Sunday, June 27, 2021

Foxy, My Not-Pregnant-Mare, Has Developed Milk

The heat wave has begun, and it's already taking its toll on the horses. You can see the energy zapped out of them during the day, and it's hard to watch. We haven't even reached the maximum temps of 109. I'm curious how equestrians who live in Arizona and Nevada handle temperatures like this. 

If Epona was 100%, and drinking water, I'd feel a little better. I poured a bucket of water over her yesterday. She wasn't too sure about that, but she didn't fight much either. I'll do the same thing today. She had five days of no milk coming out of her nose, but today she stopped nursing to itch her leg, and some milk came out. I was like, NOOOOO!!!  But it was only one time, so we will see what happens.

If there's one silver lining in the heat wave, it's that our evenings do cool down to the 70's, and the horses come alive again when they feel it drop. I let them out at about 8 pm last night, and they were happy campers.

On another note, Foxy Mama, who hasn't had a foal in at least ten years, has developed milk. I'm not sure what to think about this development. Can she nurse Epona? I teased out a little bit, and it seems watery. What a mama though! She is so mother-driven, she has produced milk for a baby who is not even hers.

We hosted a bridal brunch here yesterday for my daughter-in-law. 

Shiloh and my daughter-in-law are quite creative. It was a beautiful day.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Training Epona and Reflecting On Tumbleweed

As we adapt to the extreme heat in our area, we are also working with Epona on leading. She has had so much daily handling for meds, that she is quite comfortable now being held, having her legs rubbed, her feet picked up, and standing for halter. However, she wasn't willing to lead away from Cowgirl, and the stall, until last night.

You'll have to excuse my daughter's heavy breathing during the video. She's very pregnant, and I'm not sure what was going on there. haha.

The farrier was out a couple of days ago, and he suggested we work with picking up her feet everyday, which we have done, and holding them and rubbing the hooves. He intends to trim her the next time he comes out, and he wants her to be comfortable with nippers / rasp. 

She has been a joy to work with training. We joke that having such a mean mama, which Cowgirl is, makes her appreciate us more. I love Cowgirl to death, but she is not mama material. She's one of the grumpiest, bossiest, most stern horses I've ever known, yet Epona loves her.  Or, more accurately, Epona respects her and needs her milk.  We all agree that Epona will probably be very happy when she's finally weaned and rely solely on a human mama, and / or Foxy, to replace Cowgirl. 

Feeding a lactating mare can be tricky, and we are trying to gauge her needs day to day. The vet said she doesn't want to see her any fatter, and to start bringing the food down as Epona starts to eat solids. We've introduced feed to Epona, and she likes it, but is not able to eat much yet. We still haven't witnessed her drinking water either. I read that some foals won't drink water until they are weaned. Yikes! I would feel so much better if she would do it now. But that saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink, is so true of our situation. 

Raising Epona makes me think a lot about Tumbleweed, when he was a baby with Rosalee. (Photos by Shirley, at Ride a Good Horse. He was her baby from Beamer.) I would go to see him as much as I possibly could, but I didn't get the day to day that Shirley did.  When I see Epona do something, I think, that's probably what Tumbleweed would have been doing.

Rosalee was such a GOOD mama...unlike another mare I know.

He was such a beautiful foal. I bring him in several times per day now to give him his feed and pet and groom him.  Unfortunately, we're not doing much more than that these days. I'm hoping we will get cooler temps after this heat wave that will allow me to start hauling him to our local equestrian park. 

I don't have a good recent photo of him, but he's starting to fill out a lot. I think his height is finished now, and he's perfect for me--about Cowboy's height. It's easier for me to get up and down and swing a saddle on. 

He's also extremely gregarious--just loves people. That's how I hoped he'd be. He's a horse who never had a bad experience, so why wouldn't he? People mean food and love and security and fun. 

One day, he and Epona will get to be turned out together--the youngest members of our herd. And maybe someday, even ride the trails together! It's so exciting to imagine that!

