TRANQUILITY is what all of us were feeling, here in Michigan, on a sunny spring day. It was the type of day when the grass was a bright, new, fresh green. The trees were bursting with buds ready to break into blossom, absorbing all the sun’s rays that they could. The mares were also welcoming the Spring after a hard Winter.
Winter months seemed to really take their toll on the older mares. The old girls (the “geriatrics group”) bonded together. To help each other through difficult Winter days and nights, they formed very close feelings for each other. Now, with the onset of Spring, they were the first to soak in the sun’s warmth. Fresh grass was appearing almost overnight, in a green carpet of nourishment that the older mares knew was a great source of food to revitalize old joints and bodies, repairing what Winter had ravaged.
The old mare, Raspberry, was very fortunate, and had conceived while several of her “geriatric buddies” had not. One in particular, named “Preferred Time,” had never experienced this before. Every year she was bred, and delivered a wonderful baby (well, at least she thought it was) and she was the mother of three young mares in the herd. Now, at the ripe, young age of 20, she decided to have a false pregnancy, coming to milk and everything . . . except, no baby. Depressed, she resigned herself to encouraging her friend, Raspberry, as she, herself, was put in the main herd of mares.
By now, the geriatrics group had been divided. The pregnant mares, ranging in age from maiden to the 22 year-old Raspberry, were in a group awaiting their bundles of joy.
Blind in one eye, and with limited sight in the other, Raspberry had always produced fillies (daughters) and she had never had a son. On warm, sunny days, she could be seen talking across the fence with mares in the adjoining pasture. After a while, she was missing. But, three days later, she appeared, proudly showing off her first son (a colt).
Since the beginning, he was quite an adventurous fellow, wearing his poor mom out trying to keep up with him. Outside, in the paddock, where the two newborn foals were being frisky and trying out their new-found legs, it was no different, as they marveled (almost shocked at first) as to how young horse legs really worked.
The two newborns were as different as their color. The dark bay filly was very vocal, extremely exotic and ultra-feminine. Her strict and demanding mother allowed her to run, kicking up her heels as she headed for a nose dive, and taught her how to stop in time so she didn’t bounce off the fence. But, upon her mom’s command, she always had to come quickly to her mother’s side and peek out at the world from behind her mom’s long silky tail. Every attempt to visit with the main herd was met with her dam (mother) intercepting her advance by using her strong body to guide her away from danger. Mother was very insistent, and the filly learned fast, but, most of the time, she was lying flat out in the paddock just soaking up the warm and nurturing sun … close to her protective mom.
The colt was a long-legged Chestnut with a lot of chrome (white markings) and he was very masculine. He was bold, always running and crashing into things or losing his balance. At three days old, he still hadn’t mastered those strong, long legs, as he plowed into the fresh, new grass or whatever caused him to tumble. He would just stand up, shake his proud head, and off he’d go again with old Raspberry following along, worried and asking him to please be nice and stay near her. After all, he was just a baby. He had a lot to master, and she was there to protect him as well as nurture him so he could grow into the handsome stallion that he was destined to be.
But he had a whole, new world to explore! Like a typical head-strong colt, he felt that his mom was just holding him back. Didn’t she know that he was born the same night as this troublesome, constantly-talking filly that was sharing the paddock – and, after all, he was the only boy!! The colt didn’t realize that his mom, grand old girl of the farm, was blind in one eye, didn’t get around as quickly as she used to, and that she was always a doting mom who let her foals just walk all over her. Raspberry showered him with love and affection. After all, this was her only boy, all the others were fillies, and he was, most likely, her last baby.
On this special day, except for the old girl trying to keep up with her son, it was beautiful, warm, sunny and fresh. All was well in the horse world, and almost half the herd was lined up along the shared fence admiring the new babies and talking to the new mothers. Secretly, most of them were hoping they could steal one just for themselves.
Eventually, the entire herd came by, paying their respects to the mothers and welcoming the new arrivals from across the fence line. The filly (being very vocal) was answering them all, wanting to go over and personally greet them. But, her mother sensed danger, and she would not allow her daughter to get too close, always passing in front of her precious girl, moving the baby away in another direction, and scolding her severely. The boy, however, really enjoyed this attention. Like the filly, he could not see very well at this young age. It would take about ten days for their eyes to mature. Until then, the babies could see things moving around them, but they couldn’t really see any details. This really didn’t matter to him, though. Raspberry’s colt figured these big, friendly mares were there for him and he must get to know them!
So ended the Tranquility of the day!!
Kelly, who was doing morning chores, had spent some time watching the foals as they learned about their new freedom and wide-open space. With her love of animals, Kelly knew each of the horses by name. Over many years, she had seen this herd through the bad times as well as the great ones. Foaling was her favorite time of all. Marveling at birth (herself, the mother of eleven children) she loved watching the newborns exploring life in their own way. This morning was no different, and Kelly found herself watching until an urgency to finish the chores began to bother her, and the foals were now lying flat-out, soaking in the sun.
