Sunday, June 21, 2009

The birthing

As you might have suspected, there is more to this story of breeding Legend to Monandan. Unfortunately, the cover took. I remember thinking, it couldn't get worse. Could it?

It got worse. In due course, Legend’s time for delivery arrived. We regularly checked her nipples for waxy deposits, colostrum. I began to have second and third thoughts about the wisdom of our actions. After all, Legend was not a girl, but a grown mare, a matron. Was pregnancy really the right thing to do?

We had pretty well decided on what night she would deliver, based on our studies of Legend’s udder and the calendar. That fateful night we put her in a smaller pasture next to the house. I woke up every 45 minutes to check on her and make sure that she wasn’t trying to do this mad thing alone. I didn’t need to worry because when her time came, she walked to that part of the pasture closest to the bedroom window and bellowed, “You got me into this, boneheads, now get me out!”

Joanne and I quickly put on our clothes and met Legend at the pasture gate. She lay down and Joanne shined a flashlight on the delivery area. We could already see front feet and a nose presented. This was a help, because it wasn’t a breech birth and we didn’t have to call the vet. However, we could also see that this wasn’t going to be particularly easy. Legend lay on a slope so that her head was uphilol. That was good. She was going to let gravity work for her. As it turned out, gravity worked for all of us..

Soon enough of the foal was presented so that Joanne and I could get our hands on it. Every time Legend had a contraction we would pull. In the meantime we murmured words of encouragement. Running through my mind were positive thoughts like: I am so stupid! How could I do this to my friend? We’ve made the Tevis Cup ride together. A hundred miles in twenty-four hours. We’ve ridden cross-country from Barstow to Las Vegas and slept in adjoining stalls at the fair grounds. She helped me sing for my drinks in Goodsprings, Nevada. We’ve even jumped off a cliff together. “Oh, Legend, my friend, how could I have been so goddamned stupid, I’m sorry, push, baby, push!”

While Joanne and I pulled at the foal's hooves every time Legend had a contraction, I noticed that its front feet were delicately folded together with its nose resting on them so as to present the smallest front possible. The hooves were very soft, rubbery, like cuttlefish, so that they wouldn't tear anything on their way out. Well, not very much anyway. When the foal came, he slipped out all at once. Joanne and I probably took ten or fifteen minutes off Legend’s delivery time.

It was a boy, a colt. A slimy little guy, slick with afterbirth. We slid the foal uphill toward Legend’s head and she began to lick him clean, clearing the sack away. This is the way it happened, and if it grosses you out, don’t blame me. Blame God. If this is intelligent design, I’ll take vanilla.

Very soon the colt raised its head to Legend and made a strange little sound in the back of his throat. Legend repeated the sound, the only time I ever heard her make it in her life. The imprint was completed. They knew who each other was.

Joanne and I left the two together and returned to the house to remove some really filthy clothes and shower.

By good daylight the foal was running around the pasture enjoying the first morning of his life. He was totally lacking in color and all other Appaloosa characteristics. He was a thoroughly sound mongrel colt. Dan and Joan couldn’t boast of the color, and so they named him Montanden’s Secret. But the Daniels' disappointment aside, it was clear that the colt and his mother thought he was the finest creature ever born. Joanne and I were pretty proud of ourselves, too. What a way to start a day.

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