Horse Stories

 Muscatyr is an Arabian gelding I owned for 13 years. He was an incredibly sweet horse and had a huge personality. I lost him in 2001.

Muscatyr and the Pear Tree

I caught Muscatyr “shaking down” the pear tree in the pecan grove (literally) for pears this a.m. I got curious when I saw him repeatedly back up to a tree and 'bump' it with his butt. I couldn't figure out what he was doing until I went out and discovered pears all over the ground! He was eating them as fast as he could! They are not good pears for eating since they never really get ripe - but Muscatyr thought they were a delicious 'serve yourself treat. I had to be the pear police and shake the tree as hard as I could (getting bonked on the head by falling pears in the process) to confiscate excess pears. (Must have been a curious sight for people driving by.)  The damn tree has never had pears before. After eating a pear the horses look like they have the “hydrophoby” – foaming mouth, etc.  Muscatyr was frantic (“My pears! My pears!”) as I was tossing pears as fast as I could over the fence into the ditch! There are still at least 200 pears on the tree. It is loaded with them so I'll have to continue my 'pear police' duties for at least another week!

More Horse Stories:

Sonnys Mona Lisa+/ - Equine Saint ;)
Where Lisa proves once and for all she's worth way more than $800.

Endurance Ride Stories
Join Muscatyr and me as we learn the ropes of limited distance rides.

What's A Nice Horse Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
Muscatyr, a dressage horse for his first few years, changes careers.

Muscatyr's Colic Surgery
It has a happy ending, but it was touch and go there for awhile.

Not What I Expected
Originally published in Equus Magazine as a "True Tale,"  this is how I got my first horse in -- and out of -- quicksand.

Faxx's Big Spill 
Faxx has a huge misadventure when he first comes to live with us.

My Trip to the 2006 Pinto World Championships


In 2006, my trainer at  the time, Brooke, and I traveled to the Pinto World Championships  - it had been a dream of mine for a long time and I am happy Brooke was able to go with me since I never could have done it by myself!

 I decided to take my two dressage horses to the Pinto World Championship Show in Tulsa , OK , to show in the dressage. Sonnys Mona Lisa+/ is a 17-year-old half Arabian I’ve shown in dressage almost her whole life. Her training has been interrupted frequently by a tendon injury and having two foals. Her last foal was born in June of 2005 and weaned in December. Lisa is still working to get back ‘up to speed.”  Flying Colorz is her coming 6 year old daughter by the Oldenburg stallion, Frohwind. “Fling” as she is called, is coming along nicely and has been scoring in the 60s in recognized dressage competition.

Tulsa will be a 10-12 hour trailer ride. I have never hauled my horses so far for a show. My trainer, Brooke, went with me. I entered Lisa in Training Level 2 and 4 open, and Training 1 Amateur – all the training level classes they offer. Fling is going in First 1 and 3 open (again, the only first level classes they offer) and possibly Second level test 1 open.

 Part one: Getting there

We arrived in one piece with no mishaps, did not get lost, etc. It took us right at 10 hours. The drive was a breeze until we got to OKC -at that point it was HILLY and driving UP and DOWN and trying to maintain speed limit - 70 - was problematic.

 We stopped four times, I think. Three bathroom/gas stops of about 10-15 minutes each and once for lunch about 40 minutes. We really could not unload them - there was concrete everywhere and the roadside stopswere packed with 18 wheelers, etc.  Lisa ate hay the entire way - Fling picked at hers. Neither would really drink, even when I offered what I thought would be the surefire hat trick: beet pulp soaked in water. Mike warned me this probably would happen. They would eat carrots.

 We got to the Expo Center and had a crew of two teenage boys meet us at the barn entrance in a golf cart offering to help us unload. Wow. What service! Turns out they were FFA kids working for tips. They got a $20 to split between them! The girls were never so happy to get off a trailer. They had to stand in the trailer at the Expo Center for nearly an hour while we got their health papers checked, were directed to our stalls, and unloaded our shavings and spread them so we could put them in stalls. Until then, tho, they stayed very cool - it is much drier here, there's a nice breeze blowing and it is quite pleasant.

