Horse books

Kyle's Surprise

By Betty Burgess

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Kyle came into my life in May of 2005 when I bought him as a 2-year-old red dun miniature horse gelding. I had been wanting a mini horse to train to drive and to be a visiting horse at senior centers.

Kyle proved to be the perfect choice as he was smart, gentle and quiet. In the past 11 months Kyle has become a very pleasant horse to drive and has learned several tricks. Kyle shares a pasture with 2 mini mares and one 10 month old mini filly. They are all out during the day, and I bring Kyle into a stall for the night.

On the afternoon of April 20th, I went to bring Kyle in for the night. As usual, he was at the far end of the pasture under the trees. As I approached him, I noticed that there was another small animal standing next to him. At first thought it was a coyote. As I got closer, I was amazed to see that it was a newborn foal, still wet. Kyle was licking the foal to clean it up as if it were his own. If I didn’t know better I would have thought that he was the mother. The foal was a light colored dun and looked right at home next to Kyle.

The dam was in another part of the pasture with the other mare eating grass and totally ignoring the foal. I picked the foal up and walked with it toward the barn with Kyle, and even put it on Kyle’s back for part of the way. Kyle nickered gently to the foal as we went. The dam still showed no interest.

When we got back to the barn, we put the foal in a stall with Kyle and went out to bring in the dam. Kyle continued to lick the foal and it even tried to nurse from him. Of course the poor boy couldn’t do that properly, but he stood still while the little foal tried.

This was the mare’s first foal, and she didn’t appear to know what it was or how to take care of it. She was caught and brought back to the barn and united with her filly, but she refused to have anything to do with it. She tried to kick and bite the foal, refusing to let it nurse. We tried holding her while the foal nursed but she refused to cooperate.

Fortunately, there was another mini mare with a 10-day-old foal, who would reluctantly let the newborn nurse if we held her. We spent the night trying to feed the foal every hour by fostering her onto the other mare.

By morning, the newborn was able to nurse off of its dam if her hind leg was held so she couldn’t kick the foal. Finally, 18 hours after it was born, the dam finally accepted the foal. It was as if a light bulb went off in the mare’s head saying, “this creature is really mine.”

Kyle and foalKyle spent the night in the next stall watching anxiously through the wallboards. When the mare accepted the foal, he seemed to know all was well. Only then did he return to his normal priority of eating hay and no longer watched through the wall.

If Kyle had not found the foal and taken care of it, the foal would probably have died. We might not have known of its existence and it might have starved or died of exposure. Kyle demonstrated his caring and gentle nature by acting as surrogate mother that day.

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