Warning: My story gets emotional-- have Klenex handy.
I'm Bree, I'm 24 years old and was born and raised just outside of NYC for most of my life. I've traveled a bit, spend some time in Florida, Texas and now Syracuse, NY. I've known I've always wanted to work with animals, I studied Oceanography in Highschool with ideas of being one of those dolphin/whale trainers you see at SeaWorld. I went to College the first time for Pre-Vet med but the cost was just too much. I took some time off, worked, volunteered at a zoo, went back to school with hopes of getting a degree in Zoology and being a zookeeper, I'm 15 credits away from an AS in Math and Science. Maybe one day I'll finish it. Life has other plans and right now I'm working at a Video Game store currently. I got engaged in December, 2011 and though we haven't set a date we're both fine with that.
When I moved in with my Fiance in February his mom asked me to start riding with her. I hadn't ridden in about 5 years (Back when I worked at a YMCA summer camp) and thought it would be fun. My MIL's horse is a nice Thoroughbred named Spanky (We're told he's related to Secretariat) that my MIL gets along with well enough. She feels he's not bonding with her but that's an issue for another day.
(Char just after I took her on in March 2012)
I meet a great horse, we hit it off well and I start learning to ride again. I had only been borrowing her and one day in early March we're told that if no one picks up her boarding fee she's going to the market. We couldn't let that happen. So, another horse becomes ours. She's underweight and no one has really worked with her since she came to the ranch. Inbetween work shifts we're going to visit them, riding a little here and there. Char has some leg problems and we spend the last month mostly just walking her around taking care of the swelling. The tooth vet came in early April and took care of her, informed us that she is in her 20's, maybe around 25, (not teens like the ranch was told by her previous owner's family) he did what he could for her teeth, but because of her now known age didn't want to sedate her for much longer than he had already and we scheduled more work for 6 months. Char was scheduled to get shots two weeks ago but due to a miscommunication in price she didn't.
Thank goodness she didn't.
Monday the 21st MIL and I go up with hopes to ride. We pull into the ranch and I call Char in from the paddock, she's great and comes right to the gate for me, and I am crestfallen. Her other leg now is limping and she's got a good 3 inch gash on her ankle. I sigh and bring her to the barn, start cleaning it up and preparing to loose my mind. It's disheartening having a horse for so long and riding her so little. Ranch owner comes home and I ask her for some help treating the leg. She looks up and begins to swear up a storm.
Char is not only preg, but waxing. No one knew that when she came to the ranch in January she had been in pasture with a stallion last summer. I'm instantly terrified. I did a year and a half of pre-vet med (it was too expensive) I know that with no prenatal care, no proper worming schedule, vaccinations-- all combined with Char's seeming inability to keep weight on, the chances of a foal and mare surviving the birth made my heart stop. I couldn't loose this horse. Yeah she's almost always injured and I have barely ever ridden her but I've been grooming her and caring for her and I couldn't think of what life would be like if she was just gone now.
I called my job and told them that I'd likely not be in work the next day, we get what we can ready at hand, gloves, iodine, towel, twine, et. I hunker down with my MIL and one of the ranch owners to patiently await the full on labor. We sit under the stars, talk about life, nap in the car next to the barn waiting. 1:45am I'm awoke by one of the the ranch owners. Baby is presenting. I get out of the car as quietly as I could and go closer to the stall. One leg. My heart stopped. One leg, a head with another leg tucked under it-- and Char stopped pushing. The sack hadn't broken and she stopped pushing and laid there. I waited, I remembered reading that sometimes they stop pushing for a moment at the shoulders because it's one of the harder areas to pass. I looked around to be prepared and the towel was gone. Everyone else had left me to go wake the others. I didn't know how much time passed but still no more pushing. I pulled off my shirt and gently as I could grasped the hooves of the baby and waited for a contraction. These were the longest moments of my life. I've seen dogs birth, I've had to rescue a few breech kittens but a horse is by far the best birth I've ever had the pleasure of attending.
The others start coming back as I rip open the sack and wait. No breath, no breath. One of the ranch owners lean down and start vigorously rubbing the baby's chest. I'm holding mine as I watch my mare, still laying down not looking over yet and I hear the most wonderful noise. The baby starts breathing! I look to my mare, my mid 20's mare, still laying down and raising her head gently. She's so tuckered out, but she's got this wet mini-me laying at her legs. I lean in and raise the baby's tail-- it's a filly.
It took some time but once the afterbirth had passed Char got up and started nuzzling her baby. The baby took it's time, and I can't blame it. We don't know how long she was carried, what effects the near starvation Char was in when she came to the ranch in January could have done to the fetus. We were all eagerly waiting to make sure the filly stands. An hour goes by with a few attempts resulting in more laying. Finally she gets onto her feet-- and runs straight into the stall wall and precedes to lick and suck the wood. My luck, I've got a paint licker for a kid.
4 days now and everyone's doing well. Hopefully now Char can start putting on weight. In hindsight I wish that we had known but I can't be too hard on myself, two vets, a farrier, and countless other owners who board at the ranch didn't suspect it, specially after we learned how old she is. We all just thought she was showing her age.
P.S. After four days of lists, voting and general deliberation by my MIL and I we have settled on a name for the filly. Katie Rose Venus. We both like Katie, Rose is the owner who helped start her breathing and Venus is currently the most visible of all the planets in the night sky.