The Gentling of a Mustang
The New Arrival
John and I stood in amazement. The little foal must have just been born.
It was jet black with a big blaze down the face. "Quick, get the camera!"
John whispered and I ran back to the house. It was just my luck that I had
bought a camera with a flash that morning.
As I ran back out side, the black form attempted to stand. I quickly
snapped a photo before it started to rise. I suddenly remembered to call the
"John, here's the camera", and I quickly ran back inside.
I frantically reached for my emergency phone list and found the pager number
of Dr. Palmer. I dialed it quickly and sat agonizing while waiting for him
to call back.
John came inside. "What are you doing? It's trying to stand!"
"I just paged the vet and I am waiting for him to call back", I replied.
John went back outside while I waited for the call. The minutes seemed to go
on forever. I wanted to go back to see the new arrival. Finally
the phone rang and Dr. Palmer's sleepy voiced asked what was going on.
"Celis just had her foal", I told the vet. There was silence for a few moments.
"You mean she was pregnant?" he asked. I was sure that his mind was slowly
waking up and trying to digest the information. "Ok, ok, I remember," he
continued. "Has she delivered the foal completely or is she still in labor?"
"The foal is completely delivered and is trying to stand now", I replied.
"Has the mare expelled the placenta?"
"I don't know. I did not see it".
"It might still be hanging from the mare. If not check around the corral. It
could easily be covered with dirt and difficult to see. If you don't find
it and the mare doesn't pass it in the next couple of hours, we will have
trouble", he warned. "We'll have to cleanse her and that is not an easy task,
even with a domestic horse".
"When you find the placenta, place it in a cool place.
Let's see, I'm out to see your horses tomorrow in the late afternoon. Find
a cool spot for it--if you can, place it in the refrigerator,
otherwise it will be a rotting mess. How is the foal?"
"The foal is trying to stand. It seems really vigorous."
"You will need to dip the foal's umbilical cord in Iodine. Once the
foal is standing, it will probably start trying to nurse. If it begins to
become depressed or doesn't start suckling in the next few hours, give me a
call. Also if the mare rejects the foal or if she doesn't pass the
placenta, call me. Otherwise I will be by tomorrow afternoon to check up on
After the call, I looked around the house for a suitable container for the
Iodine for dipping the umbilical cord. I found a little measuring cup for
cough syrup and I took that and went outside.
When I arrived, the little black foal was struggling to stand. It was
having difficulty with its long legs. The foal got the front legs untangled
and then placed them in front of the body. Then the little black form
attempted to heave itself upward into a standing position with the legs
poised out in front like long stilts and the hind legs spread apart.
"I am so glad you made it to see this. This is the first successful attempt
at standing. The foal tried a couple of other times and fell, but now it is
truly standing!" said John, trying to keep his voice in a whisper.
"I talked to the vet. We need to dip the umbilical cord in Iodine and also
find the placenta". I looked at Celis' hind end but the placenta was not
hanging from her. "I'll get the Iodine, and if you could, look around the
corral for the placenta. Dr. Palmer said that it might be covered with dirt
somewhere in the corral".
"I don't see the placenta anywhere around. Could it still be in her?" John
"I don't think so. She probably had a foal out on the range and she survived
that. It has to be somewhere here," I said, returning to the corral with the
bottle of Iodine and the little cup. "We'll try to find it in a few minutes.
We have to dip the umbilical cord with the Iodine. If you can hold the foal,
I will dip it.
Both John and I climbed into the corral. Celis took several steps away from
us. I hoped this procedure wouldn't cause Celis to reject the foal. The
little black form was now trying a few cautious steps. It moved each leg
very carefully, almost like testing to see if they would really work. It
took a few stiff legged steps around; with each step the foal seemed to gain
confidence. John and I crouched on the ground, breathless.
The foal walked around and started moving toward us. As it ambled forward, I
got a good look at the back end. "I think it is a filly" I whispered to
John. "I think we better get this over with quickly so we can leave the two
of them to bond". John moved toward the filly. When he got close, she
shuffled toward him. She didn't seem afraid of either one of us. John
surrounded the black form with his arms while I filled the cup. I expected
the umbilical cord to be much bigger and I had to hunt through the thick fur
to find it.
