Monday, August 18, 2014

And Baby Makes Three

As mentioned before, I decided last year to breed DC. Knowing I would be facing hip replacement surgery, it seemed the ideal time for her to have a baby.

On July 14, Cthulhu arrived.

Now, there's a bit more to the story than just yay he's here!

I had moved DC to the pasture Hoss usually occupies, and rather than moving him out, since they both seemed to want to be together I made them a deal: if they could behave themselves, they could stay together. The pen was ready for the arrival of the foal, with four foot high boards attached to the interior. They really only needed to be two feet high, but my husband didn't want to cut the boards and it wasn't a big deal how high the boards were. Besides, we'd end up with extra wood for other projects.

I checked DC over carefully on July 13. She was waxing up just a little bit. Her bags were still underdeveloped, and she hadn't softened. I checked her again right before going to bed. Still, she didn't look like she was going to be having a baby anytime in the next day. I went to bed, confident things were fine.

In the morning I arose late, inordinately tired at, 7am. Got the coffee going, gave the little dog his pills, took mine, let the ferret out, and stepped out to take care of the chickens and ducks. The duck hen had recently settled on a clutch of 16 eggs, so I walked over to check on her.

The duck pen is located right next to the pasture. I could see DC calmly eating close to the house. Hoss was off somewhere out of sight.

After I finished the birds, I went back inside and out the front door to tend to the horses. The dogs started up barking, and Mac in particular was making a lot of noise. It was the "intruder alert" bark they use to alert me to such things as hawks, owls, and coyotes. And they were persistent, and frantic. I dropped the wheelbarrow to check things out.

The dogs came running up to me as I entered the pasture, excited as all get out. DC looked at me calmly and went back to eating last night's leftovers.

There, at the far end of the outside of the corral, was a rather confused, freaked out foal.
The first picture of Cthulhu

I was as startled as I possibly could be. Hoss came over to me. I'm not sure what he was trying to communicate to me.

It didn't take me long to deduce DC hadn't been doing a fantastic job at motherhood. I knew we had a bit of a job ahead of us. I collected her halter and moved her into the corral, figuring it was easier to get her in first and tie her off to the fence while I went to get the foal.

While I was haltering DC, Sam went around the corral and back into the pasture, coming in behind the foal. He started harassing the poor little thing, and wasn't responding to my remonstrations. Hoss glanced at me, and I got the message: Do you want me to take care of that? I gestured to Hoss and he took off to chase the dogs off the foal.

DC compliantly went into the corral and I left her there to retrieve the youngster. By this time Hoss had deterred the dogs and the foal was standing near the water tank. At this point I finally thought to snap a picture of him.

I approached him and got my arms around his chest and butt. He was still freaked out from the dogs but really took being handled quite well, far better than one would expect for a foal's first handling, especially under the circumstances. It took a little doing, but I got him walked into the corral.

Now for the hard part: getting DC to accept the foal. In most cases of rejection, the mare is afraid of the foal. Having never seen another mare with a foal, she doesn't understand what's going on and once she's past the instinctual cleaning effort and the foal gets up, she freaks. In DC's case, it wasn't fear. It was downright hatred. Fear I can work with. Hatred is a bit tougher.

That tail says it all.
I untied DC and left the lead rope over her back so I could quickly gain control of her if necessary and started making phone calls. The first was to a close neighbor and friend who is a horsey person, hoping she might be able to help restrain DC for the foal to nurse. The second was to trainer and owner of the foal's sire, Beth. It would take Beth some time to get there. My neighbor and her niece arrived in rather short order.

While waiting for help to arrive, I put out the horses' breakfasts, then went into the house to put on proper shoes and get my very low-tech milking device.

Some years ago, I toyed with getting into dairy goats. It quickly became obvious manual milking was going to be extremely difficult for me. I looked online, and found the Henry Milker. It's a simple device which creates suction and delivers the milk into a mason jar. Best of all, it works on pretty much any land mammal.

Once my neighbor and her niece arrived, we tried to restrain DC and get the foal near to her. It became clear quickly she had driven him off enough to make him beyond wary of his own mother. The least warning from her resulted in the foal retreating. We decided to get some milk replacer. The little guy was extremely hungry, and we weren't getting any cooperation from DC without the assistance of plenty of drugs.

My neighbor's niece sitting with Cthulhu

All this time, Hoss was standing outside the corral looking on. Every time DC reacted negatively toward her foal, Hoss would give her the stink eye.

Beth arrived and we continued to work on getting DC acclimated. By this time I'd managed to milk her a bit and we put that in the bottle for the foal. He took the bottle readily and had a very good suck reflex. He laid down and got up several times and seemed quite strong.

