Monday, March 29, 2010

A Frisky Filly!

Finally, this day old frisky foal takes a well deserved nap

Readers might remember that here at Ravenseyrie we have been awaiting the birth of Bella's second foal. By my records, the last heat cycle she experienced (and had been well serviced by Altamiro) indicated that she should be looking to empty her womb sometime after the middle of March. The timing of Nature and Bella decided this event should occur during the predawn hours of yesterday.

It occurs to me, to pause here for a commentary on how much money some individuals feel is necessary to spend on veterinary palpation of the ovaries, blood testing to assure no infections are out and about, ultrasounds, etc. in order to feel assured that their mares are ready to be bred and that the mare has indeed been settled and in foal. All of this is very good business for the veterinary clinics, but for those who live with horses, such scientific proofs are unnecessary. Companionable relations, keen observation, simple record keeping seems to give as much information about the mare and fetus' state of being and impending delivery of the foal as do the more elaborate, costly veterinary procedures. I daresay an experienced veterinarian would not have been any closer in a prediction of delivery than we here at Ravenseyrie have been, and instead of having to spend more time working in order to afford such veterinary expertise, we've been able to enjoy mingling with horses in a wilderness landscape which has the added benefit of feeding our spirits even as it lays no extra burden on our finances.

Six year old Bella is a registered Spanish Mustang mare of moderate Sorraia phenotype. In addition to their primitive grulla colouring, Sorraia horses have long, lean musculature, fine-but strong-limbs, and convex profiles. Bella tends to be of overall compact and rounder build, slightly heavier boned and of straighter profile. Nevertheless, Animado, her first foal (which was, in fact, the very first foal born on the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve) is of excellent Sorraia type, demonstrating that the crossing of a purebred Iberian Sorraia with a Sorraia type Mustang further consolidates the primitive features of Ebhardt's Form III ancestral equine of which is so evident in the Sorraia horses.

Animado was born in April of 2008. In the summer, Altamiro once again settled Bella with a foal, but in October of of 2008, Bella came into a brief heat, alerting us to the fact that she had either absorbed or aborted her unborn fetus. It seems Nature determined that Bella should skip a year and there would be no foal from her in 2009, something which we embraced as meaningful and right. Having been settled by Altamiro last spring, it was obvious, however, that Bella was carrying to term this time around and we began to anticipate when she would actually deliver.

Two weeks ago, Bella began to seem more inward, more contemplative and would often take a nap before having completely finished her morning hay.

Last week, I noted a change in her udder. It was showing indications of "bagging up" and "waxing", as you can see in this photo:

Whenever I know that one of our mares is pregnant, I begin to expand the sensation of nurturing love and admiration I have for the mare to include the unborn fetus. Many indigenous cultures and even a few scientists are convinced that the unborn fetus has an awareness which is influenced by the events, perceptions and sensations that occur during the period the fetus is in utero. After seeing the changes in Bella's udder, I spent even more one on one time with her, letting her know how much we appreciated her and the contributions she is making to the future of ancestral horses. And, I must admit, I was also getting a little carried away with attempting to sense every alteration in Bella's body which would forecast when the birth would come. If you followed the above link sharing Animado's birth story, you'll know how lucky I was to be a part of it, and can perhaps understand how much I was hoping to be there for this birth, too. This was not to be, but as Kevin and I peered through our field glasses yesterday morning and saw a light-coloured diminutive form skittering aside Bella out in the northwest sector, our delight was just as effusive as it is every time a foal is born at Ravenseyrie.

Altamiro was keeping his family band out in this northern area of the property, but Mistral's group was waiting by the house as usual for their breakfast oats. We fed them first, and then hauled one toboggan of hay and one toboggan of oats & alfalfa cubes out to the family band...even though our snow has been gone for some time now. Everyone in Altamiro's group was pleased we made this effort so that they didn't miss out on breakfast after all, and it gave Kevin and I the perfect opportunity to introduce ourselves to the newcomer.