You cannot even imagine a show facility like this place. Think GreatSouthwest Equestrian Center near Houston times 5 - maybe SIX. Huge barn buildings - maybe 5 or 6. Five show arenas, each larger than the old Astroarena - all air conditioned. Temporary warm up arenas dotting the parking lot, along with round pens for lunging. Upon checking in, I was told there are _1300_ horses here for this show! When I told the woman I was showing in dressage she asked me if I needed the "pattern booklet." No, I told her. I know my patterns. ;)

 The girls were definitely tired and I was most concerned about Lisa. Brooke wrapped her rear legs for the journey, since that's where she gets stiffest. Wegot them settled in with water and feed and we went and ate and came back and stood in line for a round pen to exercise them a little. GETTING to the round pen was a little surrealistic...imagine leading your horse through the parking lot at the Reliant Center - with cars whizzing by you, kids on scooters, kids driving golf carts, forklifts carrying manure containers, dump trucks, etc.  I thought Fling's eyes were going to pop out of her head. We waited about 15 minutes to use a round pen and Fling worked off some of her pent-up energy.

Brooke was with Lisa in another one and I was pleased with the way she looked - I had given her bute the night before the trip - and gave her some bute again before we tucked them in for the night. The Pinto rules allow this, and, in fact, state that basically you can give your horse anything to make it more "comfortable" but nothing to 'enhance performance.' Those two statements seem to contradict each other, but I'm just happy to be able to give her some bute to help her ease her stiffness.

 Part Two: Strangers in a Strange Land

I have not spent much time in "western land' since I was a teenager and it all seems very strange. There are booths selling fake tails for horses who were not naturally gifted with beautiful, full tails! I have no idea how they attach them!! Staples?? ;)   The clothing one must now wear to show in WP is even more ridiculous looking (if that is possible!) than the show garb for dressage - all polyester and sequins. Brooke and I are trying hard not to watch the western pleasure horses gimping around so slowly they look crippled. Brooke calls it "mind pollution." We watched one driving class and were quite bemused to see the ribbon girls were "Pinto Queen Candidates" dressed in traditional hunter attire - with crowns firmly affixed to the fronts of their hunt caps. LOL! I’ve seen this look in Texas with the western hats but did not know it had ‘migrated’ to the English look too!

 Tomorrow I will ride both girls and at that point I'll decide whether to add the Second Level Test 1 dressage class for Fling. It is the biggest, scariest arena Fling has ever been in - she's really only shown in one enclosed arena in her life. However, they reserve an hour Friday evening for dressage competitors to school in the show arena and I think that should be enough. She is pretty level headed, and after negotiating the parking lot this evening - which she did like a champ - albeit a very WIDE EYED one – I think that should be a piece of cake.

 Friday morning we are going to Claremore, which is about 30 minutes away and we will visit Vanessa Carlson and Frohwind, dad to Fling, Fareyn and Faxx, and a cute pinto colt that Vanessa is bringing along as a possible stallion candidate. :)

 Reporting from beautiful downtown   Tulsa ...

 Day Two:

 Today is the day I've been dreading – actually getting on to ride a horse in the warmup arena, amidst almost bedlam conditions. And of course first you have to GET to the warmup arena, which involves leading your pinto (Brooke and I have been MOST amused that, whenever they refer to an equine around here, it is not a HORSE but a PINTO) through the very scary parking lot as described yesterday. We found one more 'hazard' today and that is those plastic triangular strings of 'flags' like you see at used car dealerships. I almost lost Fling due to those today on the way to the arena. It's quite breezy and the flags were doing what flags do best when it's breezy. I knew I should have taken Fling to more used car dealerships when she was a youngster!

Lisa, of course, is Ms. "Been there, done that."  Both of them were off their feed yesterday  - Lisa more so than Fling -- they were much better today, but the hay consumption is much less than I thought it would be.

 So we make it to the arena and the plan is for Brooke to get on Lisa and warm her up by walking a lot (she needs a lot of walking for a warmup) while I rode Fling and then I'd hand off Fling and ride Lisa. One thing I did NOT count on was how BONDED they would become to each other. Fling is the foal who, at just weeks old, could be locked in Lisa's stall while I took her off and rode her in the arena. Today she was screaming at her while I tried to get her to think about leg yields and shoulder-ins. It was so bad I almost paniced, but I just kept after her to pay attention and eventually I found the nice, supple, obedient horse (oops, make that PINTO!)  I KNOW I put on the trailer back in Houston ..

