It was a beautiful morning. The snow had mostly melted from the previous day's warmth and while the ground had once again frozen stiff, the rising of the early spring sun was beginning to soften the landscape with its slanted glow.
I had been keeping my eye on Bella because though she had me convinced last September (preceding a scare with acute diarrhea) that she had aborted her fetus, she was in early March of this year looking quite round. Bella has a large girth even when not pregnant and she is an "easy keeper" which has her almost always looking like a pregnant mare. I remarked to Kevin that if Bella wasn't just carrying extra fat, we should be looking for a foal about the time Ciente has hers.
As you know from my last journal entry, titled "Esperanda", Ciente kept us waiting a bit longer than we anticipated. During that time since Bella's shape and behaviour had not altered from her normal way of being, both Kevin and I opined that most likely she was just doing very well this winter and carrying extra pounds. When there was still no change in Bella, even after Ciente delivered her foal, I felt quite relaxed and comfortable with the thought that Bella would not have a foal this year and likely be coming into heat later in the spring. (Actually, I confess, to my human sensibilities, it seemed quite nice to think that Bella would have a year off between foals--but with an autonomous semi-wild herd, one learns to go with the flow.)
Even so, I kept watch, but refrained from stalking her with a camera. I noted on the evening of March 27th that Bella's udder had trebled in size. "Hmmm...maybe she's not just fat after all?", was the feeling Kevin and I now had. But a little doubt still lingered, since Bella's behaviour and body shape were still unaltered and perhaps her udder was so large looking because Pinoteia (Bella's 2010 filly) had for whatever reason not nursed that day.
When that lovely dawn came on March 29th, the family band did not come up for breakfast as usual but were off to the west. A quick check with the binoculars settled the questions once and for all--Bella was not just fat, she indeed had been pregnant all along and this morning had a buff coloured form at her side!
How different a morning this was from the morning of Ciente's delivery of Esperanda! While I always desire to be with the mares when they foal, I gotta say that all the times they have done it without me have certainly kept me from the usual stress I indulge in. It is true, after all, that sometimes, "ignorance is bliss". Bella just did not have me worrying the way that Ciente had, instead, she kept up her normal habits, waited for good weather and then got the job done! (Speaking of waiting...Bella's gestation time turns out to be +/- 359.)
Let's look at some photos from that charmed morning:
Bella's foal was dry, ambulatory and nursing as if she had been up for several hours. And, as if it knew I would be wondering whether it was a he or a she, the foal urinated while I was spreading out hay for the rest of the family members. The "water" was coming out the back, not underneath, so using my "keen powers of deduction" I declared, "It's a filly!"
I will spare readers the up close and personal look at the birthing sight (which I am fascinated by), but I do want to document that the horses were not far off from it. This tells me they hadn't moved much since the delivery, were likely nearby Bella at the time she foaled and the big event took place in the open grassland. The afterbirth, umbilical cord and amnion were all there and frozen stiff. It was around 7 am by the time we got breakfast hauled out to where the family band was and it is likely that the delivery took place several hours before that.
While I roam around with the camera taking photos, Kevin has come out and finds himself being explored by Ciente's filly, Esperanda.
By the time early evening hay was being served up, Bella's filly was showing off how well she could balance and run now that she was out of the cramped, dark womb:
Esperanda was watching intently, but was permitted from joining in the romp by Bella keeping her body between the new filly and the others.
Since she wasn't allowed yet to play with her new half-sister, Esperanda decided to wander over and probe her sire's tail while he nibbles at emerging grasses.
Of course my thoughts were beginning to get a feeling for what character this new filly had, and from the very start, it was obvious she knew she was high born. What I mean to say is that any foal born to Bella has certain privileges, acknowledgements, indulgences, etc. which all others in the family unit recognize belong to her simply by right of being born to the dominant mare of the group. Bella's prior two foals, Animado and Pinoteia accepted such privileges with never seeming to be aware of them (though surely they were) and they never demanded to be treated like royalty. However, this filly certainly was aware of her special status and expected to be treated accordingly.
Between my paper back Larousse Portuguese dictionary and the various online translator websites, I came up with a few names to try out on the new filly. Portuguese words meaning "privileged", "favoured", "advantaged", "elite", etc. were either so unappealing as names that I didn't try them, or when I did try them, Bella's filly would ignore me or walk away, both responses conveyed with an almost scathing haughtiness. I began to think of her as a little-princess-with-attitude and so explored some names that suggested a more royal bearing, which were equally shot down by the little miss. I began to think the name "Altivez" (haughtiness) would have to do, since at the very least when I spoke this to her, her ears pricked in my direction. But, truly, I didn't want to name her something that had a bit of negative connotation. I began to affectionately call the filly, your "highness" and when I looked up the word for this ("alteza") I thought we were on to something.
This morning I went out to try the name out on her. I had a bit of a bumble though...I addressed her as "Altiva" (haughty). She shook her head and I realized I'd gotten the wrong word. Hmmm, what was the word? Out of the blue I said, "Altavida". The filly took several steps in my direction. "Is this it? Is your name, Altavida?", I inquired more directly. "Yes!" she seemed to say, because she began running around and the more I said, "Altavida", the more she leaped and cavorted, culminating with her coming up to nuzzle me.
So, then, we have a name! Meaning "highness". When I relayed the events to Kevin, he informed me that I'd made a mistake...that "alteza" was the word for "highness", not "altavida". My error was what had garnered the most convincing "yes" from the filly, however, so I wasn't really willing to go back out and inform the haughty little gal that I really meant "Alteza", not "Altavida". Besides, "alta" means "high" and "vida" means "life", and this filly of Bella's is obviously destined to lead the high life, so why not join the words and make a name of them? Perhaps this is what the zoological park manager in Springe, Germany did when he gave Altamiro (high view) his name. So there it is! Altavida!
Here are some photos of Altavida and Esperanda enjoying themselves capering around and on the old barn ramp:
As you view the following photos, note the expression on Altavida's face and body as she already takes up the dominant role of driving Esperanda here and there:
And here are two nice photos of Bella, who was not just fat, after all:
We are still full of anticipation this spring because Belina, is due to deliver her foal in the upcoming days:
Soon, I will be updating the sale pages as well as putting together a couple more articles in the "Documenting Altamiro's Offspring" series and continuing to write about what makes the Sorraias so important to preserve.