It's hot, but life is pretty sweet here with these horses!  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Epona's Checkup

I may not have raised foals from birth before, but I do know what they should look like, and how they should progress, if for no other reason, just watching Shirley's blog at Ride a Good Horse. So, when people were asking me how Epona was doing, and if she was 100% yet, I said no. I guessed that she was 50% better. She had been 80% efficient at nursing the last time she was at the vet, and I figured she was 90% (or just a little better) now. 

Everyone around me thought I was being unduly pessimistic, but I think of myself as a realist.  For example, if you ask me if a glass is half full or half empty--I'd say it is both. I'm a glass is half full AND half empty kinda gal.

Therefore, when the results of her ultrasound revealed a 50% improvement, my realism (and x-ray vision) was vindicated.


It was a HOT ride to the vet clinic yesterday, but not nearly as hot as it's going to be when we go back next week. Cowgirl was sweating because we had to wait 20 minutes for our appointment. She got very nervous in the trailer, and did a lot of prancing around with Epona. It was nerve-wracking for me to make her wait like that. I was almost ready to drive off.

But just when I'd lost all hope of ever being summoned, the vet came out to get us. 

Epona has learned to enjoy the vet clinic. She's very curious, and they let her wander around the room.

When we gave them our update: congested nose sounds, a drip of milk here and there from the nostril, but not nearly as often, or as much...our vet immediately jumped to the possibility of taping Cowgirl's nipples and starting Epona on pelleted milk replacer. However, after seeing Epona's lungs with the ultrasound, she backtracked.  She was happy with Epona's weight gain (176 lbs), and the improvement in her lungs, and she decided to keep her on mama, but introduce another antibiotic to her regimen. (and also increase her old antibiotic, to reflect her gain in weight).

I asked her how long we can go on like this before there's lung scarring, and she said we have a long, long way to go. 

She wants us to start introducing Omolene 300 (Cowgirl's supplement) as a mash, once per day. She also wants us to add a low water trough for Epona so that we can see if she starts to drink water by herself. (Currently, she has access to a low automatic water) And then we're going to take it on a week to week basis, assuming she doesn't go backwards. Her next appointment is next Thursday.

We left the clinic feeling pretty confident about the future. Epona has done very well, and as she gets older, and more mature, our options expand. 

As for Cowgirl's weight, she told me she doesn't want her any heavier, and as Epona starts to eat other foods, slowly back off on her Omolene 300 supplement.  Right now, she's getting about 10 pounds per day, and 24/7 grass. We had been told to give her Bute (by Cowgirl's vet in the same clinic) for her nursing issues, but Epona's vet wasn't keen on the Bute. She said some of it is getting to Epona, and she'd rather it not. I told her I'd compromise and only give as needed. (Which I'd already been doing.)


We are going to have record hot temperatures this week--exceeding 100 degrees--and I am very happy Epona will be more mature by the time they do hit. I'm going to have to find creative ways to cool them off. We have a sprinkler in the pasture, and I may turn that on for them--a cool ground does seem to take the bite off of the extreme temps.

What things do you all do to help the horses survive during extreme hot spells?

Friday, June 18, 2021

A New Day for Epona


As you all know, since Cowgirl's delivery of Epona, we have dealt with a retained placenta and pharyngeal dysfunction. Epona is three weeks old today, and her care has been the focus of our lives. She is doing much better, and we have high hopes for a positive outcome, as she outgrows the pharynx immaturity / dysfunction.

After the last post, I was getting very discouraged at Epona's lack of progress, so I returned to my old philosophy of less is *sometimes* more.  I asked myself if anything I was doing was also getting in the way of her recovery. Horses are semi-feral animals, and they are imprinted with their own survival. What did they know that might help Epona?

