Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mares, Foals, And Dodging The Runs

One of the horses Dennis had bred was Mainland Banner. It was a 4 year old mare when it won the New Zealand Cup (NZ's version of the Kentucky Derby). This was huge deal because usually stallions win and usually they are older horses.

One of the days, Dennis took me along when he took a horse to the Nevele R Stud. This is where Mainland Banner's sire, Christian Cullen, lives. The architecture is pretty neat. The same stone used on the Christchurch Cathedral was used at the stud. I also learned that each stallion has a particular person that handles it and that they have a particular order that they are taken out to the pasture and a particular order they are taken back to the stables.

Dennis, Diane, and I had spent cup day pretending to place bets using the paper. I was taught how to read different horse stats. A few days after cup day, I was taken to the races. Not only did I get to sit in the member's box, we also got to go down to the stables. It was so neat! The current hot racer is Dexter Dunn. He passed by us in the stables. I spotted a place in the stables labeled "horse urinal". I had no idea that if you take a horse to a spot that is soft underfoot and whistled, it would inspire the horse to pee.

Dennis chooses to get his foals used to a harness pretty early. So on many days, we'd bring in various foals to get them familiar with a harness. I got a fair bit of training early on too. It became my job to retrieve the mares and their foals. This is Sandy and her son Sam.

Sam and I got on well. He would nuzzle my armpit (I'm assuming looking for milk) and nibble my hand. The backstrap was put over his rump to help us pull him forward. He was pretty smart, so you never had to pull much. Just a little tug so he understood that he needed to move forward.
Not pictured is the day that I was in the box with Percy while his mum was being checked by the vet. I learned that when a mare is in heat, her foal can get the runs. Well..... I swear that Percy was a meter from the wall, but there was force behind his output. I told Dennis and the vet that I'd like to get out of the box soon since the foal had gotten mess on his tail and was swinging it around. I had some difficulty keeping out of the line of fire since I was holding the twitch (a bit of rope wrapped on the mare's upper lip to keep her calm while the vet did his work) and I couldn't go very far. Dennis and the vet called me a "Townie", but I'm sure no one would have wanted to be in that box. 

Back out in the paddocks, I wondered out loud about how I was sure that beavers didn't live in New Zealand. Apparently this is the work of horses. Some of the posts were tastier than others.

While we were training the foals, we also were keeping an eye on the remaining pregnant mares, such as Gretna. Dennis attached an alarm to the bottom of the pregnant mare's harness so that when they lay on their side, which usually occurs when they are giving birth, we'd hear about it in the house. 

She was checked on daily, but like clockwork, it was 4AM when she gave birth. Dennis gave Grenta a little help and pulled George out. His head looked like it was below his legs and we had to be sure he wasn't twisted up. As it turns out, his head was just to the side of his legs. Gretna spent an age licking him. 


Alicia said...

So many horse-y adventures! I spent quite a bit of time around horses in my day and never heard of the whistle-to-pee thing. Interesting!

Anonymous said...

I'm interested to see that the horses are not covered. When I lived on the horse farm, they were always sure to cover them with a horse blanket at night. I wonder if Dennis would have a take on that?

Alina Sayre said...

Wow, cool! You're going to be my new source when I need to do book research on horses!

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