Carol Reiter: Appreciating what you have

08/22/2009 2:19 AM

08/22/2009 2:33 AM

This has been a heartbreaking year for foals.

In 30 years of raising babies, we had only lost one yearling, until this year. That colt was born blind, and as he got older, he started getting hurt more and more often. We tried to keep him in a safe place, but he was constantly coming up needing stitches or with a big knee.

When he ran into the back of the barn and fell hard, we had a difficult decision to make. The poor colt couldn't see anything, and he depended on one mare, who had been sold and was on her way to South Dakota, to guide him. We made that decision, and my father, our veterinarian and I all cried as a gorgeous, blind buckskin colt was put down in our green spring pasture.

But other than that, we've been pretty lucky. We had Mary's stillborn baby, and a baby that was born a couple of years ago with lethal deformities. We had been lucky.

Until this year. This year was bad.

First, our friend lost a baby who was only two weeks old. The baby had been kicked and broke her leg. That was the first one.

Then one of Willy's babies, an adorable little bay filly that belonged to two 4-H kids who loved her dearly, was kicked and broke her leg. Another little baby horse gone.

Then it was our turn. Our weanling was sold to a nice lady in the mountains, and a tragic accident ended in the baby having a broken leg. She too had to be put down.

Wow. These deaths really, really hurt. They made me sick, actually. Baby foals shouldn't die. They shouldn't break their legs, for goodness sakes. It just shouldn't happen. But it did.

Why? No one did anything wrong, things just happened that ended up to be fatal for the babies. All were in safe pastures, two of them with their mothers, and no one knows how they happened.

We were all devastated. I kept telling myself that these things happen, I had known people who lost foals, and I knew it happened. But it had never happened to us, at least not like this.

I know that it hurt my friend, the one who handles Willy and does all the breeding. She took care of all the horses this year while I was sick, and she bonded with all the babies. It was difficult for both of us to lose those babies, but I think it was even harder for her.

We ended up trading one of our fillies to the kids who lost their baby foal. We ended up with a gelding that's trained, and the kids got another baby to raise. They are tickled to death, and our little filly got a good home.

But that doesn't make losing those babies any easier. And losing the yearling last year, the gorgeous blue-eyed filly that had an amazing disposition, was super hard. That baby was a dream come true for her owners, and her broken pelvis caused her so much pain that she broke down on her good leg. Taking that beautiful baby to the veterinarian's facility to be put down, and driving away, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. She wasn't my filly, but she was a Willy baby, and her owners loved her. We all miss Lena.

This year has been hard on all of us, and I hope it never, ever happens again. Losing one baby is hard enough, but three in one year broke our hearts.

We have two babies left, with two sold to good homes. Mary's baby will never be sold, and the other one will be our show horse next year. We are enjoying these babies even more than normal, because we know how quickly they can be gone from our lives. These foals are gifts to us, and we are blessed to have them. And we know it.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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