That day, after I'd just written Cowgirl was over her hives, she suddenly broke out into hives again, and I determined they were related to stress.  Cowgirl was telling me something was wrong. She was, at times, avoiding nursing, and we went back and forth between--not a good pain. 

I found a website that broke down three different types of scenarios where mares reject foals, and what they mean. Cowgirl's type: protective, attentive, but walks away while nursing is 100% pain related. 

That was good to read, as it allowed me to focus on giving her pain relief with Bute until she and Epona get this nursing thing down. I imagine, much of her issue is from Epona's dysfunction issues. And vice versa. A viscous cycle. At any rate, it seems to have resolved itself, and she is allowing Epona to nurse whenever she wants to now.  They are very close, and often will mutual groom together. 

The biggest change was allowing them out into their small, grassy area again and, in the evenings, the big pasture. Within two hours of allowing them to graze, Cowgirl's hives began to disappear, and they have not returned. Epona began to copy her mom by grazing, and I felt that it was worth whatever small risk was involved if it also gave her practice swallowing. We had removed all the loose straw and hay in their area a week before, but it's impossible to keep up entirely with stray bits falling to the ground when Cowgirl feeds from her hay net. It seemed like green grass was better than dry grass when it came to Epona trying to ingest something. (Note: foals will try to eat anything they see, without discretion.)

The changes in Epona came quickly. She seemed stronger, and her nursing became more efficient. She did develop diarrhea, but that is normal for foals at this age. When our vet finally got back to us about it, she said that as long as she's active, alert, hungry, and her vitals were healthy, it wasn't anything to worry about. We told her we'd given her 20cc of Pepto Bismol and applied petroleum around her bottom, after cleaning her, to keep the diarrhea from sticking to her fur. Our vet approved of those actions and said they also have a prescription anti-diahhreal they can give her, if the Pepto doesn't work.

Her next appointment is this Monday, where they will take x-rays of her lungs again, and we will find out how much progress she has made, and if we need to take further steps.

I am optimistic. Guardedly optimistic, but definitely optimistic. I know I have said I would never breed a horse again, and that is true. But I have to also say, being a part of this foal's life has been one of the most incredible journeys of my life. It has been a privilege. As horse owners, we are often asking for miracles, and I have definitely been seeking one for Epona. Sometimes, we get those miracles we've asked for, and sometimes we don't, so we have to be okay with what comes in between--one day, one week, one year, or decades. We have to be okay with what we've been given. I'm thankful for every day with Epona.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Update on Epona and Cowgirl

This has been a week of ups and downs. Cowgirl's hives went away, so I can only assume that it was a reaction to the SMZ's. Epona gets a little bit better at nursing every day, but today, for some reason, she has had issues. 

We think part of the problem is udder soreness for Cowgirl, and the vet said to put her on Bute for a while. At times, she doesn't want Epona to nurse, and then when Epona finally gets to, the milk comes pouring down. So, we'll try the Bute, and we'll probably start holding her still in the early mornings, when she has the most amount of milk. It doesn't help that Epona got so many teeth so early.  Oh, I also decided to confine them to their stall most of the day and night. Epona was flourishing yesterday, so I opened up their attached turnout for them, and then this morning, she seemed worn out. I think Cowgirl just kept her running and didn't allow her the rest she needs. The tight confinement also gives Epona more opportunity to nurse.

If none of this works, and Epona can't keep up with the production, we might have to take her off of mama and go to feeding her ourselves. That is a last ditch effort, and the vet wants to avoid going there. It would be stressful for both, and there's so much a foal learns from their mamas that would be difficult to replicate. So far, we haven't been able to get Epona to take a supplement either.

We have the truck and trailer hooked up and ready to go, should any of her vitals take a downward turn. So far, that hasn't happened.

Due to the all the sleepless nights, and constant worry, I came down with a hideous virus of my own. The first few days of it, I was able to keep up the pace, but on the fourth day, it zapped all my strength. Today is the 6th day of it, and I'm starting to feel my energy return. It was good to have Shiloh take up the slack, and my husband. It was also nice to have the barn camera. Here's the view right now, as I type. (The loop is for fly strips.)