I called the vet when the office opened, and the vet arrived a few hours later. She checked out the foal and checked out DC. I had rescued the placenta from the dogs, but they'd already done some damage by the time it occurred to me to collect it. There was enough to be reasonably sure DC had cleaned just fine, and the ensuing days showed that to be the case.

Figuring out life
Then we got to the difficult part. The vet sedated DC and the three of us got to work trying to get the foal nursing. We had a couple of problems. One was the sheer size of the foal in relation to DC. He was so tall at birth he couldn't walk under his mom, had she been inclined to allow him close enough to try. Another, by this time she had been nasty enough to him he was extremely reluctant to approach her. Her dislike of him was so extreme, and her actions in driving him off so strong, the least movement, swish of the tail or squeal resulted in him backing way off.

DC was pretty heavily sedated. We held up a front foot and guided the foal to try to nurse. One person would stand on DC's opposite side and entice the foal to reach under using the bottle he had by this time started using. All the while, DC was aggressively swishing her tail (we would hold onto it), and she bit more times in half an hour than she had in the entirety of her prior life. I think she got all of us at least once. She broke the skin on the back of my hand. I was ready to get a corral panel and create a squeeze, tying her individual limbs to the panels.

All this time Hoss looked on. He wanted in the corral. He wasn't hysterical or anything. His behavior was calm. So long as humans were with the baby, he seemed perfectly content to look on.

Hoss comforting 2-day-old Cthulhu
Eventually, the vet needed to move on, and we were decidedly unsuccessful in getting DC to nurse her foal. Beth and I had been looking over the vet's head while she gave us optimistic talk and shaking our heads. There was no way this cowbird of a mare was going to take care of this foal.

Beth had to get on with her day, so I was left on my own with DC, the foal, and Hoss. I desperately needed to go inside and have some breakfast and maybe pee. My intuition told me not to leave DC and her foal alone. I let Hoss into the corral.

No sooner did I turn my back after latching the corral gate than DC turned, ears pinned, teeth bared, and charged the foal. I hollered, but it was Hoss who's intervention saved the day. He barged into her, bit her, and turned her off the foal. I thanked him profusely, and ran DC out of the corral, leaving the foal with Hoss.
Hoss and Cthulhu after an exercise session

In the month since Cthulhu's birth, he's been thriving, although he's thin compared to foals of the same age on their dams. He got a little cold which both adult horses had and was mild for the older ones, but for him was hard. He still has a little cough. When the vet (different than had already seen him for his first visits) saw him, he complimented me on Cthulhu's condition, saying he's never seen an orphan foal look that good.

Raising an orphan foal is a labor intensive task. During the first 10 days, he had to be fed every two hours, day and night. It felt as if as soon as he was fed and everything was cleaned up it was time to get another bottle ready.

Close up of a little nose 
In the first days, I would feed Cthulhu then milk DC. During the first two days, I left DC in the pasture and Hoss and Cthulhu in the corral. I'd have to let Hoss out from time to time, as he would get frustrated and anxious if left in the corral too long. DC went completely dry by day 3. At that point, I moved her back into her separate pasture.

The only formula I could get in town was this multi-species stuff. The list of animals it was intended for was nearly endless. I was surprised it didn't include giraffe and rhinoceros. It was clearly not ideal. I was able to order Foal Lac online. It took forever to arrive, but it did. He's now going through it at about 2 gallons per day.

Who could resist that face? Other than DC, but she doesn't count

After a while, I constructed a bottle rack so Cthulhu could eat at will. It worked pretty well for some time, until he started chewing on the nipple and spilling more than he ate. Then he started pulling the nipple off the bottle, a true waste. I went back to holding bottles for him, at this point every 3 hours but not needing a feeding overnight (hallelujah!).

Just before he turned 4 weeks old, I saw Cthulhu drinking water. I devised a method by which I place a small bucket in a larger one with ice packs, put milk in the smaller bucket, and hang it in the corral. Cthulhu was terribly unhappy with this initially. He missed the suck satisfaction of the bottle, not to mention being able to chew on the nipple and sooth his teething gums. After a few days of trying to suckle on anything he could get his mouth on, he settled on chewing the wood panels in the corral, copying Uncle Hoss's termite behavior.

Hoss as neurotic body guard

Once he got used to the bucket, I was able to spend significantly less time with Cthulhu. This means he has less social interaction with people, and has to get his social needs filled more often by Hoss. It's harder than it sounds. As incredible as Hoss as been, he's a boy. He feels a strong need to defend and protect his herd. He has a tendency to keep Cthulhu in the corral while he "patrols" the rest of the pasture. Hoss checks on Cthulhu frequently and grooms him, but Cthulhu doesn't follow him around like he would his mother, and Hoss doesn't follow him as his mother would. At least Cthulhu has Hoss to care about him.