Raspberry screamed out a warning, coupled with a demand, to get out of that fence and come back! Her colt had found a small hole near an old post, and the mares on the other side were calling to him. Unaware of the potential danger, he continued pushing his way through the fence. Next thing Kelly knew, Raspberry was screaming. She rushed to the paddock just in time to see the colt push himself through the fence – to join the main herd!
Yelling for help, Kelly saw the colt running frantically along the once-protective fence, with a group of mares chasing after him. Each mare was determined that he was going to be hers, not realizing that he would most likely be kicked or trampled by the very ones fighting over him.
Kelly dashed over the gate and ran for the colt as he came at a frightened run with the mares in hot pursuit. Kelly threw herself at the colt as he flashed by. Yes, she was able to grab him – and, holding on tightly, she tried shoving him toward the gate, where his mother was running around the paddock, searching and calling for her precious son. Kelly’s heart was pounding and the adrenaline was rushing. Just a few yards more and the colt would, once again, be safe.
Just then, Kelly was back-sided and fell plunging to the ground! A couple of mares had decided to run “this human” over. She was standing in their way! Desperately, Kelly tried hanging on to the baby. With horses pushing and shoving her from the back, she fell, like a bug being ground into the dirt.
The colt was running for his life with almost half of the herd in pursuit! Leaping to her feet, yelling for help, Kelly opened the gate, hoping for Raspberry to come to the rescue. But, half-blind Raspberry was searching frantically in the paddock that she was accustomed to – not realizing that her son was in a fight for his life . . . somewhere else.
Kelly started to run down the half-mile pasture, hoping that the herd would turn around and come back towards her. If only they would, she could catch the frightened colt again. Suddenly, she choked back a sob. The colt had gone down! The herd was running over him!
Just then, Ron appeared, trying to lend a helping hand. Ron had been working in the farm office, when he heard thundering hooves. Alerted by Kelly’s cries for help, he arrived just in time to see a cloud of dust. In horror, they both watched as the colt staggered to his feet. He was up and running again! But, he was running away from them! The far end of the pasture loomed very near.
Surely the fragile colt would be cornered and trapped! More and more mares joined in the chase. In a massive snowball of horse flesh, the herd was growing in size – aiming right for the colt!
Kelly and Ron weren’t ready for what they were about to see. A beautiful colt, loved by everyone, was lost. A beautiful new life, snuffed out so early. Neither of them was ready for the scene that would always be with them, no matter how many new foals were born or how many years went by.
Back in the paddock, Raspberry was still running around, searching for her son. Slowly, all sense of hope lost, Ron and Kelly approached the mass of milling horses, anticipating what they didn’t want to see. Pushing their way through the mass of horses, dreading what they were sure to find, they asked, “Why, oh, why do things like this happen to youngsters?”
As the dust settled, the colt’s lifeless body was nowhere to be found. But the herd was still moving. Backed up under a giant oak tree, growing in the fence line – and surrounded by restless mares – was Preferred Time.
There she was, tenderly embracing Raspberry’s colt, keeping him safe from harm, kicking any horse that dared to not heed her warning. Her friend, with limited sight, needed her help. Preferred Time never gave it a second thought. Her friend’s son was in trouble, and she needed to protect him.
Kelly and Ron could not believe their eyes. Here was a twenty-year old matriarch, protecting her friend’s son – keeping him safe from a milling, thundering herd. She was prepared to fight, perhaps to her last breath, to save a colt that wasn’t even hers.
Preferred Time was glad to see them. She allowed Ron to wrap his arms around the colt and lift him, but the squirming colt was heavy! Carrying him back to the barn wouldn’t work. Somehow, the colt would have to walk by himself – and the barn was a half-mile away! Would Raspberry’s colt follow them? Would he follow Preferred Time, as if she were his own mother?
With strong maternal instinct, the great mare nickered to the colt, reassuring him that all was well. Gently, she nudged him forward. Suddenly, several young mares came close. Once again, Preferred Time laid back her ears and they shied away.
With Kelly in front and Ron guiding the colt, Preferred Time held off the other horses and they began the long walk back home. Upon their arrival to the barn, and in the security of her stall, Raspberry quickly nuzzled her son. Her sweaty, swollen udder was waiting to provide the nourishment and security that he so needed after his adventure.
By the next morning, Raspberry’s colt was ready to take on the world again. Raspberry could be seen soaking in the sun’s rays, talking with her buddy, Preferred Time, across the newly-repaired fence.
As long as there are horses who give willingly of themselves, with no regard to their own well-being, doing what needs to be done for their fellow friends, I feel honored to be a part of their wonderful world with all its great Society standards. I am so thankful that, every day, they teach us – in their own, gentle way – how simple and easy our human life should be.
Once again, Tranquility came to the farm.