I don't mind taking on the work and worry, because Shiloh is pregnant, too. When I think of the toll it's taking on me, I shudder to think that Shiloh carries a similar burden. I try not to bother her too much with the ups and downs, but I they are her horses, soooo....I can't completely avoid it either.

My sweet daughter in law painted Epona and Cowgirl for us, to bring us some comfort. I love it.

Tonight, I'm going to try and get her to suck a pacifier, in hopes it will strengthen her sucking / swallowing reflex. I'm going to use a lamb-size nipple. I'll put my finger into it, if she doesn't bite too hard.

Despite all the ups and downs, we are progressing with halter training, and I hope she is fully trained by our next trip to the vet. It would cut down on a lot of chaos. Today was the first day she didn't pull back, or freeze, when she felt pressure. (Below is from yesterday, when she did pull back.)

In the two weeks she's been here, we have grown so attached and already love her so much. We really try to enjoy every moment we have. In the end, time is somewhat irrelevant, but love is never irrelevant. 

Monday, June 7, 2021


You might remember from the last post, we were battling with 95 degree days. They were awful. However, this week, the temps have dipped into the upper 30's at night, equally awful.

Well, let me backtrack.

Equine hives, Mare hives

After my last, Yay, it's the week birthday post, Cowgirl broke out in hives. From what? I don't know. I suspected her antibiotics, but I had also just reintroduced Haystack pellets to her diet. In any case, the vet had us continue the antibiotics for the 10 days prescribed, and add in 10 x 10mg pills of Aller-Tec. I  discontinued the new feed.

She seems to be better.

Then, last night, we found Epona outside shivering. It had a been a cold, windy day, so we just assumed it was due to that. We locked them in the barn again, and her shivering stopped. Yay.

Woke up this morning, and had a text from Shiloh, who was watching them from the barn cam, and said Epona was trying to nurse, but Cowgirl was pinning her ears and kicking out. NOOOO!

So, I started watching the cam, and saw that Epona was trying to nurse, but Cowgirl would move away.

I sent an email off to Shirley, and put a call into our vet. Shirley got back to me about the time I went out and found that Cowgirl was streaming milk out of both teats, and Epona had milk on her head and coming out her nostrils. She was coughing a little bit, too. 

The vet called back and wanted me to bring her in, because they don't have a clue what's going on, but then things started to smooth out a bit, and I could see that Epona was drinking, but just couldn't drink fast enough.  She got enough to be satisfied and fall back to sleep. Shirley suspects that when the milk came in, it came in too fast for Epona to drink. And, she has seen it come out of their noses before.

We'll continue to watch her and see how it progresses. Right now, she seems satisfied (finally!) with milk, and able to sleep near mama.

More and more, I have come to realize how much a bargain a foal purchase really is, and the way to go. Someone has done all the work for you, and you can just go out and shop for the perfect, healthy, cute, flashy (fill in the blank) horse of your dreams. The price of foals has increased, but I understand why. Just the extra feed, alone, drives up costs, but add in the breeding fees, vet care, the nights of lost sleep, the days filled with worry--it's a lot of work. Breeders who do this a lot already have the knowledge, and I am thankful I can draw on it during this (thanks Shirley), but for novices, it's not as easy as one would think. Mother nature doesn't always kick in and make everything go smoothly.

Maybe, someday I'll look back with parent amnesia, and think it was all worth it, but for now, I'm emotionally exhausted and a bit discouraged.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Epona's Daddy and Granddaddy: A Love Story

Shirley asked about the sire of Epona, so I'll share a few photos of her baby-daddy and baby-daddy's-daddy.

The story all started with Brilliant Knight, grampa, below. Aka, Studly.