 I never did get around to riding Lisa - Brooke just carried on very capably with her warmup and Lisa was probably WISHING I was riding her since I feel so "sorry" for her that I don't always make her really work as hard as she could. When I finished with Fling I did hop on Lisa and just tooled her around at a trot and she felt great - not stiff, not tired - NEITHER of them are TIRED. Fling was so exuberant (it was the FLAGS!) she LEPT into the air every time I asked for a canter depart - but she did so with a nice rounded back – not by slinging her head in the air, so I couldn't really discipline her for enthusiasm! On the contrary, I'd rather have too much horse at this point than too little!

 While warming up in the indoor arena I noticed a guy riding a saddlebred, with a dressage saddle, sparkling white dressage pad, DOUBLE bridle with DRAW REINS running through the CURB portion of the double bridle. ACK! 1. They only offer dressage through second level here, so I should not be seeing any dressage horses in double bridles. 2. Draw reins??? Through the CURB bit???? This was my first clue that things are a little ‘different’ here.

So, on the basis of how my warm up ended, Brooke said to go for the Second Level test. So I went up to the show office and added the class. Now, remember I have never ridden this test all the way through with Fling. I've only ridden parts of it at various times. but, heck, we're here, and there are only four people in the class. They give top ten in each class. It's a win-win situation! For a mere $90, I have a guaranteed top ten World Champion pinto! ;)

 The people here are VERY friendly. They stop and chat, and nobody seems to be very stressed about how they actually do. It is very different from the Arabian show scene I left in the early 90s. We have not seen prep stalls with horses being groomed, clipped, polished and saddled by illegal labor. We have not seen bored, spoiled teenagers standing around whining and waiting to be hoisted onto their already-warmed-up,groomed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life horse. It seems very much a family affair with owners and riders actually doing the grunt work themselves.

 I was afraid when I got here I'd really be bored and regret coming a day early. Au contraire. It is amazing how much work two stalled PINTOS can create. We spend more than half the time picking stalls, refilling hay nets, providing fresh water, cleaning tack, clipping, bathing etc. etc. etc. Not to mention the riding part!

 Saturday is going to be a bear. The dressage will run 7 a.m. to probably around 4 p.m. - and possibly later. I have six rides. Ride times will not be available until possibly  8 p.m. Friday night. Fortunately there are two very small classes that I'm NOT in between Lisa's rides in Training Level and Fling's classes in First Level - but they should only take about 30 minutes. I asked the show secretary to give me as much time as possible between my two horses, but you never know how that will work out, especially since the person doing the scheduling has only a rudimentary knowledge of dressage! There are ten rides in each of Fling's First level classes, so I could, in theory, have as much as an hour between my two first level rides. (if she schedules it the way _I_ would schedule it) And hopefully she will also give me as much time as possible before my Second Level ride.  I am hoping Lisa's training level rides don't take much out of me - they're not physically challenging and the arena is air conditioned, but it's not real cold in there. I think I just have to take it one ride at a time and not worry about what's coming down the road.

 I also most likely will have NO idea how I've done in anything until the end of the day. I am told the results are posted in books at PINTOLAND (yes, they really call it that!)  - which is the "all things pinto" registry area in the trade show area - which is pretty far removed from where I'm actually SHOWING, so I doubt either of us will have time to scoot over there and check results during our dressage marathon! I've laid in a good supply of Gatorade and Atkins shakes and hopefully that will see me through! ;)

 Fortunately, in the past few months, Fling has gotten very light and airy to ride, so she's not NEARLY as exhausting to ride as Nanja was.

And then, after this dressage marathon, we will want to have some pictures taken and at some point we have to load all our junk back on the truck and trailer, get some sleep and face a ten to twelve hour drive on Sunday!! I think if I had realized how late the dressage could possibly run, I would have planned on staying Sunday night and coming home Monday. What is it they say about hindsight? ;)

So, time to shower and send a few pounds of good Oklahoma dirt down the drain, crawl into bed and try to  get as much sleep as I can since I am not sure how much I'll be able to get - for one reason or another!