All of this happened when a bunch of other, unrelated chaos started. This chaos involved the moving of horses. The moving of horses meant I was driving. Hauling horses on minimal sleep is not OK. Enter Beth and my son and my "volunteer" daughter. They took the night shifts before those days I would be driving long distances with precious cargo so I could at least not get up, even if I didn't sleep great.

"Hey, mom, what's up?"
One of the drawbacks of having Hoss as his caretaker is Hoss's distinct lack of enthusiasm for free exercise. This means I have to go out and have games of Chase the Baby. Cthulhu understands the lunge whip, but he seems to have absorbed Hoss's lack of enthusiasm for running about. Add to that being born a little early and an orphan, and I think I'm getting more exercise than he is. Hoss gets pretty funny in these sessions. He'll run ahead until he thinks Cthulhu has had enough, at which point he'll drop behind and try to keep me from pushing the baby anymore.

Post-exercise relaxing
I do have to watch Hoss very carefully, especially if other people are around. He's okay with me spending time with the baby, for the most part. When strangers are here, it's not quite the same. The other night I had to carry a whip with me so he wouldn't keep sidling up to the very non-horse-savvy couple who was visiting. The only time Hoss gets upset about my interaction with Cthulhu is if I take him out of the pasture. He got really nuts when I started halter breaking Cthulhu. Anything that upsets the baby, makes Hoss a nutjob. I had to close the corral gate so I could work with Cthulhu without having to keep one eye on a very unhappy Hoss.

Cthulhu is starting to eat just a little bit of solid food. Not much yet. Hopefully he will start being more adventurous soon. I need to find a feed I can mix with some of his formula to entice him more. Something that won't make Hoss sick in the unlikely event he gets into it too. With Hoss's allergies, my policy is to not have any food on the property any given horse can't have. He's allergic to oats and rice bran, which are in a great many processed horse feeds. In my experience, neither of these foods is nutritionally necessary for horses.

My husband helped me set up a little "creeping" area for Cthulhu. Hoss is really good at respecting a fence. At Descanso, we had set up a pen for him with three t-posts, the side of the trailer, and some ratchet straps. For the creeping area, we put in a t-post and attached ratchet straps to it and the corral panels just high enough for Cthulhu to walk under, but not Hoss. This has worked very well. We also set up a shade shelter so the milk stays more or less in the shade. Hoss is fantastic about not challenging the "fence," enough that I think he just might be convinced to leave the baby's food alone, although not easily. I started putting Hoss's food in the corral as well, so he's eating at least near Cthulhu.

Cthulhu has already been in the trailer. My husband put a board from the corral in the trailer, creating a solid panel which Cthulhu can't get under. It was a nerve-wracking first ride. When we arrived at our destination, Cthulhu was standing in the corner of the trailer and looked out when I opened the gate as if getting in a large, loud box, having the door closed, a whole lot of weird moving going on, and upon the door opening again finding oneself in an entirely new place was totally what he expected to happen.

Hoss checking on Cthulhu while he naps
This little horse was born about 100 years old. He's got no spook, he's friendly, he hasn't kicked or bitten. Despite their rough start, he's comfortable with the dogs, who now protect him as ferociously as Hoss. I am amazed every day by this little foal, although I certainly hope he shows more energy when he grows up!

I have my suspicions as to why Cthulhu was born early and DC didn't look remotely like she was ready. I don't think she was ready. She had developed rain rot a couple of weeks before she gave birth. Rain rot is one of those things which doesn't just happen. It develops when the horse's immune system is compromised, such as when exposed to a virus.

Another clue is, despite very regular milking, DC was completely dry at three days. Her bags never developed properly. She wasn't producing milk when I found her. The largest amount of milk we got out of her was after the vet gave her pitocin.

Remember Hoss getting sick after Descanso? The two were living separately at the time, but I fear I was not nearly so careful as I ought to have been. I was using the same wheelbarrow to feed both horses, the same scrub brush in water buckets, touching them both. My strong suspicion is, she got the cold, but she didn't show obvious symptoms. She was withdrawn the last couple of weeks before the birth, but it was easy to chalk it up to the end stages of pregnancy. She was so huge, the baby so big, it was easy to think of course she was withdrawn and slow. She felt like crap! Well, it was more than simple pregnancy. I suspect she gave birth early to a very fortunately strong foal who survived in spite of the stress his mother's body was undergoing.

Now, as the the name:

Cthulhu was chosen early in DC's pregnancy to keep a theme going. His father is Demon. His mother is Demonchild. Cthulhu seemed appropriate.

Cthulhu at one month