Ralph Nester: Foaling Time

On Penowa Farm, we had all facets of thoroughbred operations. My house was located in the center of the farm next to the entrance lane. As you went down the lane, to the left was the yearling and stud barn, and to the right was the broodmare barn and training barn further down.

I foaled about 25 mares on average per year. Foaling mares left you with a lot of sleepless nights, but was very rewarding seeing the babies just born.  Watching them trying to get their wobbly sea legs under them, drying them off in front of a very curious, attentive and protective mother was quite a sight.   There were easy births and hard births.  We had to make sure the foal was coming out correctly, with its head lying on top of its forelegs, with both front legs, sometimes requiring pushing the foal backwards to get both legs headed out.   That was a difficult maneuver, and only done when the mare was relaxed and not straining to get the foal out.   Watching the foal struggle to get on its feet and sneezing to clear its air passages was a rewarding and happy time for all the hard work.


The real fun came the next day, walking the mare and foal from the barn stall to the paddock, and turning them out.   Watching the still unsteady foal try to jog and keep up with mom on wobbly legs was a sight.  Mom usually wasn’t going far from the foal and would assure the foal with smelling it and gently nudging it in right direction and the foal would automatically follow her.  It wasn’t long before the babies were doing what they were born to do: run , buck, rear up and play.   Their soft, cute whinnies to mom and the mare stopping and patiently waiting to let the babies nurse was so rewarding.


These wonderful sight and sounds, waking up before daylight on the farm, smelling the fresh mowed fields and the whinnying of horses looking for their morning meal was a delightful life.

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