Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Babysitting duties

Over the years, I have witnessed many instances of other horses, usually mares, taking on 'babysitter' duties for foals. Some active, protecting the foal from other horses, some just passive and tolerant. It has always worked well for me and the foals, and made weaning and training easier. While I have had babysitter geldings, tolerant sweet boys who basically just didn't beat the foals up. I never thought about any role for a stallion in babysitting.

Two years ago for Christmas, I bought my husband a MFT gelding. His first horse was a mare (our entire herd was mares), and he had decided he wanted a gelding (it's a guy thing).

We determined that Mithril (Reg name was Finesilver's Flying Shadow) was 11 years old, and barely green broke. He had been used as a herd stallion for probably the first 8 years of his life, then gelded and shown. (He parks out and 'looks pretty' at the slightest hint of a camera) He had 2 speeds, flat out rack, and stop and park. He quickly took over lead of our little band, but other than a tendency to herd the mares and challenge the geldings across the back fence, he had no other stallion tendencies.

That spring a mini mare I rescued produced a surprise foal. The foal had many (expensive) problems, and was tiny so we kept the two of them separated in a corner paddock. From the moment the foal was born, Mithril guarded the fence line. No one else was allowed near the foal. When we finally turned the mare and baby out, he carefully herded the two away from everyone else. Once the foal got bold enough to explore, Mithril would herd her back to mom. If we were working on the foal, training or giving meds, he would stand guard until we were finished and take the foal back to mom.

We found a home for mare and baby, so didn't have to go through the weaning. But this spring, of course, history repeated it's self. The Morgan rescue (who wasn't in foal) produced a surprise baby. As you know, we decided because of mom's tendency to kick to wean the baby early. Last week we did that, and what occurred was fascinating.

We sneakily put Rocket in a stall with grain, loaded mom (Cricket) in a trailer, and off she went. Rocket Man came out of the stall, and started calling for mom. Mithril came up to him, and followed him around as he ran the pasture calling. I saw Mithril herd him away from the fences, away from the 'evil' gelding neighbors, generally watching over him.

I went out in the pasture to get some photos of this, because Rocket Man was looking amazing with his tail up in the air, all alert. But as soon as I went in the pasture, Rocket came up to me for comfort. Since all he wanted was me to scratch him, I decided to leave. As I walked back to the barn, it suddenly occurred to Rocket that mom may still be in the barn!! He went charging back to the barn, with Mithril right behind him. While Rocket just wandered around and called, Mithril went up to the barn, and looked in Cricket's stall for her! He them looked at me, then in all the other stalls. Once he realized Cricket was really gone, Mithril put his ears back, and trudged away from the barn. When he got to Rocket he nipped him, and herded him back to the mares. I could just hear him thinking "Cricket is gone, and now 'I' have to babysit!!"

It has been two weeks now, and Mithril is still looking out for Rocket. If Killian (my 15 month old MFT colt) gets too rough, Mithril separates them. Since Rocket is the last to finish eating, Mithril waits at the gate for him. He takes his responsibilities seriously.


NorthWitch said...

Aw darn it! Babysitting duties? Me???

Found you! You're not too safe anymore... Oh, and did I mention my life-long fascination with horses?

*Scurries off to see the slideshows*

Shadow Rider said...

Welcome Witchy!
I leave the babysitting to Mithril, he's better at it.
Don't forget to check out the photo pages under the trail guide. Lots of horsey photos.