Foaled March 27, 2007 Indiana
Dark Bay or Brown Mare
Out of Here's Hogan, By Rhoadseo
Bold Ruler/Roman lineage
10 Starts, 2 Seconds, 1 Third
Lifetime Earnings $6,995
This sweet, gentle, loving mare, came into the rescue November 5, 2018, already in foal. Bailed immediately, she soon recovered her health, weight, filled out (altho no matter how we tried, it was a monumental challenge to keep her long flowing mane untangled). High in the pasture hierarchy, she was not particularly gracious as her pregnancy progressed, a right little pig about hoarding her food and even protective of the automatic waterer. She had the best room in the house, the end stall which opened into a small dry lot with a covered portico, and from there into a slightly larger pasture. I rather think she enjoyed that luxury suite and she had certainly earned it. And every day was one day closer to the arrival of her new baby ...
Cherokee gave birth, 2.5 months earlier than we expected. The advent of the auction, transport to the killpen, coming into the rescue ill and underweight apparently threw off the initial foal check. But everyone thought we were on schedule, thought there was time to prepare. In typical Cherokee fashion, she produced an absolutely gorgeous baby, so like herself, sassy, strong, sweet and with a shining light that came from the heart. No mother could have asked for a healthier, happier baby. She stood firm and strong quickly, suckled with ease, loved being handled and adored. As for Cherokee, she was everything one could hope for in a new mother, quiet, content, protective, but allowing of hands on with the filly from the moment she foaled. She was a good mother, a great producer, patient with the filly & her antics, and her eyes just seemed to sparkle from the moment that baby dropped, as tho the love shone thru all the tiny spaces it could, and she seemed to know that she had done an amazing job ... and graciously accepted treats and adoration with the regal bearing passed down thru the generations of Thoroughbreds who had come before her.
Sometime in the night, on 5-18-2019, it would appear that, protective as always, Cherokee, perceiving a threat to her filly, kicked at a horse in the nearby pasture, hit a fence post by mischance, and shattered her leg.
Despite what must have been excruciating pain, she was standing calmly nursing her baby when morning came and volunteers started arriving at the barn. The vet was called immediately, hoping against hope that somehow this could be salvaged, fixed, repaired.
The severity of the break, her fetlock and pastern virtually pulverized, made it impossible to treat, no hope of recovery. With broken hearts for this mare who had come so far, overcome such immense odds, and given us such a miraculous gift, Cherokee was humanely euthanized. Wings for your hooves to once again race the wind.
Orphaned foals are tricky, survival depends on fast response, they must be kept hydrated, maintain the nutrition necessary for survival. While the filly had been fortunate to have gotten the life-giving colostrum, and was past the initial stage so dangerous with most foals orphaned or rejected at birth, this was a challenge of a different kind. Newly bereft of her mother, only 2 weeks old to the day, not yet eating or drinking on her own and completely dependent on mother's milk, in soaring temperatures anticipated in the upper 90s, this little girl had to learn (and quickly) to drink, from a bottle or bucket, and accept milk replacer (which according to this little one tastes nothing like Momma or mare's milk in general). A roughly 24 hour window to manage all this. That is a LOT to ask of a baby who is just coming to the realization that her mother left and is not returning.
Hand-raising vs Nurse-mare
Controversial topic, hand raising a foal is fun despite the hard work, intense labor, and 24/7 commitment. But it has drawbacks, that commitment of time has to be available, feedings every 2-3 hours or more often, there can be no exceptions. The temptation to make a "pet" of the foal MUST be avoided (so very difficult, when the baby is stressed, searching for its mother, afraid to sleep, uncertain about eating, refusing comfort).
Even if all that can be managed, and a suitable companion provided, the best plan in the world still leads to a horse that is not properly socialized without their mother to teach them what no human can, and studies show they never learn a normal human/horse perception or boundaries. That is not to say that they don't make wonderful and useful horses with appropriate training and handling, simply they are "different". And with those differences, come certain issues and challenges that follow them throughout their lives.
The other side of this sensitive subject is that typically nursemares have foals, and bc of the nature of the process they are usually removed from the mare and hand raised themselves in order for the mare to raise the new orphan. They are often perceived as "throw away" babies, especially when stacked up against high dollar Performance horses, Racing prospects, Sport horse or Show horse candidates.
But there is no more favorable upbringing for an orphan than using a nurse mare. And it's cost effective, the price equals out to be roughly equivalent the lease of a nursemare vs the cost of the specialty items used in hand raising, from milk replacer to increased vet care.
In a desperate attempt to explore all possible options, we reached out to everyone we could think of. Friends, contacts, FB friends, vets, farriers, etc. In the end, the one common theme was Coldspring. Alison contacted them, and after much discussion, arrangements were made to bring in one of their mares the very next morning.
