When one talks about March madness, usually the first thought is college basketball finals, but my reference to this term has nothing to do with squeaky shoes on a polished floor and balls being tossed through a hanging net.
March typically is thought of as the end of winter transforming into spring. All one has to do is listen; the quiet winter days begin to fill with sounds of migrating birds flying north overhead, the jack hammer sound of returning woodpeckers, and the familiar song of the much awaited Robin red-breast! Neighbors are out of their houses spending time in their yards and becoming re-acquainted after semi-hibernation since November. March at a horse farm is a whole other story!
Following a mild winter, March felt like a yo-yo; taking horse blankets off because we hit the high 70 degrees and then putting them back on again at night because it was going to too cold for the horses that hadn’t grown much of a winter coat. This occurred several times through out the month; and with as many horses as we take care of it can take up quiet a bit of one’s time.
The month of March is an interesting time when involved in breeding and showing horses. It’s a time of reward for dedicated time and hard work as the winter show circuits begin to wrap up and a time of hope as we observe the growing bellies of the soon moms-to-be.
Hope; a powerful word that we take for granted. Hope is about what could be, our dreams. What greater inspiration of hope than a new life? Again, something we take for granted. We had bred eight mares last year with five actually becoming pregnant. So many factors come into play when trying to breed horses, trust me it is not easy nor inexpensive! Even with the best of care, it is always a gamble. The past two breeding season we had been fortunate indeed, all the mares we bred became pregnant and carried to term. Not so lucky this time. Our oldest mare who has produced many outstanding off-spring miscarried her baby before Christmas. The only mare bred to the farm’s foundation stallion this go round. We were all sad. Still hope remained.
Since the temperatures were playing ping pong, we removed blankets and put them back on, this giving us up close observation as we continued to lengthen belly straps to fit around the mom’s bulges. However I began to notice some of the straps didn’t require lengthening when I put blankets back on. There is always hope until the vet states otherwise. Unfortunately, when the vet re-examined one of our pretty momma’s she had re-absorbed and won’t be giving us one of her lovely babies this spring. We are all disappointed.
Then the morning I received a text from one of our hands telling me that one of our broodmares was having a difficult time keeping her balance as she walked. I contacted my boss, who was still out of town horse showing, and then headed out to the farm. As I drove in I saw her laying down flat in her turn out area with her friend standing near by. I went out to check on her. She was still alive but having a difficult time getting back up. Eventually she was able to stand with our help but not steady and could only walk in a right hand circle backwards. According to my boss and the vet I gave her some pain meds, but we were limited to our options because she was pregnant. She continued to eat hay that we placed near her, which is always a hopeful sign.
She seemed to get worse, unable to get up. The decision was made to add a medicine that we were unsure how it would effect the baby at this late time, (she’s due the middle of May) but if it meant saving the mare my boss felt it necessary to do. Thankfully by the third day my boss had returned home. The mare had times where she seemed better; eating and drinking, but then was lying flat on her one side and couldn’t get her legs under her to get up. We called the vet fearing the worst. In a final attempt to save her she was given fluids right there in her turn out pen. The vet suggested we roll her over, that perhaps the legs she had been laying on were asleep since she had been down for so long. Glory be after the fluids and rolling her over she was able to get up! Elation! Though she still was off balance she could now slowly walk forward and made her way to the hay pile.
Over the next few days we discovered she had an illness, that is treatable so we slowly weaned her off the pain meds and now she is being treated with the antibiotic she needs. Each day she looks better! We discovered that she is no longer pregnant and again that makes us sad but we are so happy she is still with us and going to get well. So we’ve gone from having bred eight mares this year to expecting two. The first one should appear in May and the other not until July.
It’s a very emotional roller-coaster ride when you have and raise horses. For every high there is a low; each disappointment is matched with a reason to smile; and then I go and handle our youngsters, watching them grow and I know there is always, always hope!