I see value to each argument. However, I was raised in accordance with Option B, and it’s to folks like these, who risk sleep and sanity, that I tip my hat and raise my cup of caffeine in a toast. 

Consider my Washingtonian friend, a horsewoman whose husband and fellow equine enthusiast has been on a ship in Alaska for the past two months. While that seems all fine and dandy, the grass is growing and there are horses to be ridden, stalls to be cleaned and a mare who refuses to foal. Just the other night, three times my friend stirred from bed for a nocturnal mare check and, alas, no foal has shown its soft, fuzzy head. 

I feel her pain. My first foaling experience – or the first one I was old enough to recall – came when I was 9. All night, my family waited on our broodmare to bring her little bundle of joy into this world. We were certain it would be that night: Her udder was bagged up, her teats waxed over, her tail-head was sunken, her massive belly had rotated, she paced, she sweated. And we kept our distance. In the house, we monitored the foaling camera, only waking to check on “Sugari” every other hour. 

As it would happen, it wasn’t until the next evening – when we were exhausted by the mare-a-thon and starving for a good, hot meal – that she foaled while we were out to dinner. 

And it should come as no surprise that a year later, that same mare pulled a similar trick, birthing her foal in a one-hour time slot between stall checks. By the next time my mom took a look around the stall, all Mom found was a placenta, some soiled straw and a wild-man of a colt running around outside with his wily mother.  

As your foal matures, mother's milk might not be enough to help him achieve optimal growth. Learn more about foal nutrition in the free digital edition of the April American Quarter Horse Journal.

Since then, my family has mastered the art of the foal-cam. You see, it’s our belief that concern should come when you hear the waterfall of water breaking and cascading over straw. A sound such as this can bring a grown man out of a deep sleep much faster than hearing a teenager sneaking in the door two hours past curfew.  

I have a friend in Texas who has foaling down to a science. With multiple foals on the way every year, she has plenty of experience. But when her final foal of the season came into the world this spring, the first thing this wizened horsewoman did was treat herself to a hard-earned margarita. Talk about a beverage well worth the wait! 

So, friend, if you’re feeling the pain of sleepless nights thanks to a dam dodging her due-date, dab some concealer over those dark circles under your eyes, fill your mug with a hot cup of Joe and trudge on. It's all worth the wait. Your hopes and dreams are riding on that little package and the world is at your fingertips.

And we want to meet the little one you’ve been waiting on! Share your 2014 foal photos with us for the “Barn Babies” pages in the spring and summer issues of The American Quarter Horse Journal (send photos to bnewell@aqha.org or post them on AQHA’s Facebook page for everyone to see; be sure to include the names of both the dam and sire). This is your chance to brag on your baby and sport a badge that bears witness to those sleepless nights that you paid for dearly. 

But you’d do it all over again, wouldn’t you? 

Enjoy more horse-showing quips, quotes and anecdotes from AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler by visiting The Rundown archives at www.aqha.com/therundown.