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April 3, 2012: Mare Watch Begins

This morning Dr. Wellington appeared for our pre-scheduled 10 a.m. appointment. The sun was shining brightly—Pete, and I stood in the sun as Dr. Wellington examined Signy, who stood quietly by the hitching rack, eating her mid-morning hay.

As I watched her, it occurred to me that she is a different horse than she was a little less than a year ago. Then, she was a pasture broodmare who was rather indifferent about being handled. Now, she’s a paddock broodmare who enjoys

Dr. Wellinggton with Signy
Dr. Wellington with Signy

human attention. I recently told her it’s been a trade-off—she lost the vast acreage she used to have, but in the process gained two doting owners. Both Pete and I now love her dearly. She’s very steady on her feet, and has a wry sense of humor.

Dr. Wellington moves slowly, and thinks for a moment about routine questions before answering. His calm demeanor always puts me at ease. His truck brakes overheated right before he turned into our driveway, but he still gave Pete and me his undivided attention during his hour visit.

During our conversation, I went from being in denial to feeling overwhelmed about Signy’s being pregnant. Bringing a foal into the world is an enormous undertaking, and even more so in Alaska. Like most who live up here, we aren’t set up for this. As I said before, the ideal would be to have Signy off by herself, in a lush, green pasture. She’s instead with her herdmates, in a medium-sized paddock.

Dr. Wellington noted that Signy’s udder is not bagging up, and this might be a cause for concern. She also has lumps in this area. If she foals and does not produce colostrum, the foal will die. This is one of the few givens about mares and foals. Hrimfari has to get his antibodies. This here isn’t as simple as going on down to the tack store and picking up a quart of the much-needed nutrient. We’ll have to special order it.

We might also have to order Foal Lac, which is milk replacer.

We next showed Dr Wellington our foaling area. He said that it would be a wise idea to keep Signy separate from Siggi and Tinni, because geldings have been known to savage foals. I would think that Princess Raudi would be the oppressor, but you never know. We aren’t going to take any chances. This evening, we’ll foal-proof the shelter area by putting plywood around the interior and installing a second gate. After, we’ll lay out wheat straw.

We’ll also be doing some horse shuffling in order to accommodate the new arrival.

Yesterday, Pete picked up an enema kit (needs to be administered if the foal fails to produce meconium). And I’ve put the foaling kit together. The weather’s good – it’s been warm during the day, so the snow is melting. And it’s been cold at night, so the pen isn’t a slush pit.

I’m now going to be sticking closer to home and making twice-nightly checks. I’m also going to put together a power point presentation for my animal behavior students, focusing on the fact that with foaling, there are no absolutes.

Next: 117. 4/04/12: Foal Watch II