If anything can brighten up a dreary day, it’s a brand new baby horse.
Foaling season is officially upon us, and it’s truly a time of excitement, promise and dreams come true for every breeder, stallion owner and equine enthusiast. Sure it’s only February, but plenty of Texas fields along our country roads are already dotted with fuzzy ears, whiskered noses and flipping foal tails.
Sure, the babies come with a fair share of drama. I don’t claim to know a lot about foaling and veterinary medicine, but even with my own little program, I’ve done it long enough to experience the scares that come along with mares and their colts. Due dates are merely a guide and can often be a guessing game. The nights run late and often turn into early mornings when checking mares. Some folks are preparing for maiden mares who don’t have a clue on how to care for their babies and need a little extra attention. The foaling stalls are warm, ready and bedded, yet every field holding bred mares could be a new baby ward on any given day.
A bred mare holds so many unanswered questions. Colt or filly? What color are we going to get? Strong legs? Pretty head? Big frame? Perhaps an unusual marking or loads of chrome? What sort of athlete is it going to be? And sometimes all of the anticipation and excitement does come with a bit of heartbreak. Sometimes a foal didn’t develop properly, or was born early (or very late). There is the occasional loss or injury that has a slim chance of full recovery. Foals are fragile and things can certainly go wrong. But there are miracles, too.
It’s exciting to think that each and every event will have the 2022 futurity champions on the ground, roaming around with their mothers this spring. They’re out there! And even if you don’t compete or keep up with the show pen, years down the road, your new trail partner, ranch horse, or best pal might be out there too.
They hit the ground bright-eyed, gangly-legged and skeptical. Within days they are some of the cutest creatures we’ve ever seen. The love, patience and instruction they receive from their mamas builds confidence and grows those foals into the bouncing personalities they become. There isn’t much that’s more entertaining than to see foals play when they’re turned out. They are plucky and inquisitive and will sleep as seriously as they frolic.
Each foal is the realization of an intentional cross. A certain mare bred to a certain stallion will potentially yield desirable results. Each one took time, money, effort and energy from the owner, breeder or veterinarian. The next time you toss your saddle on your favorite ol’ caballo’s back, remember he was once a little foal himself. He is the realization of someone’s dream, hard work and hopes. He is the product of generations of intentional (and, I’m sure occasionally unintentional) breeding, plans and trait improvements.
Some foals will become what they are supposed to, and some will not. There will be ups and downs, tough days of training as they become horses and plenty of physical and mental growth as they learn and adapt to being our new partners when they are old enough. A few will exceed expectations, most will be nice riding animals, and others will bypass their genetic predispositions and grow into whatever they darn well please.
But until then, while the grass grows green and we watch with a little joy, they can just be foals.