Last weeks topic was happiness. While I have had so many happy memories, not to mention having had an overall happy life, these few hours stand out. I’ll let the story tell the rest.
A piece of straw stuck into my neck as I tried to get comfortable. The bed was hard and unyielding, but I'd done my best to make a cosy nest, and since the weather had taken a turn for the worse I was bundled up to my ears. This was my third night on watch and I was hoping it would be my last. I'd already checked Dora's milk umpteen times that day and was certain I'd seen a slight change. I lay there watching her as I tried to read my book; she seemed restless, like she was trying to get comfortable, stirring the butterflies in my already churning stomach. Throwing back the blankets, I got out of bed to check her milk yet again, but there was nothing obvious. I stood close to her, feeling her pendulous abdomen for signs of life - a heavy sigh escaped her and I felt myself relax a bit. Glancing up at the clock on the wall, I saw it was 9:30pm and almost time for lights out, so I made a final dash to the house.
Stepping back into the barn I was relived to see Dora still standing - I hadn't missed anything. After wrapping her tail "just in case", I flipped off the lights and made my way to the bed. I lay there watching her, struggling to force down the feelings of excitement that nearly overcame me - I wouldn't get any sleep at all if I got too wound up, but I'd been anticipating this event for much of my life. Just as I started to doze off I heard a quiet rustle as she lied down in the deep straw. My eyes flew open as I tried to discern if she was just asleep or if the moment was finally upon us. She lay there grunting for a moment and then laid her head down in the straw. My heart pounding, I slipped out of bed and crouched beside her, sliding my hand carefully down her haunch. As I sat there in the dim light I heard a soft whoosh - her water had broken. This was it. I put aside my excitement and got ready for action.
Quietly making my way over to the pile of supplies, I put on a waist pouch filled with the essentials and used the intercom to call back to the house. I crept back to sit behind Dora and she lifted her head giving me a soft, welcoming nicker. With her tail pulled to the side, I could see a balloon of silvery grey material starting to protrude and a foot soon appeared, still wrapped in its slippery wrapping. I carefully slid my hand inside her to check for the other foot. It was right where it was supposed to be - good - no need to call in the vet yet. A few more pushes and I could see a nose. On the next push the rest of the head appeared. She rested for a moment and then with a great heave, he was here.
I looked over my shoulders and saw Carm standing there - the sparkle of tears in both of our eyes reflected the wonder of what had just happened.
I quickly broke open the sac and cleared his nose so he could take his first breath - right in my lap - I gulped back the rise of emotion and got back to work. Listening to his soft, rhythmic breaths I pulled the amniotic sac back and started rubbing him dry. A gnawing question burned in my mind - colt or filly - so I slipped my hand underneath him and discerned that it was a boy. I felt a flash of disappointment - I had been hoping for a filly - but the feeling quickly passed. Dora rested on her straw bed, gaining the strength to expel the last of the pregnancy. After a few minutes, she struggled to her feet and the afterbirth slipped from her body. I sighed with relief - all had gone well.
She turned to us, me on the floor with her new foal on my lap, and helped me dry him off. Once that was done, I started the first phase of imprinting him, a lengthy procedure to ready him for a life with humans. I started by touching him everywhere, until he was relaxed with each touch. Then, I gently moved his head and legs continuing until there was no resistance. I finished by rubbing a crinkly plastic bag over his body and around his legs and head. After the last plastic bag was ruffled over his head, I clambered to my feet to give the mare and foal a chance to bond.
Caught in the spell of the miracle of life, Carm and I held hands while watching the foal scramble to take his important first steps. We held our breath each time he tottered on his unsteady legs and groaned when he crashed back to the floor. It was impossible to hold back and soon we were cushioning his falls and helping him to balance against us. He soon got the hang of it and started searching for his first milk. Dora nudged him into place, nickering encouragement as he searched her belly for the nectar of life. As he suckled, I could feel her pleasure at having completed such a grand feat.
Once he had figured out his feet, and gotten his fill of milk, I went back to the house to change, but didn't linger there. Back at the barn, where all my hopes and dreams lie in a pile of straw, I sat down beside the sleeping foal, caressing his soft fur, marvelling in the perfect form. I got up and wrapped my arms around Dora's neck, burying my face in her plush fur, and thanked her for the gift. I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears.
For as long as I could remember I had the dream of breeding Norwegian Fjord horses. It was a fantasy that I never believed would be possible, one that I was sure would require the funding of 649. Then I met Pat Wolfe and sat in the sleigh behind his two geldings with their butter coloured haunches and fancy black stripe. My eye could not get enough of them, and moved me to increase my efforts to make my dream come true. Two years later, after searching high and low for Canadian breeders, I had my mare, Dora. The first step of my dream had come true. And with that exquisite, wobbly legged colt, I was well on my way to living the life that I had desired.