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  • The Horse Lady

The Suzy Watch

So, I have decided that Suzy thinks I'm crazy. After all, every three hours or so, I approach her from behind, pull her tail to one side with an expectant look on my face, and - then I am disappointed. I glance up to find her looking back at me with that patient look, that "Oh you stupid human" look. And Brett refuses to take on any of my checking duties. He says that of the things he signed on for, horse gynecology was never one of them.

Because you see, it's finally breeding time. As soon as Suzy goes "into season" we will load her into the big red trailer, pulled by the equally big brown truck, and drive her for just over an hour across the eastern Ontario countryside. She will stay at the breeders for three days or so, or until she and her Romeo are no longer besotted with one another.

Here's how it works. Mares are "in season" for one week out of four, with some adaptation for individual horse issues. Even though they cycle throughout the year, mares are not actually fertile until the temperature warms up a bit and there are enough hours of sunlight in the day. Similarly in the fall as the daylight and the temperature dwindle, mares cease to be fertile again. The first sign that Suzy is going into season is that she gets possessive with Duke (I've tried to tell her but she doesn't get it - he is alternately embarrassed and panicked) and aggressive with Shannon. This bitchiness precedes her estrus by three or four days. The next sign is is discharge from her girl parts that looks like an egg white. This means that this part of her is now friendly. And that's all I have to say about that.

Estrus lasts about four to five days. But she won't be a willing participant at the very beginning or the very end. At the breeder they will use her to "tease" the stallion. They won't put her in with him unless he responds. A lot. If she lifts her tail and holds it slightly to the side, then she is ready too. If they put her in with him too soon, she will react violently, and she can seriously injure a stallion.

The breeders know how to do this stuff much better than I do, and that's a good thing. I just know that I have to get her there at the beginning of her cycle in order to be assured that she actually comes away pregnant.

Which returns us to the checking process and why she thinks I'm nuts.

The stallion Suzy is blind dating here is a pedigreed black Clydesdale named Luke. He has four white feet and a white blaze down his face. He is about 18 hands (6 feet) at the shoulder. I have stood with him and had him sniff my hands, and I have scratched him on the neck and at the base of the tail. He is four years old this summer and has already sired some lovely black foals. He knows exactly how powerful he is but withholds because he likes humans.

Once the deed is done, we will all wait for eleven months. Wait to see if the baby inherits the heart on her left knee, or the eclipse on her forehead. Wait to see if the baby is black like the stallion or bay like Suzy. And we get to enjoy the gush of endorphins a mare enjoys throughout her pregnancy - nature intended this to ensure that mares would want to get pregnant, because otherwise it's really no fun.

Oh, excuse me, it's butt checking time.

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