 Friday

 Fling was in total sensory overload today – having Lisa here has not helped - they are totally bonded - even more so than when she was a foal! When I took her out to school her today she was doing airs above the ground being led to the arena - well, it IS through a parking lot...honest to god, it's like having a riding arena on the freeway at rush hour! There are HUGE rigs driving RIGHT beside the arena, the flags, the golf carts, the tiny scooters that it seems EVERYONE has, the forklifts carrying around the manure containers...kids on bikes...all CONSTANTLY zooming around...she had a pretty good bucking fit when we first started, but I remembered to lean back.. I swear I was counting to 8 seconds. ;)  She was finally good but it took a long time and she was still high as a kite when we got back to the stall. When I took Lisa out to ride her, Fling was hurling herself against the stall wall! (Lisa was good - seems to have no stiffness or lingering effects from the trailer ride.   When we came back, Fling was still so explosive in her stall, Brooke took her out to a lunge pen and worked her some more. Now yes, she was SUPER when I finally got her off the 'muscle' and listening to me, but it was a bit like riding a lit rocket! LOL! Of

course I could not sleep last night - if I don't get some serious sleep tonight I am going to crash  halfway through tomorrow! Still don't know ride times and it's  6:30 - it may be EIGHT before they have the ride times for dressage!! It's obviously not a priority.

 After Fling's airs above the ground today I probably would have taken her back to the stall, packed up my stuff and left in the a.m. if Brooke wasn't here to 'talk me down" and help me put it all in perspective. Brooke says I have to get in there and ride those classes and don't stop no matter what! Or she'll beat ME. LOL! I have to just take it one ride at a time and not think about "oh my god six rides."  Lisa's warmup and rides won't take much out of me at all and Brooke is prepared to lunge the crap out of Fling if she needs it tomorrow!!

Saturday

I did it - I rode all six classes with almost no sleep AGAIN last night.

 Lisa was a star today - Fling was good for her first class but she finally went into sensory overload and just had a mental meltdown. The confinement, extreme busy-ness of the place and separation anxiety every time Lisa left finally took its toll.

 Lisa won a World Championship in the amateur training level class with 12 entries with a score of  69.something and was Reserve Champion in the largest dressage class of the show - Training 2 with 23 entries and a 68.something. She was third in Training 4 with 16 entries and I can't remember her score there. My darling horse, who’s been off the most part of two years, has had two lovely foals for me and has given me 100% every day of her life, came through for me again. Such a good, good, girl. I am so proud of her and thankful to have her in my life.

 After a harrowing warm up in the "parking lot arena" Fling was relieved to finally get to the "peace and quiet" of the dressage arena and was really good (especially considering the RODEO we had in the warm up arena due to the Bobcat scraping sand out of the longe pen adjacent to the arena, the freightliners and huge rigs driving by, the forklifts etc). I think even the western people were impressed that I did not get dumped.

  Anyway, I got an _8_ on rider but unfortunately two of the movements that had double coefficients on, she did not do well on and got 5s there, so we were BARELY third out of ten entries…with a 64. something.

 In First 3, she lost it. They ran 40 minutes late and unfortunately it is such a big place it's hard to check before you head to the arena. by the time we went, she had had ENOUGH with a capital E. I could barely get her into the arena and she spooked even worse along one side and I could not get her near the whole long side. I think she got a 59 on that, but we were still 6th out of 10.

 Just for the heck of it, I did ride Second 1 and the parts away from the spooky long side were decent...but most of the figures along that wall only approximated what they should look like. ;) The judge was very sympathetic and I got a 50% and believe it or not, was 3rd out of 6 and beat horses who were not spooking all over the place but whose basic work was so incorrect that what Fling DID do correctly got her recognition for it. The WINNER of the second level test had a 52, and 2nd had a 51. There were 6 in the class. The shame is, Fling could have been reserve champ in every class - there was a ringer - a Dutch Warmblood trained to PRIX ST GEORGES with just enough of a belly spot to be a pinto. It was a lovely horse and obviously trained much higher than Fling and much more 'show seasoned.'

 The judging was good - very spot on. I would ride for this guy again. On my 1/3 and 2/1 tests he wrote "nice horse, sorry about the spooking." :)

 We come home tomorrow as soon as we can stand to get up - I can't wait to get home. I am beat.

Birth of a Princess 

How my horse, Flying Colorz,  came to be

I have always loved Arabians. Well, more specifically, I love Half Arabians. My first real show horse was a 3 year old, green broke Half Arabian named, unfortunately, Flashy Frostfire. I got him in 1983. He was such a character and we had so much fun together. He was also a much nicer horse than someone with evry little knowledge, stumbling around to buy her first ‘English” horse, had a right to end up with.

