Chapter 18: Born in a Storm - A Horse's Tale

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The day was dark, the sky filled with heavy storm clouds. Far away and high above the land, lightning flashes traced the progress of the heart of the storm - thankfully not too close yet.

Our large Bay mare Tiny was pawing the ground and snorting through her nose and lips, as horses do when they are agitated or excited. Surprisingly, it wasn't the threat of the impending squall that worried her. Tiny wasn't fussed at all about the distant thunder - or the wind that blew in sudden gusts of ever-increasing intensity.

No. Tiny was restless because she was about to become a Mother for the first time, and our experience with our many 'brand new' mother cows had taught us that Tiny now shared the same confusion they always showed.

"She had no understanding of what was happening, did she?" I feel my eyes glaze over as a solemn procession of mind pictures click by. Sometimes she tried a half-hearted kick at her stomach and laid her head back to have a lick and voice a rumbling whinny. As if asking her own great belly - "Why are you hurting me so much? What is wrong?"

Kanute and I stayed with her, fondled her face, whispered in her ears and blew gentle warm air into her nostrils. She loved the attention, and normally it would be enough to make her eyes soften and shine like liquid chocolate. Gentle harrumphs would quiver her lips as they rolled out from deep in her throat. Normally. But not this time. Now her eyes stayed worried, in pain - and fearful too.

Briefly she would lie down, swishing her tail vigorously and stirring up mini-dust storms with her hooves. Then up again, to walk around slashing her tail viciously through the air, stopping only to angrily paw the ground. There was no comforting her in those moments. Her head swung strongly from side to side and now and then she tossed her mane impatiently. Finally, she awkwardly lowered herself to the ground and started dedicated heaving, with great whooshing sighs between contractions. Her stomach looked a monstrous size when she was on her side, straining so hard.

Kanute leans his head to one side and tightens his mouth in a lop-sided grin. "You always had stomach pains too, when anything was giving birth. Remember?"

As if I could forget. For some reason, I always tightened and loosened my stomach muscles in unison (and empathy, no doubt) with the poor mum, whatever her gene pool. This time, with Tiny, it was even worse than usual. Strange, but watching this horse give birth was equal in intensity to the first birth I ever assisted - our little Candy dog, delivering her eight puppies.

It seemed like forever passed until, many heaves later, something barely poked out of her - just a glimpse of something - only to disappear as suddenly back inside again. And out again with each heave, and in again with each huge sigh between contractions. But it was enough for us to see it was a little hoof! Slowly... ever so slowly, more came out and stayed out - soon followed by another hoof! Tiny was straining and puffing hard now. Her body had taken the reins, miraculously knowing what her baby needed to come into the world.

"And then her struggles changed completely." Kanute's words change my inner picture completely. Now it was time to get back up on her feet, with the nose and legs of her baby hanging out of her. For a few minutes, she stood with legs spread wide.

"She was bracing herself for what would be the toughest part," I say, and still feel a shudder deep inside. This was indeed the toughest part - the head and shoulders were the widest part of the foal. With several more giant heaves, the nose of the foal emerged. More straining and there came the whole head, ears flattened tightly against its skull as though taped there. Like all newborns, the foal was still in its umbilical sac - a membrane that resembles a balloon - filled with fluid to keep the baby safe and protected against bumps and jabs.

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