A Tribute to "Bad Baby"
I am listening to the rain and the sound of a very uncomfortable mare, whinnying for her foal. Yesterday, around 6pm our older foal (two weeks old) was running and bucking and circling and jumping like they do when he caught his hoof, somersaulted, was clearly not okay. I was to him in seconds and wrapped my arms around him and held him up and as I supported his right front leg, I could see it was broken, dangling between his knee and hoof. I called the vet, there in the field hunched over my little colt. And then I yelled. Mike was coming, but not answering his phone and I needed help to hold my little guy up and steady.
“Help, Help me!” I screamed. In a few minutes neighbors came and helped me support him until we could gently lay him down. After Mike arrived, he cradled the colt’s head in his lap, neighbors helped hold his legs and I ran to get a blanket to support the broken leg. I will spare you the next twelve hours, but in the end we had him put down. And so he is laying in straw in the pasture, with his mama and aunt and cousin nearby, next to the barn so his mama can get used to the idea he is gone.
It took 1 and half weeks to find the right names for our two colts. Late last Friday night, the second colt arrived in the moonlight at 12:30 a.m. He was born quickly without complication. Gailan, the second colt’s mother however is a nervous mama and so we have not been able to interact and handle the second colt nearly as much. Ginger, our other mare, is a relaxed and capable mama. She allowed us to handle and play with the colt from the the first moment I stepped into the stall with them to help untangle the foal from the stall gate, moments after he was born. Ginger’s colt has been inquisitive and cheeky, quick to try things even if they were not a good idea.
There is an area in the pasture where we need to clean up some debris from a shed that had burned down (but it’s a big project) and so we roped it off and the mares ignored it. That worked just fine until Bad Baby came along. We began calling Ginger’s colt Bad Baby because he was always into whatever you’d least want him to be into, for example, the debris pile. SO we surrounded the area with orange snow fencing, easy to see and more thorough than a line of rope, did that work? Nope, Bad Baby was leaning on it, trying to eat it, stepping on it, tearing holes in it, and one time he fell into it and over it! So we had to run an line of electric fence around the whole area just to keep Bad Baby out. Then there was the dirt hole, where former owners had had a burn pile, we had used the scoop on the tractor to dig it out to remove debris, this left a shallow saucer like mud hole in the pasture about 15′ in diameter. The mares had never so much as walked through it, Bad Baby spent half his time walking in a circle in the mud hole, with a great green pasture all around him. He would even stretch out a take a nap in it some days. Next to the mud hole was a weed, a weed that both mares had decided they did not want to eat, what did Bad Baby do? Nuzzle it, step on it, lean down and lick it of course! I had to run out and dig it up since I wasn’t sure if it was dangerous or not.
That was Bad Baby, with his crooked broken tail that was always pink because he’d scratch his bum on the side of the red barn. His little foal halter was red to match Ginger’s red halter. He’d race around like he was in the derby, circling the apple trees, bucking for fun. he’d skid to a halt almooost touching the electric fence, buck, and be off again! Twice he got zapped by the fence for trying to duck his nose under the fence to drink out of the barn downspout in a rain storm.
Last weekend when he was only a week old, he and Ginger had to be out on pasture all night since Gailan had just had her foal that morning and she was not ready to share the space in the stall. I was worried sick, Bad Baby was only a week old and even though he had a fuzzy, curly, thick coat it was raining so very hard. The temperatures were supposed to go into the thirties, he could get chilled and die in such weather being so young. So at 10pm Saturday night, I got up, went into our storage boxes and found supplies to “MacGyver” him a foal coat out of some wool fabric I had saved, straps from a back pack and velcro from an old coat. At midnight I went out dried him off and strapped him into his little coat. He didn’t fight or argue, instead he seemed to relax and left the very flimsy coat in place. I climbed back into bed listening to the wind whip, and the sleet hammer the roof and I still worried. But lo and behold, the next morning Bad Baby was very damp but toasty warm under his coat and healthy and happy.
It took until last Wednesday to find the perfect names for our two colts, since we felt that “Bad Baby” and “New Baby” would not work when they were full grown. Sam and Sophia had suggested Bifur and Bofur from the Hobbit but as much as I love Tolkein, those names are awful for horses. Then Mike suggested Sam and Frodo (confusing though since we have a son named Sam too) and then we had it. Their personalities, their energy level, their cheeky disregard for danger: Merry and Pippin! And so Bad Baby was christened Merry and New baby became Pippin. It seemed just right and we were all happy with the names except for the fact we were forever going to have to explain that Merry was M-E-R-R-Y not M-A-R-Y.
I keep breaking down into tears, listening to Ginger call Merry to come and nurse. She nuzzles him and then walks away, yet I know this too shall pass. Her udders will dry up and she will be sad but she has her sister, Gailan and the Pippin for herd mates. We are all heart broken about the freak nature of the accident and how quickly this all came about. Yet I am also very grateful that I saw it happen, that I was able to get to him immediately, and that we did all we could do. No second guesses, no self reproach, he is gone and that’s that.
Life on a farm can be so very beautiful, but all life goes hand in hand with death.
The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.