 After Frostfire, I was hooked on Arabian crosses. I’ve had a few purebreds, but Half Arabians are what really “do it” for me, as a dressage devotee who looks at purchasing a horse as something akin to a marriage – “til death do us part.” Really, I’ve owned some horses longer than some of my marriages. (Ok, so there’s only been two. So far. ;) )

 I also love warmbloods, and have owned a few of those.

 As early as 1985, I really wanted a half Arab, half warmblood. Back then people thought I was crazy. But it was a dream that would not die. This cross would, I felt, offer the perfect blend of movement and brains, in a convenient size for someone five feet tall.. I’ve had success in buying babies and raising them. What better project than to create a custom-made horse for myself?

 In 1994 a friend and I began the search for an Arab mare that we would share and each breed to the warmblood stallion of our choice. Then I got divorced and could not go through with the partnership – but not before I found a really nice Arab mare that my friend bought and that mare, bred to the Oldenburg stallion Frohwind, produced two horses that have earned Championships at the Arab/Half Arab Sporthorse Championships. I might add here that Frohwind has become known for producing really nice babies when crossed with good Arabian mares..

 At the time I had a really nice half Arab pinto mare, Sonnys Mona Lisa (also not named by me) who was very competitive in open, recognized dressage. I had bought her in 1990 for $800 as a yearling as a ‘resale’ project. Well, you know how that goes. (I just lost her in 2008, at the age of 19.)  I loved this horse. She was my ‘heart’ horse more so than I ever thought possible. Athletic enough, not built super well for dressage, but had good movement when ridden correctly and a huge heart. I always wanted a foal out of her, but never wanted to stop riding her long enough to do it.

 Things in my life improved enough that I went Arab broodmare shopping on my own around 1998. I looked forever. I looked at more awful horses and horses that were ‘supposed’ to be 15H but were really 14.1 than I care to remember. I remember thinking, “How hard can this be, to find a correct, decent moving Arab mare?”  Really hard, apparently. It was then that I realized just how bad things had gotten in the Arab breeding world, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

 I _finally_ found a mare in 1999 – and how weird is this – before I even saw her pedigree, I wanted her – and when I looked at her pedigree you could have knocked me over. Frostfire’s sire – who only produced about six offspring in his life – was this mare’s grandsire.  The only hitch – and it was a big one – was that she was in foal to a nondescript half Arab pinto stallion. But I had looked so long, and this one seemed to be the ‘right one’ for so many reasons. The mare had been pasture bred and was due in just a few months. So I bought her, with plans to sell the baby once it was born, and breed her to Frohwind,. The Arabian mare’s name was Mia and she settled in well.  I purchased the Frohwind breeding and began the countdown to her foaling – and subsequent re-breeding.

In the meantime, Lisa had suffered a severe tendon injury.  I was looking at a long rehab, probably close to a year, with no guarantees she would be sound enough to ride and compete at the end of it.

 Then horse disaster struck again – Muscatyr, my endurance horse, had to have emergency colic surgery June 5, 1999 .  He pulled through all right, but it was very scary and he was going to have to be stall bound for a month.

The Saturday after Muscatyr coliced (and he was still recuperating at A&M) I woke up to find my new pregnant mare, Mia, down in her paddock. She had given no signs of impending birth, and according to the breeding dates I’d been given by the seller, should still be at least 45 days from her earliest possible due date. But there she was, writhing on the ground in horrific pain with a partially delivered, badly malpositioned foal that I could tell was already dead. When I say 1999 was a very bad year for me, it is an understatement.

 It is a very good thing that I am really good in emergencies. I am calm, cool, collected and act very rationally. (It is only when it is all over that I completely break down.) At this time, my husband was also in California working, so I was on my own.

I called my vet – poor guy, on a Saturday morning, his busiest day. He came immediately and I had to go in the house because I knew what it was going to take to get that foal out of the mare, who was in bad shape. He extracted the foal (and mercifully took it with him to dispose of the remains so I did not have to see it) and gave me instructions for her and left. By that time, a friend had come over to join me. We sat on the ground next to Mia, who tried several times to get up, but could not, even with our help. The foal had been lodged in the birth canal for too long and put too much pressure on her spinal cord. Her hind legs appeared to be paralyzed.

