Sometimes you try a thing so hard that you miss the signs that it just isn't going to work. As most readers of this blog know, Suzy Q went to the farm where she was bred in May in order to be bred herself. She met a wonderful stallion named Luke, and gave every sign that getting pregnant was exactly what she wanted. And I'm sure she did.
After being home for about ten days, I walked into the barn to find her behaving in a most uncharacteristic way. When mares are in season, they exhibit behaviours that indicate to the stallion that they are receptive. Suzy didn't do this. She did way more. She was hitting on Duke in a most un-Suzy-like way. She arched her back. She moaned when he nipped her. She peed, well, sort of. I swear I heard her say "Hey there sailor". She had never behaved like this before. It was clear to me that Suzy was definitely not pregnant, whether she had been up to that point or not.
I called Mountain Meadows and was instructed to bring her back. Now. So I dropped everything and put the big brown truck and the big red trailer into service.
There's a thing you should know about trailering horses. Our trailer is large, steel, and open. And Suzy either doesn't like it or likes it way too much. She is tied at two points, but where Duke rides easily and watches the world go by, Suzy swings through a full arc, with her nose as the pivot. (I know this from the poop pattern!) When you drive a rig with a horse trailer on the back, you feel the horse's movements through the body of the truck and through the steering wheel. Suzy danced from our driveway all the way to mountain meadows. It was a nerve wracking drive.
At Mountain Meadows, Dave Findlay and I decided to breed them immediately. What we did is called "hand breeding". Because two very large animals are mating and each animal will be held with a lead rope. The lead rope in each case is held by a measly human being. It's like Clash of the Titans.
Luke is a young lad yet, four years of age. This equates to being a young teenager, say, fourteen. Imagine how adept a fourteen year old boy would be at certain activities. Now you have Luke. First mounting was a diagonal pass, and he slid off. Second mounting was across her back, so they formed a cross. Dave and I rearranged things a bit and went for one more try. Success! Dave confided to me later that he let the owner handle the mare, because sometimes Luke needs a bit of help with his aim, and most folks are a bit embarrassed having to help him with that. Now that's a man who loves horses.
Suzy stayed for a full eight days, and then I went to get her. For 28 days she quietly went about her routines at home with the other horses, eating well, and enjoying the peace. In the beginning Duke kept trying to nuzzle her udder and snuggle up to her. This experience has definitely made me wonder about his hormonal challenges.
At the end of the 28 day period, our vet came out to see her, to check her uterus and the health of any foal that might be hanging out in there. But there wasn't one. Not even a teeny one. What she did find were two areas on the uterine wall, one which had definitely been affixed to a fetus, and one which had probably been affixed to a fetus. Suzy miscarried two times. And it's interesting to note that the second time, she didn't go back into season like a freight train. And as soon as I got the news, I knew that she knew and had known since it happened.
Like all animals, Suzy has moved on, living, as Cesar Milan would say, in the now. It's me that mourns. I so wanted this for her. But in the interest of keeping Suzy working and interested in life on the farm, we have bought four sections of diamond pattern harrows for her and Duke to drag through the fields. The purpose of harrowing in this case is to break up piles of horse poop. Horses won't eat grass growing out of a pile of poop (quite sensible) but if you break up the pile and spread it, it will rot very quickly and return that plot of grass to productive grazing for the horses. Suzy and Duke will do this together, behind a fore cart. And she and Duke will be lifelong friends again, and there will be no weirdness between them. And Shannon will do her job providing security for the three of them. And we will all live in the now.