He came from a racing family, whose owners had grown too old to continue the sport, and hadn't done anything with him. He was gentle. Great conformation. Good mind. Solid bone. Athletic. Sarah's husband, a farrier, had been working on Studly for a while, and when he found out they wanted to sell him, he told Sarah to take a look, and it was love at first sight. 

She brought him home to the barn, where we all boarded, and started to train him. The above photo was taken on that day, when he was fifteen years old. At the time, Cowgirl was about three, and she was also at the barn, and every time we walked by Studly's stall, he would do the sweetest nicker to her, and she would do the sweetest nicker back.

It was love.

And it wasn't lost on Shiloh. She determined that if she ever bred Cowgirl, it would be to Sarah's stud, Brilliant Knight. 

Alas, star-crossed lovers, it was not meant to be. By the time Shiloh was ready, Brilliant Knight was well into his twenties and passed away. Sigh.

However, the story did not end, because one of the mares Sarah had bred to Studly, had a beautiful boy--Mr. Tom Horn--an appaloosa--another big-boned, good-minded, gentle-as-get-out stallion.

Still, not much was thought about it, until last spring, when I took Tumbleweed to kindergarten, and Shiloh decided to take Cowgirl along for a tune-up.

Little Mr Tom Horn was all grown up, and had an eye for Miss Cowgirl. The two whinnied for each other, and whinnied for each other. 

One day, Shiloh and I went down to see Tumbleweed and Cowgirl, and as we stood talking, with our horses in hand, the two future lover-birds talked, too. And talked. And talked. And talked. They made their wishes clear. 

Could it be? Should I? Asked Shiloh. 

She's perfect for it. Time is running out. Said Sarah.

And, Sarah got the job done, breeding them everyday Cowgirl was in heat.

The rest is history, as you've all been following Epona's journey since conception. 

She will be a registered appaloosa, which is fitting, since we live at the edge of the great Palouse, and it is Shiloh's great love and dream to live in the heart of the Palouse one day. The Appaloosa museum is in Moscow, Idaho, and the Nez Perce tribe, known for their appaloosas, is next to the city where Shiloh was born and raised, Lewiston, Idaho. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Epona and Mama Thrive

Epona and Cowgirl continue to do well, but we keep a close eye on them, as the first week of life is the most fragile for a foal. She is very inquisitive and will come to us whenever we are in their pen. Cowgirl talks to her and tells her it's okay to trust us. Believe me, I know how to speak Cowgirl's language, and if she doesn't want her baby doing something, you know!

Sometimes I go out and let Epona smell my face, and Cowgirl will reach down and nuzzle my face, too. Those are the sweetest moments. Cowgirl trusts us. And, I try to live up to her trust.

We have stopped treating Epona's umbilicus because it is small, and it is dry, and she was being upset by the treatment. I've had friends tell me they've always used iodine on it, once, and then let them be, but the vet had us use chlorhexidine 3 times per day for 3 days. That was just too much.

We are in a heat wave, with temps projected in the 90's this week, so I'm watching her closely for hydration. Next week, they dip back to the 70's.  Cowgirl allows her to sleep wherever she wants to lie down, and that just happens to be out in the sunshine.

Though we weren't warned about a retained placenta, we were warned about a retained umbilical cord on the foal. If that had happened, they told us to clamp it and cut it, so that it wouldn't drag the ground and leach bacteria into the baby. I'm thankful that did not occur, and the umbilical snapped off as it should. It remained on Cowgirl, but I was able to tie it into knots and get it off the ground. Cowgirl wasn't pooping, as she had cleaned out before the birth, and I see that as another miracle, since the afterbirth and placenta were so exposed.

Because it's so hot, I have to work with Tumbleweed in the mornings, and as we did that today, I realized I don't think of him as the baby anymore.  That role has been usurped by Epona.  All this time, I've tried to make myself stop seeing him as a baby, and just like that, it happened. He's just my boy now. And honestly, that's a good thing!

Because, we have grown-up things to do.