Early on, this foal raised its tail allowing us to see #1. she is a filly and #2. she has definitely had a bowel movement.
A foal's first bowel movement seems to be something that domestic bred horses sometimes have difficulty with and so my copy of The Complete Book of Foaling lists a compulsory enema among its list of three basic tasks humans must do for foals once they are born. In addition to an enema, the foal is supposed to have its umbilical stump treated with iodine and also be administered a tetanus shot. Of course we do not impose these "basic tasks" on the foals born here on the open range, but we do make ourselves aware of possible troubles that might arise and monitor the newborn foals carefully but in a non-intrusive way.

While Bella was eating her breakfast, her filly came up and attempted to suckle my skirt and when I reached out to stroke her for the first time, she began licking my fingers.
Note how wrinkled and compressed this filly's face still is! Animado's face looked concave and wrinkled too when he was a newbie, but in time, his profile took on the convex structure of the Sorraia.

I was surprised, since she already seemed to be several hours old and not in need of needing help to find the right source of sustenance. In a few minutes, she was no longer seeing if I might have milk for her too, she went back to Bella for this instead.

Tonight, when I went out to visit with Altamiro's family, this filly again came up to me, nuzzled me all over and compared the taste of a human hand to that of a mare's udder. I was able to capture it with a brief video clip:

I also have some video clips which I took yesterday. The first one is during an afternoon visit where I did not attempt to inject myself into the herd, but, instead remained an observer on the fringe. In this video clip, Bella carefully shields her newborn filly from the curiosity of Silvestre and Segura.

The following footage was taken during last night's evening feeding of hay, during which time Bella's filly was completely energized and exploring the feeling of freedom and lively movement that the equine body is capable of once freed from the womb. I've seen all Altamiro's foals exhibit this type of lively frolicking on the first day of their birth, but whenever I visited Bella's filly she was engaged in these amazing circular capricious cavortings, on and on and on! Such is the stamina of the Sorraia! Methinks that her name will reflect her very curious nature as well as her amazing delight in physical movement. How often do domestic born foals wind up being kept in a foaling stall for several days prior to being turned out into a larger space where they are able to experience such delight in the use of their outside-the-womb bodies? After just a few hours, these Sorraias have already danced the Ravenseyrie landscape!

The "foal coat" of this new filly has totally obscured whatever shading and striping she may possess. Her four black hooves indicate there is no white on her limbs, but you can see that the typical dark lower limbs and leg barring is for now, hidden under the dense layer of baby fur:

This filly has a few, rather insignificant wispy white hairs on her forehead:
Bella's filly will have a good offering of bi-colouring in her mane, which presently is adorably tossed in no coherent fashion:
Her tail exhibits the same bi-colouring and devil may care attitude only foals possess:

On my walk back from visiting with Altamiro's family yesterday afternoon, it was sheer luck (some might say goulish misfortune) that I came upon Bella's expelled after birth:
And also the umbilical cord:
But let's not keep these exposed biological images too fresh in your mind. Instead, we will offer some more photos of Bella and her new filly:

And to close, I will offer a photo of Bella just a few days before. The filly you see on the other side of Bella is Encantara. Ten month old Encantara had a very big day yesterday too, as it was the day that her father, Altamiro, expelled her from the family band! Encantara's story will be the subject of tomorrow's journal entry.
Until then, for those readers who are maybe having a difficult time rejoicing in the birth of another horse during a period of time when there appears to be an epidemic of unwanted horses in North America, I'd like to remind you that there are roughly only 200 purebred Sorraia horses left in the world and less than that number of the Sorraia type mustang! These horses are genetic repositories of a prehistoric ancestral equine similar to the Tarpan. Preserving these horses requires that some breeding takes place, and this crossing of purebred Sorraia with Sorraia Mustang is being undertaken at this time nowhere else on planet earth. A vital aspect of equine biodiversity absolutely benefits from the way of life these horses experience here at Ravenseyrie, which includes allowing them to procreate according to the rhythms of nature. If you want to take a closer look at what the real source of unwanted horses is, please go to the website of the Unwanted Horse Coalition and download their pdf file of a survey they did of unwanted horses in 2009. On page 16 of this document you will notice that the top two categories of unwanted horses are #1 Quarter Horses (31%) and Thoroughbreds (12%). Sorraia horses are not on this survey but North American Mustang horses are--they come in at the very bottom of the list at just 1%.