Nurse mares are not just mares that have recently lost a foal, nor are they simply mares who have recently had a baby that they can be separated from to take over the care of an orphan. These are mares with a history as broodmares, whose dispositions must meet certain criteria, who have to be proven and known to have strong maternal instincts, calm, stoic, gentle personalities, superior milk producers, easy loaders and good travelers, have health records showing they are capable of the hormone replacement therapy that is used to ethically promote their ability to care for these orphans without creating other babies who then suffer ... and more. This is a MUCH better process than was available years ago.
The majority of these mares are rescue horses or retired broodmares, that meet all the criteria set above and more. Bronwyn and her team transport the mare in, provide expressed mare's milk, work with the baby to get it drinking, are experienced with the process of achieving acceptance from both nursemare and foal as a newly bonded Momma & baby pairing. The mare is leased until the foal is weaned and no longer needed, and they return to collect her. Soup to nuts, they hold your hand thru the total experience.
Lucky for Laci & us, they have a 100% success rate this year, 23 pairings, and May & Laci were not the exception to that record. Prayers answered ... SUCCESS!! ... Thank you May & the Coldsprings team ... Miracles DO happen ♥♥♥♥
"...we hope each soul will find
another soul to love
Let this be our prayer
just like every child
Needs to find a place,
guide us with your grace
give us faith so we'll be safe..."
~ Celine Dion & Josh Groban
Monday morning, 9am ... in obvious signs of distress, still calling for Momma, her breathing somewhat rapid, shallow, & slightly more labored than normal, still unwilling to drink milk replacer from bottle or bucket, you could see the toll separation and lack of hydration were beginning to take on this baby. With hours left to determine whether she & the nursemare would accept each other or we would be taking her on a short trip to the clinic to be tube fed and rehydrated by the vet until she could learn to function without her mother, we were all on pins & needles, praying for a miracle. Coldsprings arrived, as scheduled, unloading a bay mare, an ex show horse, been there done that, proven mother, exceptional nursmare. Who, already stressed out by the cacophony of exotic critters she had just been trailered past (from rheas and emus, to roos and llamas) took one look at the zebras in the pasture in front of the barn, heard the puppies mock fighting in the stall inside, and decided that MAYBE she should be concerned.
One of the tricks to making a quick and conclusive bonding is to put the mare in a situation conducive to foaling under normal circumstances. The hormones and other techniques employed only work on a physical level, it requires the simulation of an environment in which the mare feels comfortable and secure enough to give birth to establish that "this" baby is "hers", to kick in the emotional element of maternal instincts and have the mare choose to protect and nurture the orphan.
So once unloaded off the trailer, they usually give a brief period of half an hour or so for the mare to see her new space and introduce the foal. She was placed in a stall, things were quieted as much as possible, puppies relocated, some choice hay given, etc. They had also brought expressed mare's milk, so efforts were made to coax the baby with the real thing, and little by little, progress was made. Far from the let me nibble the nipple of the bottle, play with the replacer in the bucket, the filly started to drink the expressed milk, slowly at first then with more confidence, tho you could still see her confusion. It mihght have tasted "real" but there were elements missing in the lack of tactile comfort, the touch and feel of the warm body of her momma still missing. In the stall, May slowly settled, and started to relax. A nibble of hay here & there, the blowing and pacing slowly eased as she adjusted to the sounds and smells around her and realized that despite the alien nature of so much around her, nothing would hurt her there. A few time honored tricks were employed, from transfer of scent from the new baby to the mare, a dab of vicks to mute the smells, barn fans turned on to muffle the foreign noises, etc.
The vet was brought in on standby, just as a precaution. May was given a light short acting mild sedative, just enough to unfocus her reaction to the little remaining stress, and the filly was walked down the shedrow to her stall. Sure enough, THIS was something the filly understood, the big solid body of a mare was different but comforting, the smell of her warm milk and the filly was more than willing to suckle, it must have seemed like ambrosia. Her little broom tail worked at record rate like a crank winding up a clockwork toy, the mare stood stoic thru it, and almost immediately started to snuffle the baby, lip, lick, nuzzle her. Which promptly earned her a sassy response as the filly butted her nose with her butt in little bucks and kicks. May almost smiled, as tho she expected no different, but made a mental note of it for later reference.
Within the space of 30-40 minutes we watched as May made that baby her own, as the filly slowly decompressed until with a partly full belly she finally flopped into the hay in the corner, a momentary reprieve after more than 24 hours of separation, anxiety, hunger and thirst. She only stayed down for a few moments, as tho propelled to bounce back up. The "test", remove the foal from the stall and see if the mare has claimed her. And WOW, it was certainly clear to see that May was having none of it, now "HER" baby, and she wasn't going to let her out of her sight. I am quite certain that she didn't think much of the job we had been doing with the filly, and that she had (and has) no intention of allowing US human barn buffoons to continue to mess up what she views as a simple job, especially as it affect HER baby.
Prayers answered ... SUCCESS!! ... Thank you May & the Coldsprings team ... Miracles DO happen ♥♥♥♥
"Words are the source of all power. And names are more than just a collection of letters" ~ Rick Riordan