 When, after several hours, Mia still had not been able to get to her feet, I called my vet again, and he came out. We both knew the prognosis was very bad. He told me even if she did regain feeling in her hind end, she’d been down a long time, and at very best, would never be able to be bred again, and probably, I would spend a lot of money on her and still lose her. I chose to let her go. I will never get over feeling so badly for that mare and how much she suffered. I was very angry with the sellers for being so casual in their recordkeeping. It is possible that she delivered early, but my vet said it was a very large foal, so it’s doubtful.

 So, now I had no broodmare, a horse recovering from colic surgery, and my number one dressage horse , who happened to be a mare, recovering from a tendon injury, AND a paid breeding to Frohwind.

 Can you see where this is going?

  Lisa still had about 6 months to go on her rehab. And I didn’t even have a horse to ride.

 I was too discouraged to immediately go out and spend another 3 months of precious weekends searching for another Arab mare. And that would also mean I would be another year behind in breeding my Arab/warmblood cross.

 I always said I would love to have another horse just like Sonnys Mona Lisa. But since she was half Arab, breeding her to Frohwind would not produce a registerable half Arab, and I could not show it at Arab shows. (Although the only Arab show I go to anymore is the Regional Championship, for dressage.)

 But, I started thinking. Shouldn’t one breed the absolutely best mare one has? Lisa was the best mare I had. She had proven herself in the show ring time after time, with local, regional and even national honors. She had good conformation (she scored 77% and won the silver medal at the American Warmblood Society inspections) and a terrific brain. I would not mind having a carbon copy of her. Most people start off with a mare that they wish the stallion could improve upon. I would start off with a mare I hoped the stallion wouldn’t “mess up!”

 I was still haunted by the foaling tragedy with Mia, but my vet and everyone else assured me that was a freak occurrence.

 It was already late summer. I needed to make a decision very quickly. If I bred Lisa, I would not have a foal I could register as a half Arab. But if I bred Lisa, I knew I would be breeding to a mare that may not be most people’s ideal sporthorse broodmare, but I knew her character, she was very competitive, very trainable, and I loved her. I also knew I was breeding for a foal to keep forever, not to sell, and God knew _I_ was not going to the Olympics, so a nice horse with a good brain would be perfectly fine with me. I’d always wanted to breed her, but never wanted to take the time away from riding her. Now I had forced down time. The decision seemed to be made for me. The stallion owner graciously allowed the mare substitution and ‘operation foal’ was in full swing.

 By the time I was able to get Lisa cultured, and a low grade uterine infection cleared up, we really only had one chance to get her in foal, as it was now early September. With instructions to Lisa and my vet for a bay and white pinto filly, I left her at the clinic to be inseminated. (Virtually all valuable sporthorses are bred via artificial insemination these days.)

 I should have known that Lisa would be as cooperative in this venture as she was in everything else.

We bred Lisa once. And three weeks later the ultrasound confirmed she was in foal. With twins. (Not a good thing if you're a horse. Horses are not built for multiple births.)

 I figured it was just Lisa, giving her usual 200%. "Lisa," I explained. "Really, honey, we don't need two. One will be plenty."

 The next ultrasound a week later showed just one healthy embryo. The second embryo had been absorbed. Good girl, Lisa!  Couldn't tell about the spots yet, though. ;)

 And so, I settled in for the long 11-month wait. Ultrasounds showed that Lisa's tendon injury was healing and I was riding her lightly, in a controlled rehab program. By the time she was back to full work – and the leg was completely healed – she was too pregnant to do much. I had planned to ride her until about her 9th month, but Lisa had other ideas. At about the 7th month, she started giving me truly evil looks when I tried to saddle her.  So I put away the saddle and contented myself with feeling the baby move (and boy did it ever!) and talking to it, with my face pressed into Lisa's expanding belly. "I love my little baby," I would whisper to Lisa's left flank almost daily, as I felt the baby move. "I love my little pinto girl." “Thump,” would come the answering reply.

 Lisa was ensconced in a private paddock with the best of everything. I read up on equine midwifery and only got more nervous and paranoid about the impending birth. I put together a foaling kit. And the best purchase – a milk test strip kit, used to gauge when a mare is going to foal. Using litmus-type strips, and a few drops of the mare's milk, these gauge the calcium content of the milk  - the closer to foaling, the more calcium the milk contains.

