School teachers know that skipping an assembly on a Friday in May to hide in my classroom and troll an online auction fundraiser for Boyd Martin after his barn burned down is really for the benefit of the 6th graders. So, what could I do to support him that would maybe bring some benefit to me? I’m too far away for lessons, too poor for high end items; I know, I’ll bid $380 on a breeding with Ronald Zabala’s show jumper stallion, Wonderboy. My Vermont Sport Pony (some may use the term Morgan) doesn’t want to jump and I don’t want to do saddle seat so I kind of need another horse. It’s only been 30 years since we bred and started our own; I can do that again.
I won the breeding — one dose of frozen semen, no live foal guarantee so I needed the perfect mare. Not a 10 year old maiden, not a 20 year old who hadn’t had a baby in 8 years. The perfect mare. And I found her! An OTTB who had been dropped off as a rescue: 12 years old, two previous babies, well-bred (Stormcat Granddaughter, what was I thinking?), moderately successful ($170,000 winnings seems pretty great to me). The fuzzy cell phone pic looked like good conformation with big lop ears which I love.
Vet checkup the next morning showed that she was ovulating now. Cue many Facebook posts about follicle size, semen shipping across the country, and sperm motility that made my non-horsy husband very uncomfortable. Three days later, at the reproductive specialist vet clinic, I had to explain that I had never met the mare, never met the stallion, never met the owners of either mare or stallion and never met the vet that did the work — I don’t recommend this method unless you have a really high uncertainty tolerance.
The ultrasound pics on Facebook with no explanation gave my mother-in-law some hope for a grandchild but the mare settled and had a happy, easy pregnancy. She was pleasant to have around and got along well with my lame, and slightly neurologically damaged OTTB gelding.
I planned to start sleeping in my truck bed above the small paddock about 10 days before she was due. School ended Friday; the milk test kit only barely registered Saturday morning and I worked all day at the tack shop so I was tired and wanted one more night in my regular bed. Big mistake. 5:30 Sunday morning groggily heading upstairs, I looked out the window, baby standing up and mare herding the gelding away from her. “Oh shit! … No wait, if she’s standing there, it’s OK.” Baby was still wet and mom hadn’t even passed the placenta yet so I figure she wasn’t more than a half hour old. My not-a-morning-person husband still talks about how he woke to me screaming at him to carry/usher the fresh baby up to the clean straw bedded stall while I led the mare.
She’s been pushing the envelope since she was born 10 days early. Her show name is Cattitude and no name has ever fit a horse so well. She’s 6 now and we’ve had adventures, challenges, and growth in all its convoluted and roundabout ways. I still haven’t made it to a clinic with Boyd to tell him the story and introduce him to my good fortune that came out of his bad fortune, but word from those who know him is that he’d like our story. Stay tuned for more of the story of our life together including several near death experiences for both of us, some successes, a lot of frustration and still some hope that she will eventually grow up to be as good as I know she could be.