Today marks the fifth day that our precious girl Rain has been in our lives. Everyone is absolutely enamored with her: Employees, volunteers, our friends outside our gates, even all the other horses are just simply in love.
She walked onto our property with no history, no name, and no records. Because we had no idea how far along she was nor were we totally confident in our knowledge of caring for pregnant mares, on Monday afternoon the vet came out to examine her. Her first words scared all of us.
“I hope she’s not pregnant, because she’s awfully skinny!”
But the vet felt around – as those of us that had hung around for the vet visit all held our breath – and confirmed that there was a foal inside of her. We cheered
. One of the volunteers and I actually jumped up and down. A baby truly is cause for the greatest joy in the universe, and Rain is bringing such a gift to all of us.
The vet, Jim, the vet’s assistant, Rain, Alexis, and Christine
The vet talked with Jim and I about feeding and her “nursery”. Rain is on a special grain called Mare and Foal that will help give her the supplements she needs. She is to gain at least 150 pounds before baby gets here! She also got all her vaccinations: Herpes, rhinovirus, rabies, strangles, West Nile, you name it. She and her foal will be safe from anything that might find its way to our ranch.
Rain’s special grain
In addition to her mashes that she’ll get morning and night and her hay three times a day (half alfalfa and half Timothy), we’ll give her a little “brunch” as well as a mid afternoon snack so she always has something on her tummy. She has two to feed, after all!
The vet and Jim and I also talked about her “nursery” – the closest stall to our breezeway that’s right across from the tack room. It has high ceilings and an “out” section that’s fairly large. We’re going to board the “out” section up with plywood so the foal can’t get his/her head or hooves stuck in the bars and put a good 10 bales of straw in for them both.
All of this preparation will help Rain’s body. But we have some work to do when it comes to helping her spirit.
Rain has been through one hell of a hard life. And she told me all of this today as clearly as though she had been speaking English into my ear.
One thing that Jim, Bre and I all noticed when she first arrived is how afraid of halters Rain is. Getting a halter on her must be done slowly, gently, and with great patience. Usually, I have to go in the round pen (where she’s living now as we prepare her nursery) and hang out with her for a bit without the halter in my hands before I can even think about picking it up and side-stepping toward her slowly. Otherwise she’ll run away. She gets that nervous, especially when there are other people around watching.
Today it took longer than usual to get her to stand still. Finally, after I spent ten or fifteen minutes trying to side step over to her (since walking directly at
a nervous horse will accomplish nothing), I finally dropped the halter and lead rope, closed my eyes, and felt my way towards her. She didn’t move, but not because she wasn’t afraid. Her whole body was tensed, as though she was waiting for something to happen. But because closing my eyes had calmed her a little bit, a minute or two later, the halter was on.
And then, as I was gathering the lead rope in a ribbon in my hands (you must never EVER wrap it around your hand unless you want to lose a limb one day), the end of the rope flicked upwards very quickly towards her face.
It was three feet away from touching her, but Rain positively cowered.
She flinched and strained to get away from me almost in the same split second as the end of the lead rope flicked toward her before I gathered it in my hands. When she saw I wasn’t going to swing it around, she stopped moving, but the fear was still there.
I was horrified.
Somewhere, sometime in her life, someone must have beaten her horribly with a rope. Or rounded her up on the reservation in an aggressive manner. Or broken her using ropes and whips and force.
And later on, as the two of us were hanging out in front of the breezeway while she quietly ate her mid-morning snack, I reached up at one point to move some of my hair out of my face.
She saw my hand rise out of the corner of her eye and flinched again, side stepping away from me until she saw I had frozen and heard me talking to her calmly and gently.
I could go on about how upsetting this was to me, how absolutely wretched I felt and how unbelievably devastated I am now when I think about what Rain must have suffered in the past.
But the past is in the past. Horses live in the here and the now, and right now, I think Rain is finally starting to realize that she will never be hurt again.
Because when we had had our walk and I took her back to her temporary accommodations, I took the halter off and she walked quickly away from me out of habit. But as I turned to leave, she stopped, turned, and looked at me.
It was such a simple thing she did, looking at me, but her eyes absolutely broke my heart.
There was a combination of emotions there: Confusion, a twinge of doubt, a glimmer of hope, and the thing I wanted to see the most, absolute and utter gratitude.
Rain is so loved. And slowly, surely, she is beginning to understand how precious she is.
We tell her every day that she has friends that she can’t see and who are cheering for her and who are waiting for her baby with as much anticipation and excitement as the rest of us. All across the country she has people who love her.
And just like the gratitude I saw her eyes today, just like the little foal growing inside of her – that within itself is a miracle.