 Since Lisa was a maiden, and so I was, I figured we needed all the help we could get.

 About two weeks prior to her "due date" I started using the test strips to gauge Lisa's readiness. She was bagged up, but honestly did not look absolutely huge. Her appetite was good, and she didn't show any real signs of imminent birth. Night after night, the test strips registered nothing earth-shattering.

 Until Friday, August 4. I had tested her as soon as I got home and the calcium content was a little elevated, but the "milk" still had not become the telltale color.  Just out of curiosity, I tested it again about 10 p.m.   I could tell as soon as I expressed the milk, that a dramatic change had taken place. I ran the test on it, and the calcium was elevated again, but still did not indicate imminent birth. To be on the safe side, I decided to camp out in the barn. I dragged a cot and a pillow and set up in the hay room. I don't know why I bothered. I certainly did not sleep!

 Sure enough, around 1 a.m., Lisa became restless – getting up and down – and she broke into a sweat. "This is it!"  I thought excitedly. I kept the lights turned off and monitored her progress. About 3:30, I heard her water break. Even in the dark stall, I could see the white amniotic sac protruding from underneath her tail. I called my friend Debbie, who is a police officer. She works the night shift and wanted to witness the birth.

 By about 4 a.m. I could see the feet inside amniotic sack and I called my vet because I could not tell if the foal's feet were in the right position – I had very little experience in equine midwifery!  And after my experience the previous year, I also wanted him there in case something went wrong. He instructed me to tear open the sack, and then he was on his way. Not as easy as it sounds! That thing was slippery and STRONG! (I guess it has to be with little baby hooves inside!)  When I finally managed to tear it open, the first thing I saw were two little striped hooves, pointed, thankfully, in the correct direction. "I think it's a pinto!" I whispered excitedly, right out loud to myself. (And to Bubba, my big black and white cat who sat with me in the stall through the entire birthing and even helped Lisa lick the newborn foal.)

 And then, to my surprise, I was faced with a set of little quivering baby nostrils getting their first whiff of the world. I was shocked since I didn't really think they BREATHED until they were actually delivered!! At this point, Lisa laid down once more and got down to serious business. Debbie arrived, in full uniform and we watched as the foal emerged, inch by inch. Sure enough, it was a pinto! And it was bay and white! I was beside myself!  I sat right behind Lisa and the foal was delivered right into my lap and started struggling to get up before its feet were even clear! It was so strong it took Debbie and I both to hold it down and let Lisa make a final push to deliver the back legs.  I couldn't see whether it was a filly or a colt and I was so giddy with joy it really didn't seem to matter. At that point, Gregg arrived and it's a good thing he did. I was totally in la-la land and couldn't even think about practical matters, such as cutting the umbilical cord or treating the navel or enemas, etc. etc. etc.  And what a sight I am sure we made – me in dirty, sweaty gym shorts and T-shirt, covered in who-knows-what kind of horsy bodily fluids, with bedding stuck all over me and Debbie right there beside me in full police regalia! I told him I didn't even know whether it was a boy or girl and he reached over, lifted up the tail and pronounced "Filly."  Yippee!  As I sat still holding the filly in my lap – who did not have a name as yet – he checked Lisa, took a blood sample from the filly to check antibody levels, tore the cord, treated her navel and all the other things I was too giddy to do. 

 Mom and baby were pronounced healthy and well – and now we concentrated on letting them get acquainted and helping the foal clumsily find her legs and find her first meal. I had totally forgotten JUST HOW TINY newborn foals are! She seemed sooo fragile – I just knew she would break each one of her spindly legs before she could learn to operate them on her own! Every time she struggled to her feet and then fell down, I almost died! But her bones seemed to be made of rubber and she figured out how to work those legs and was soon cantering around the large stall.

 And when I finally got a good look at her, in the daylight, after she’d dried off – I noticed a large heart-shaped spot on her left flank – right where I’d whispered “I love my little pinto baby” so many times over those 11 months into Lisa’s left flank.

Postscript: 

I named her Flying Colorz and the name fit her. She has exceeded all my expectations - she's 9 now and she's a joy to ride every day. She loves her job and is a real overachiever.