We live across the street from a man who has several horses. Several as in about six or so. He doesn’t have much to do with them, really. Every couple of weeks he heads out for a load of hay for them, drops it in their pen, and that’s about the extent of his time spent with them.
Back in April, the girls and I were outside doing school on our trampoline when Jaylee announced there was a bubble coming out the back end of the horse. I look across the street, and sure enough, I see what she’s talking about. A sac. The sac quickly deflated, and was just laying against the horse’s backside. Thinking this must mean she was in labor, that her water had broken, I told the girls to grab their shoes, we were going to run across the street, sit outside the pasture, and watch this mare give birth.
Now, as much as I want a horse, I (obviously) know nothing about them. So as we’re sitting in my neighbor’s lawn, I begin to Google how long labor should take. Guessing at the stage we were at, we should be seeing the foal’s front feet soon. Within minutes.
The poor mare was contracting and sweaty.
I went to the neighbor’s door and knocked. I had knocked when we first got there to ask if he minded that we watched the delivery, but he hadn’t answered. Figuring he wouldn’t care, we plopped ourselves down. But now that I was worried, I thought I should knock a little louder. Be a little more persistent.
He didn’t answer.
We continued to sit there for another two hours. I called Josh, panicked. He told me there was nothing we could do. I felt so helpless. I wanted to go to her, but wasn’t sure that’d be wise.
After a couple of hours I realized we needed to go home. But I ended up parking my car at the end of the driveway to watch her from across the street. This had all begun about 10 AM, it was now about 6:00 PM.
My heart was breaking and I was so angry with our neighbor. Google told me that most likely she was delivering her placenta first. A bad thing.
We went to bible study that night, got home around 9:00, shined our lights on the pasture and saw she was lying down. Still contracting. Our neighbor still gone.
I wanted to scream.
The next morning I got up, didn’t see a foal. But saw the mare, still in the same state. I ran across the street, knocked on the neighbor’s door, he finally came to the door and I explained the situation. He was still in pajamas.
“Of course, it has to be my best mare. I didn’t even know she was pregnant. Now they’re both going to die.”
He called the vet who said he was 45 minutes out. I asked my neighbor if I could please get inside the pasture with her. He told me that was fine. She was lying down. With every breath, she stirred up dirt. She would heave, and nothing would happen. Sweaty girl.
I talked to her. Cried with her. Prayed for her. I told her she was doing such a good job. I told her how sorry I was. I told her she was strong and brave. I just kept asking God to save her and her baby, though I knew the baby must be dead. My girls sat there, on the other side of the fence, just watching.
The vet showed up about 90 minutes later. I assumed he’d usher me out, but he did not. In fact he introduced himself to me, my girls. Then started telling them things they could pull from his truck to help him. He told me where to stand, he wrapped her tail in a gauze like material so that it wouldn’t be in the way. I held her tail to the side of her body. He put on a glove that reached his shoulder and reached his arm inside of her. He’d had my girls grab some chains. He used them now.
He was going to try to pull the foal out by wrapping the chains around the legs. He tried for at least 20 minutes. Nothing.
“Sarah, I have to do something now. The chains are not working. I have to get this foal out another way. I am going to have to saw the foal in two, so I can pull it out.”
I nodded. Tears streaming down my dirty face. I just kept talking to her. Telling her I was so sorry. That I could not imagine. So many hours spent laboring over this baby, and now it was going to be sawed in half and pulled from her.
He put in this piece of metal that I can only describe as looking similar to a jump rope, that did not at all look like a saw. He then took the ends and started pulling on one side and then the other. I could tell it was a lot of work. He was working up a sweat.
And then I could tell he was done.
“I have to pull it out now, Sarah” I nodded again. Completely in shock at what I’m experiencing and wondering how on earth this mama is doing.
The front half.
Then the back.
A colt. A boy baby.
He told me that he was premature and had been dead at least two days. I was sobbing.
My neighbor smiling. “Oh, Sarah.” He said, mocking me.
But Ernie looked at me and said, “It’s okay, it’s good. It shows she still feels.”
All the feels in this moment.
I asked if the mare would be devastated, or if she’d not care. He had had to sedate her when he got there, so he told me it was likely she’d be too tired to care. He said some large animals will grieve, others won’t. Some mares, he said, would stand next to a dead foal for a couple of days. Others would simply lean down to smell the baby, and then keep moving.
The baby just laid there, in pieces. In the dirt. My girls saw it all.
I asked Ernie what I was to do with the colt now. He said to get a black plastic bag, put the colt in there. I ran across the street to my house, into my basement, and found the black leaf bags.
I came back and put the sweet baby in the bag and I thought how it was just too much. I had prayed for his mama for over 24 hours. Had been at her side for three. And this is what we had to show for it.
I asked Ernie if the mare would make it. He said she would. Relief.
I thanked him for letting me be there, for letting my girls stay. He thanked me for helping, thanked my girls for being strong and watching the hard thing. He told me I was doing a good thing by them, homeschooling.
I laughed. I never feel I’m doing a good thing by them, especially not with school. It was nice to have him say so, though.
We went back across the street, and everything went back to the way it was two days before.
Except I know I’ll never be the same. That day, that experience changed me. Made me stronger somehow. Also gave me a greater respect for animals.
And increased my desire to have a horse of my own one day.