Finally I found it--the cord was about an inch and a half long and less than
a quarter inch wide. I did my best to dip it in the amber fluid. "She is so
thin." I told John. "I can feel all the bones in her spine." The little
filly almost looked two dimensional. Most of her long fur was dry by this
time and was beginning to fluff out.
Next John and I started to look through the dirt to find the placenta.
"Where could it be", asked John.
"It has to be somewhere here. Let's look for a little bit more then let them
have some time together and try again in a little while." We kicked the dirt
a little more before leaving the corral without it.
John went back to the store room and got a couple of chairs and set them up
just outside the circle of light. We sat and watched the little filly walk
toward her mother. The foal made a tiny nicker and Celis responded with a
deep wuffling whicker. The filly began to nose her way between the white
mare's front legs. Her little muzzled bumped its way just behind the elbow.
"Not there", John whispered to me. "How long till she finds the right end?"
"I don't know."
The little filly walked stiffly around. Her knees and hocks were enormous.
Again she made her way back to Celis White, this time heading toward the
"Maybe she will get it right this time," I postulated.
The filly again bumped her nose on her mother. Finally the foal found the
udder. Just as the filly began to nurse, Celis nipped the baby's hock. Both
John and I gasped.
"I hope this doesn't mean she is going to reject her", I said.
"Should we go get the halter and hold Celis still?" John asked.
"I don't want to interfere too much. She might really reject her foal then.
Maybe we can distract her with some food." I went and got a tiny flake of
hay and placed it in her feeder before going back to my chair. Celis
immediately went over and started
eating. The little filly trailed along, stopping directly behind Celis.
She then started nosing her way between her mother's hind legs. Celis paid
Seeing that she was not getting any results that way, the filly then went to
the side and tried from there. This time she was successful. We could hear
the sucking noises from where we were sitting.
"I'm going to try to get a photo from the side", said John. He walked over
to the edge of the corral and watched from the railing. After taking the
photo, he quietly walked back and whispered to me, "I found the placenta".
"Where is it?" I asked.
"It's on this end of the corral. What are we going to pick it up with?"
"We have the manure fork", I said, "I'm going to get a garbage bag to place
it in." I turned and walked back to the house.
When I returned, John had two pieces of cardboard in his hands. "What are
those for", I asked.
"We can use these to scoop up the placenta. That way we won't poke a hole in
We entered the corral again. "Ok, where is it?"
"It is right over here. I saw it when I was taking that picture. A glint
of light bounced off of it", said John.
We crouched next to the mass of tissue which was covered in dirt. We each
took a piece of cardboard and tried to lift it together. The placenta just
oozed from between the cardboard back onto the ground. It seemed to weigh a
"You hold the bag open and I will lift the placenta into it", John told me.
He took the card board pieces and tried to scoop up the flowing mass. It
again drooped off the cardboard.
"Let's use the manure fork like mentioned before", I said. I began to feel
like we were the two stooges.
"No, no, we might make a hole in it".
"Ok, I have another idea". I took the plastic and laid it on the ground with
the opening spread out. "We can use the cardboard to push it into the bag".
We rolled the gooey substance into the bag. When I picked up the bag, it
seemed to weigh at least 30 pounds.
"My goodness that weighs a lot", I told John. I tied the top of the bag with
a knot and took it into the house and placed it in the refrigerator. When I
got out, John was sitting in the chair. I joined him.
We sat and watched the little filly nurse. She then walked to center of the
corral and began trying to lie down. She began to buckle her knees. But
about half way down, she stood back up. It was a long way down for such a
tiny little horse. Again she began her journey downward.
She tried stopping half
way down again, but it was too late. Plop! She landed on her side. There she
began to take a nap.
John and I watched mother and daughter. Celis began to take on her role as
caring mother while the filly began experiencing this strange, new world. At
about 1:30 a.m., my husband and I reluctantly made our way back to the
The little black filly trying to stand
The little black filly standing at last!
The newborn foal's first meal