I want all my readers to know that not a one of Altamiro's colts or fillies are "unwanted"...and if they should never be sold or adopted to other humans, they will have a home here at Ravenseyrie, though drastic measure would need to be implemented to make it possible. But I feel that most (if not all) of these Iberian beauties will come to live elsewhere and flourish...its just a matter of time and finding the right people who will want to enhance their lives with the friendship, companionship and unique potential these equines offer.

On rare special occasions I will pack my pockets with "cookies" (compressed alfalfa cubes). Bella, of course received the lions share of cookies as congratulations on the birth of her filly. But each of the other horses got a few as well, and of course the herd stallion, Altamiro deserved congratulations too. In this video clip Altamiro and Segura come up to see if maybe I have any more of those cookies left to distribute...


Kris McCormack said...

Congratulations Bella, Altamiro, Kevin and Lynne!

Little yet-to-be-named one, may you have a long, healthy, and joyous life. May you always feel free. And may you know only kindness and respect from the human beings you encounter.

With love,

Kimberlee said...

Congrats on the filly! Looking forward to seeing your half Sulphur mare Zorita have her foal :)

JEN-SKA said...

Wow, she is the cutest! Congratulations!

Lynne Gerard said...

Hello Kris, Kimberlee and Jen-ska-

Thank you for your congrats.

How thankful we are that Manitoulin Island is having such mild weather...typically March is still very wintery here. But Sunday was a wonderful day for a birth.

I had put up one wrong video clip, which I've corrected and then also added a new one at the end of the entry, because I neglected to let reader's know that Altamrio certainly received personal congrats from us, too.

June said...

Congratulations to you and Kevin and Bella and Altamiro! And well done, baby!

Hilary said...

Congratulations to you all on the lovely new being that has come to live with you!

Annemiek said...

Hi little one! I hope you will have a wonderful life. You have the best start possible at Ravenseyrie, with Lynne and Kevin and your great equine family.

I wonder what your name will be...

Lynne, Kevin, she is so lovely, congratulations!

Love Miek

Diane said...

What a sweetie, so friendly and curious already. She will be your good friend for a while, now, too! Others have already expressed the blessings both humans and these horses have bestowed upon each other, I could not have said it better.
When I had my horses out in pasture in Plymouth, CA, I loved finding the placenta, etc. Not only to check it, but to take in the totality of the place my mare had decided was a safe place to give birth. A sacred place.
Congratulations and looking forward to more lovely reports.

máire said...

What a lovely report. Congratulations to you all.


Sandie G Hucal said...

She is absolutely precious! This little filly is such a blessing to all who are touched by her, including via your blog. Her birth brings innocence, beauty and joy to our world and a feeling of hope for the future.


Lynne Gerard said...

June, Hilary, Annemiek, Diane, Máire and Sandie:

Thank you for your comments--they mean SO much. I'm please you all are able to feel joy that a new equine cavorts across Ravenseyrie!

Tomorrow I'm planing an entry revealing this filly's name, so stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

Janet Ferguson said...

"In this video clip, Bella carefully shields her newborn filly from the curiosity of Silvestre and Segura."

Later in the clip, does she get body-slammed by one of them, and pushed aside (just before they disappear into the trees)?

Enjoying the article and videos and photos again! Thanks for the wonderful introduction to this special little one.

Lynne Gerard said...

Janet inquired:
"Later in the clip, does she get body-slammed by one of them, and pushed aside (just before they disappear into the trees)?

What you are seeing is Bella using her ample rump to give an emphatic pushing aside to Zorita's filly, Segura. Segura had been trying to get closer to see Bella's new foal, and Bella came between the two and "body slammed" Segura. Can you see that now? Bella's filly, Pinoteia, wasn't the one getting bumped.

In a later journal entry, however, (Beauty's Dark Side) Pinoteia gets treated quite roughly by her dad, Altamiro. Sure made me mad at that time, but Pinoteia took it all in stride and there has been nothing like that since (at least during my watch).

Thanks for reading and commenting, Janet!