(Missy last summer. She had a secret!)
Saturday morning, May 24, 2008 at around 2am, our quarter horse mare, now 20 years old, gave birth to a pretty Azteca filly we named Neenah.
(Neenah - about 6 hours old)
Missy has been in our family since she was 7 years old. She has always been a sweet, steadfast and compliant horse. She had one foal about nine years ago. Her son, Danny, is a pretty quarter horse, and he is a bit bent that this new little creature has claimed his mother’s complete adoration.
(Diamond Dan! Missy first born, now 9 years old. He's a tank of a horse.)
Neenah arrived on one of the few sunny days we’ve experienced this year and even though she’s only a day old, the story of how she came to be is an unusual one.
It started with an unexpected phone call from Dennis and Ginger Vosburg, owners of Rainey Valley Farm (http://www.raineyvalleyfarm.com )
I was resting after a long day of trimming horses, the phone rang and a wrestling match with the recliner ensued. Dennis Vosburg briefly described the condition that their mare had found herself in after a long battle with a bone infection in her right fore leg caused by a small puncture wound. Their mare, Zamora, was a beautiful Lusitano imported from Brazil.
The Vosburgs took her to the Oregon State University Equine Medical Center. It took months and massive doses of antibiotics to cure the infection, however, during that time, her opposite foreleg had been encumbered with the extra weight her infected leg could not support. Zamora is a large mare and had been in foal all the while to the Vosburg’s beautiful Lusitano Stallion, Saphiro.
(Shaphiro, the sire to Z's foal. He's very regal.)
So even though the wound to her right leg eventually healed, severe mechanical founder set in to her other front hoof. The race horse, Barbaro was afflicted with the identical calamity and at around the same time. After hearing reports about his condition, I thought to myself, if he survives what they are doing to him, it will be a miracle. Sadly, he didn’t survive.
When Zamora’s problems began, the Vosburgs’s had started building a large barn/arena on their property. Nearly everything in their lives had come to a halt and their attention and finances were redirected toward their attempts to save Zamora’s life and the life of her foal.
By the time Dennis contacted me, their financial commitment was topping out at $25,000. He explained that the last option suggested to them was to put Zamora down and perform a C-section for the foal, whose odds of making it, especially after the large doses of antibiotics Zamora had received, were not favorable, but worth a try.
After hearing Dennis out, we made an appointment. I was excited at the prospect of saving this mare’s life when “experts” in their field were not doing well with the race horse worth millions.
My excitement didn't last however, as a short time later, a second call from Dennis came. He needed to cancel our appointment due to a new development. Zamora’s coffin bone had penetrated the sole and they were told that was the end. But giving up isn’t in my nature, nor I soon discovered, were the Vosburgs ready to give up, especially after having come this far.
I turned into the Vosburg’s driveway on a dreary day and slowly passed by the building site for their new equine facility. Tall wooden posts supporting nothing pointed toward the cloudy sky, and the heavy equipment had long been parked. I didn’t allow myself to believe this was a sign of what was to come.
Within minutes of meeting me, Zamora decided that I was not one to be trusted. I figured working with her hooves wasn’t going be a completely painless process -- for me. My first visit involved evaluating her hoof, and watching the careful treatment and bandaging procedure that Dennis and Ginger had been performing on their mare’s hoof on nearly a daily basis for months.
(Zamora, Dennis and Ginger. Me, keeping my distance. Z did not like me much. Probably because I referred to her as "Z.")
It became clear that Zamora would have liked to send me into the rafters, but she was patient with Dennis and Ginger - as patient as this spunky mare could be. And that, I felt, is what had kept her alive this long, pure irrepressible spunk! As well as the baby she was carrying inside her. A mare’s will to protect her foal is stronger than just about anything.
On one of my following visits, we worked with their veterinarian to resection a portion of Zamora’s hoofwall below an area of prolapsed coronary band to relieve the pressure on her soft tissue which was oozing over her hoofwall. Then she was completely sedated so all her hooves could receive a quick and dirty, but desperately needed trim and so I could survive the procedure.
(Zamora's hoof prior to the resection. )
That procedure, along with the Vosburg’s patient ministrations, is what saved Zamora. She was one tough mare to endure months of stall rest, mega-doses of antiboitics, pregnancy and finally birth. Her first born - beautiful buckskin filly, was every bit as tenacious as her mother.
(The miracle filly - Ciarra R)
Zamora survived her long ordeal and is now raising her second foal. But during our visits, I got to know the two stallions, who were in the same barn with Zamora and had been diligently watching over her and the humans who tended her so compassionately. Navarano was their recently acquired stallion – a black Andalusion beauty!
(Neenah's sire - Navarano. He's a fancy boy)
On one of my last visits, when we were all feeling some relief about Zamora’s condition, and after she had just bit me on my arm (which left one hell of a bruise, but was her way of saying thanks, I’m sure.) Dennis announced that he had been testing Navarano’s semen and was excited to discover that they had nothing to worry about in the “potency” department!
But there he was with a few extra vials of this extraordinary stallion’s semen and no uterus handy to put it in. A smile passed between Dennis and Ginger and they both looked at me and asked if I had a mare at home who might be in season.
Well, one coincidence led to another and Missy was artificially inseminated. What I didn’t know at the time was that a crossing a Quarter Horse with an Andalusion resulted with an Azteca. Now I had some research to do!
At her first pregnancy check, however, we learned that the AI did not take. I was disappointed, but realistically we didn’t need yet another horse. Our pasture was filled with rescues!
Months passed and although it was a long cold, rainy, muddy winter and most of my horses dropped much of their summertime fat, Missy didn’t. Her belly was getting larger every month until finally my suspicious nature got the best of me and I wondered if she might actually be pregnant after all.
So about six weeks ago, a second check was done and Missy was in-foal! THAT was an exciting moment!
Even though we didn’t have a long wait for her baby, the waiting was still tough. Thank you Dennis and Ginger, and Zamora, and Navarano and especially Missy!
Only a few hours old and she already knows rocks are good for the feet!
Missy and Neenah!
(That predator's name is Lucy.)