Argh! For my mare, "blood in the feet" = blood ON the feet....
Long post, sorry, but ARGH! what a hairy couple of days I've had!
This past Monday, my six-month-old foal's soon-to-be buddy was finally ready to join him, and the barn owner and I had everything set for his arrival. I have to admit that I was secretly happy to know that we'd be weaning more or less "by the signs" (see VirginiaBred's sticky). Late in the afternoon I tranqued my mare and trucked her up the street to a neighbor's farm, leaving her foal alone (and none too happy) in his stall. The other colt got there an hour or two later. We put the new guy in with my boy, and after a good bit of kicking and milling about their double stall in a somewhat crazed fashion, they settled down nicely. Tuesday morning we turned the babies out, and again, all went pretty well, though my boy did take out a top rail (a 2 x 6!) with his chest after failing to notice, at a full gallop, that he was -- eek! -- too near the fence to make the turn. He sprang right up again on the other side, thank goodness, and as soon as the rail was fixed went right back to playing with his new bud. They've been best friends ever since and are both doing wonderfully, eating well and hanging out and just generally bonding mightily. It's a beautiful thing.
My mare, meanwhile, made it clear that first day that she was NOT interested in either staying in or being turned out by herself at the new place. We therefore carefully introduced her to her new herd, a lovely twenty-eight-year-old gelding and a two-year-old mini donk, whereupon she promptly set off on her own through a long stretch of woody brambles, toward the weakest line of post-and-rail, right on the road and the closest point to her old home (and her foal). After a measure of panic (on my part) and a deal of running around and hiding from the other equidae (on hers), we brought all three back inside, into their stalls, pending our setting up some sort of barrier to keep her away from the woods-and-road. A few hours later we turned her out with the old gelding in a smaller, safer paddock, where they grazed quietly together for the rest of the day. That was Tuesday. Wednesday morning we did the same thing: mare and gelding in the smaller (though still good-sized) turnout, now with donk in a tiny area next to them, all seeming perfectly peaceful.
Sometime before they came in that afternoon, though, things evidently got ugly (though no one saw what actually happened): the old guy limped in lame on his front left and right hind, with two pairs of hoofprints on either side along his flanks and ribs, another set on his left shoulder, a gaping cut on his right inside gaskin, and both ass cheeks swolled and peppered with cuts. My mare had not a single mark on her anywhere. She's a big girl, seven years old, 16.3 hands of very solid Perch / TB cross (3/4 Perch, in fact), and she made absolute HAMBURGER out of the 17.2 Dutch Warmblood gentleman. This was, to go back to my thread title, just a day before the first "best day" for weaning "by the signs" -- when the "blood [is] in the feet." Or in this case, more accurately, "ON the feet."
One piece of the puzzle -- and a puzzle it remains, as this girl, while certainly bossy with my own older gelding (whom she was turned out with for three years prior to foaling, this past May), had never hurt him in any way (other than injuring his pride) and was, if anything, overindulgent with her colt's antics (he was her first) -- did, however, fall into place yesterday, when she showed that at some point over the previous two days, she had come into heat.
Have any of you experienced breeders gone through something like this? I'm feeling just awful about the poor old guy she mauled, and I've asked the vet to send me the bills for the emergency call and all follow-up treatments (he's extremely sore but should, happily, heal up fine in a few weeks). I'm also going to move my mare, tomorrow, to my trainer's place, where she can be brought back into work and turned out alone but with other horses next to her, in safe fencing. Mostly, though, I'm hoping this doesn't mean she can't ever go out in a group again -- advice, anyone? Any reassurance would be VERY welcome.
(To fill out the picture: till she turned four and I bought her, she had been out 24/7/365 in a big mare herd, and thus has, I assume, a pretty darned good working knowledge of how to "get along well with others," as they say in grade school.)
Edited to add: Yup, she's still barefoot, thank God.
Last edited by draftxfan; Nov. 27, 2009 at 09:58 AM.
Reason: I seem to've forgotten how many days there are in a year....
Your mare sounds like she was angry about being weaned from her foal, and took it out on a horse who normally she would have been fine living with. Everyone equine can become angry about weaning, it isn't the best time to be making judgements about their characters. Best to keep horses who are having anger issues about things that are happening in their lives in SAFE conditions (safe for them and safe for other horses, and safe for humans) until their anger issues are dissipated.
Not everyone has faith in the "weaning by the signs" schedule. In your case, it has not helped, evidently. It isn't a schedule that I ever consider in my weaning plans, personally.
Your weaning may have gone better if the second mare and foal pair was brought over to your farm several weeks before the weaning. Allow the two pairs to buddy up together. Then wean both pairs at once, removing the two mares from the farm together, leaving the two foals together in a safe stall. This scheme might have avoided much of the kicking, fence breaking and escape on both parts. No guarantees though of course.
NancyM, thanks for your thoughts, I agree completely with everything you say. This is a real peach of a mare, just a gem, and normally very sweet (if bossy toward geldings). Safety is absolutely my paramount concern, which is why I'm shipping her elsewhere ASAP -- best for all concerned, not least (I say selfishly) me and my nerves!
In this instance, we couldn't bring the other mare down, as she's some distance away and a valuable broodmare back in foal. Also, and in any case, the other foal was in fact weaned from her about a month ago, and subsequently contracted a lingering bacterial respiratory infection, which dictated both the timing and the circumstances of my own foal's weaning -- we had to wait till the other little guy was ready to leave home.