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Horse Report: Waiting On Baby

It’s hard to believe that Annie’s due date is almost here. As I write this, she is now 332 days into the 340-day average gestation of a mare. All systems are ready for launch!

How The Journey Began

It all started back in January of 2023, when we started my Horse Goals or Bust! series. I filled out my goals worksheet and decided to breed Annie to Bet Hesa Cat, a stallion at the 6666 Ranch. Soon after, I signed a breeding contract and enlisted the services of a reproductive veterinarian for her breeding by artificial insemination. This turned out to be the easy part.

Living in the high mountains, as we do, we did not want to take a chance of breeding too early and having a foal born in January when temps can fall below zero. Annie went for her first pre-breeding exam in March, and was dropped off at the breeding facility in early April. As a 16-year-old maiden mare (meaning, never bred before), we knew it could be a challenge to get her pregnant, but she was in fantastic shape and looked like she was in the prime of her life. At least on the outside.

Fast-forward a few months, several shipments of semen, two failed preg-checks, and a few thousand spent on mare-care and vet treatments later, and Annie was bred for the third and final time. It was the very last shipment of semen of the season for Bet Hesa Cat, and our last shot⁠—whether it worked or not.

This is a screenshot of Annie’s 14-day old embryo.
This is a screenshot of Annie’s 14-day old embryo.

A Bump in the Road

On June 16, 2023, Annie passed her 14-day pregnancy test. Finally, after grossly lowering my expectations, I was awarded the prize! Or so we thought…

Our next hurdle was the 30-day ultrasound check. I was out of town on an extended trip, and her regular repro vet was unable to do the exam. Inadvertently, and primarily due to lack of communication, the new vet performed the 30-day preg check almost a week early, and the results were negative.

Dreams were dashed. The realization that Annie would be another year older and even harder to settle next year left us few options. Although I had my doubts, I came to accept the loss and chalked it up to experience. As the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Or So We Thought…

It was a few months later at the end of September 2023, and after many observations of Annie that didn’t jive (like gaining weight despite changes to feed and exercise, stocking up in the hind legs for the first time in her life⁠—and yes⁠—seeming to have a glow about her) started to add up.

We did another ultrasound which showed a big, healthy foal!

(And because many people have already asked if we’ll find out if it is a colt or filly, the answer is “No.” As much as I’d like to know a colt is on the way, and although it can be done within a brief window of gestation, sexing foals in utero is not practical.)

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The Final Stretch

Once mares are through the first 120 days of gestation, they typically don’t need much maintenance. Annie is on a top-rate feeding plan, plus Cosequin ASU and vitamins with a handful of grain.

She’s in her foaling stall at night, and turned out all day with her herdmates. She got three extra Rhino shots at 5, 7, and 9 months, dewormed with Ivermectin at 10 months, and her annual vaccines. She looks great, and is very content.

Basically, all that’s left now is the waiting. 340 days of gestation is average—the foal might come a few weeks on either side of that.

There are indicators for when the mare will foal.

  1. The formation of a milk bag (normally takes about 3 weeks)
  2. A shift in how the foal is positioned as it moves into the birth canal
  3. Relaxation of muscles around the dock of the tail and vulva and waxing of the teats (within 1-3 days)
  4. Milk pH testing (which can indicate foaling within a few hours).

Based on an almost complete lack of signs of the impending birth, I think Annie is still at least two weeks away from foaling⁠—but we are ready. Rich has diligently prepared her foaling stall, and we have all the straw bedding we need. Our “Annie Cam” functions well so I can watch her in real time, and record and save video from her stall.

I’ve put together a comprehensive foaling kit, and have everything I need to attend to the delivery. My foaling kit is packed up and ready to be deployed. Here is a video of it packed up and all laid out.

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