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September 2023 Horse Report: A Lesson in Letting Go

Many of you have followed along with my plans to breed my AQHA mare, Annie, to a top cow horse stallion, Bet Hesa Cat. At first it seemed highly likely that Annie would conceive, even though she was a 16-year-old “maiden” mare. Would I really be so lucky to have her settled after one breeding? The answer was a hard and fast no!

She was actually inseminated three times (three different cycles), with several medical treatments in between to clean up infection in her uterus. During the several months that Annie was at the breeding facility, she appeared to be pregnant twice, but later pregnancy checks were negative.

By this time of year, we were faced with the tail-end of breeding season, and the last date that semen would be shipped for this year. We hoped, as the saying goes, the third time would be the charm. Finally, after all of that work Annie had a positive pregnancy check at the 14-day mark and came home!

And this is where things got a bit rocky…

I was out of town when Annie came home, so I was managing it from a distance. The next exam for Annie was an ultrasound where the heartbeat is visible, between 26-30 days after breeding⁠—and not at all before that timeframe. Maiden mares in particular are notorious for being closer to the 30-day mark by the time it is visible.

Due to a scheduling mixup, Annie’s exam took place on the 24th day of her pregnancy, two days before the heartbeat had a chance of being visible, and Annie was declared “open” (vet-speak for not pregnant).

I was not there, but when I got the disappointing news it briefly occurred to me that it was a little early to check her. Still, I accepted the bad news and started the long, hard process of figuring out what to do next.

Be the Leader of Your HerdAs your horsemanship improves, so does your horse!

With my hopes for a pregnancy this season off the table, we decided to take Annie off of her pregnancy meds, put her on her regular diet, and back into the training rotation in an effort to get her back into riding condition. I put the matter behind me, booked a trip to Fort Worth to attend the cutting horse sales, and planned to buy a fine yearling. In the meantime, I enjoyed reconnecting with Annie, and having a nice horse to ride.

But there were some subtle changes in Annie that kept all of us who are around her a little bit perplexed. Instead of losing weight, she continued gaining. When I rode her she seemed to breathe harder and sweat more, and she started stocking up slightly in her hind legs (puffiness, fluid) for the first time ever. She also developed an unfamiliar contentment, a mellowness I was not used to seeing in her. If I didn’t know better, I might’ve said she had a glow about her.

Then last week, our regular vet was out at my ranch treating another horse. I went out to the barn just to say hello, and we started chatting. I started joking with her about Annie having a hard time leaving her cushy life of leisure⁠—and all its perks⁠—behind, and something I said gave Dr. Molly pause. She said, “Julie, since I am here and I have the ultrasound machine with me, why don’t we just take a closer look at Annie?”

As you may have guessed by now, this spur-of-the-moment exam revealed a healthy little foal inside! At 4 months along, it turns out that Annie’s on-again/off-again pregnancy is back on again⁠—just when I had come to terms with not having a foal.

Needless to say, we are all thrilled. Annie is grateful we finally figured it all out, and that she’s getting the royal treatment once again. She’s become an eating machine, and we are starting to see bulges in all the right places. We have resumed the remodel of her foaling stall and nursery pen, and we’re installing surveillance cameras, getting ready for the big day.

The gestation period for mares averages 330 days, putting her due date at April 28th, 2024. It’s a long time to wait, but it’s well worth it. There are many things that can still go wrong between now and then, but she is past the tenuous points of early pregnancy and happily carrying a healthy foal.

The rollercoaster ride of emotions continues, and I am fully strapped-in. With horses, the learning never stops, and I’ve learned two important lessons with Annie this summer.

Lesson #1 was to just let it go. All the planning, goal-setting and efforts won’t always produce the outcome you want. It will be what it will be, and all you can do is your best. Don’t sweat over past decisions that didn’t pan out. Just move forward with a new plan. It’s just funny that as soon as I came to this realization, this time I ended up getting just what I wanted to begin with.

Lesson #2 (sadly not the first time I’ve been taught this lesson) is to listen to and trust my inner-voice. My gut feeling told me that the preg-test was being done too early. My inner voice repeatedly questioned the negative result. Annie was also doing her best to tell me, but I was reluctant to trust my inner voice and listen to her, for fear of more disappointment.

This summer on my Horse Goals or Bust plan, I went from Plan A to Plan B, then C, then D, and now here we are, back to Plan A. I hope your HGOB journey was a little smoother ride.

I’ve enjoyed hearing from so many of you about your HGOB journeys and we are working to compile some highlights to share with you next month. So if you want yours included, head to my Horse Goals or Bust group on Facebook and add how yours turned out!

Thanks for joining me on this journey⁠. I promise to keep you updated on Annie’s progress.

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