Sparkle is still pregnant, so I am doing the waiting thing.
I hate the waiting thing.
The reason I dislike waiting isn’t so much that I’m impatient. It’s more that waiting gives me time to think, and when I start thinking about things, I start talking myself out of them.
It’s not so much that I’m having second thoughts about the Morgan baby, it’s just more that I’m having a bunch of thoughts about everything that could possibly go wrong.
It doesn’t help that everyone – and I do mean everyone has a story about how buying an in-utero baby has gone wrong for them. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a standard social response that I am just learning about.
Person 1: “Hello, how are you?”
Standard Social Response: “I am fine. How are you?”
Person 1: “Ah-CHOO!”
Standard Social Response: “Bless you!”
Person 1: “I bought an in-utero foal.”
Standard Social Response: “My friend bought an in-utero foal. They were breeding for color and got solid – an ugly, mean-tempered, solid colored horse.”
“My friend bought an in-utero foal. They were trying for a trail horse and it never matured over 12 hands.”
“I bought an in-utero foal. We were breeding for calm disposition and good conformation. The foal came out spooky with crooked legs. And fangs. Also, it wasn’t a foal at all – it was a bicycle, with rabies, and it ate children instead of hay.”
I think if I hadn’t boarded at Scandia Morgan Horse barn for a couple of months, I might be more worried. One of the things that made this easier though was spending time with all the horses. There’s not one in the herd I wouldn’t be delighted to own – not one with a crabby attitude, or ugly conformation.
Do you know what was hardest part of this whole thing?
The choosing was really, really, really hard. It was actually just the choice part that was hard – the planning part was amazingly fun. Then again, I hate choosing pretty much anything. Whenever I make an absolutely choice it always feels less like I’m getting something than it does the death of possibilities.
I gotta tell you, that kind of outlook on life drives my Type A accountant husband nuts.
Anyways, the daydreaming and planning was pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had on any project, ever. It was kind of like playing real life Pinterest, only instead of photos of kitchen command centers or nursery decorations, I was playing with horses. I had little design boards with different mare/stallion matches, and what their previous foals looked like, etc, etc.
Kathleen was there to help me and answer questions, and ultimately I relied on her experience more than my own planning. I mean, their barn was inducted into the Morgan Horse Breeder’s Hall of Fame back in 2011, so it would have been dumb of me to ignore all her experience.
She’s a woman of fewer words, given to understatement rather than overstatement. It took me a bit to figure out the code. “That cross might not be for you” was code for “That’s the kind of cross which would do explosively in a show setting at Grand Nationals and sweep away all the competition but would be waaaay too fiery to be much fun as a backyard horse.”
“That foal might be too refined” was code for “Dude, it’s gonna be pretty as heck, but built like a twig compared to what you want.”
After a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally had it narrowed down. I was going to pick one of Kathleen’s mares and breed to Marvelous Intrigue.
If that picture looks familiar, it’s because I’ve posted his picture on this blog once. Or twice. Or maybe five times.
I just really like that stallion, and I’ve liked every one of his babies that I’ve seen.
Once I had the stallion figured out, all I had left was to choose the mare. Ultimately I narrowed it down to two mares – a mother or her daughter.
….Aaaand that’s where the process stalled for a while. just couldn’t make up my mind which mare I liked more.
They were actually mother/daughter (Sonata is Heartsong’s daughter). Choosing between them was incredibly difficult. Heartsong was a little bit bigger, and had a reputation for being calmer on trail.
Plus, she’d alread been bred to Intrigue, and if you’ve known me for any length of time, I had the biggest crush on the resulting colt, Anthem:
I mean, look at him. Isn’t he perfection? He ended up huge for a Morgan – 16 hands, and is pure gorgeousness.
The thing was, I really, really, really liked the way Sonata was put together. I liked her conformation better , I loved her wide, dark eyes and pretty little head. I liked the way she pushed forward to lean into scratches whenever I visited her over the gate. I liked her hip. I liked everything.
The problem was that she was a little smaller than Heartsong, and Kathleen pointed out that first foals tend to be smaller than resulting foals. Plus, she was a bit spicier.
I mean, Caspian cured me of ever wanting another ridiculously tall horse, but I do have to take into account the fact that I am 5’8”, and even if I magically lose all the weight and end up the same weight I was in high school, that’s still about 150/160 pounds without tack. Egyptian Arabs are not in my riding future.
By the time I was making this decision I was no longer boarding at Kathleen’s, so I finally asked if I could go out and look at the mares in person and see if I could break the tie.
After that hour scratching on them and observing them in a field., my mind was made up:
I had absolutely no idea which one would be better, and I wasn’t likely to come to a decision anytime soon, no matter how many pictures I took or how many hours I spent with them.
So I decided to go with the proven cross. There was literally nothing I didn’t like about Anthem (aside from the price tag – he was for sale, but waaay out of my price range), so why try to change anything?
I wrote Kathleen and email, gave her a deposit, told her I’d like to cross Heartsong with Intrigue, and we set the wheels in motion.
And then it got sad. Marvelous Intrigue, who was nearing 30, passed away. He just didn’t have another breeding season left in him.
It was a very sad time for his owner, and for the Morgan World at large. I tried to remind myself about that every time I tended towards selfishness, because seriously. I was so bummed. I had gotten SO CLOSE to owning one of his foals… only to have the dream jerked away at the last minute.
Also, after so many hours spent researching, it was a bit frustrating to go back to square one…. Okay, maybe not totally square one. I still had quite a few crosses in my “Morgan Breeding” folder on my computer.
After a little hemming and hawing, I decided on what I thought was the next best thing… which is kind of an insulting way to describe the quality of foal that’s about to be born (“Well, I guess you’ll do…”), and not at all how I feel about it now. It’s just how I felt at the moment, in the wake of Intrigue’s passing.
I decided to cross Sparkle, who is actually Intrigue’s daughter, with Kathleen’s stallion Trademark.
You can read more about Trademark HERE.
I liked this cross because I still had a chance to own a part of Intrigue – a grandson or daughter, if not an actual son or daughter. Plus, Trademark is a proven sire. On the Facebook group there’s a whole album of Trademark foals, doing pretty much every discipline under the sun, doing it well, and doing it gooooorgeously.
Even better, Kathleen had bred Sparkle to Trademark the year before ended up with a very pretty red stud colt named Marvelous Mark (M&M).
There’s not much to dislike there.
Anyways, Sparkle finally came into season and she and Trademark did the deed, with the final cover occurring on May 15th, 2017. Six weeks later they did an ultrasound check, and I was the proud owner of some grainy footage of a little wiggly foal embryo.
It all still felt very surreal and far-off at that point. The foal wouldn’t be coming to my barn until at least September of 2018. There was plenty of time to think about it.
Life being what it is with four kids, the months slid by quickly, and now we are at the point where Sparkle is due any day. I’m actually having trouble wrapping my brain around it.
I made a trip out there on Sunday. Originally it was to bring the boys along, and let them meet Sparkle before she gave birth and generate excitement…. But when Sunday rolled around they were squirrelly and hyper and getting on my nerves, so I decided to leave them behind.
Mom of the Year award, I know, I know.
I’m not sure what the purpose of my visit was, really. I wanted a picture of myself with Sparkle before she gave birth. Maybe I also wanted to convince myself that it was real, and that this foal was happening, I think?
Heck, maybe I just wanted to reassure myself that the foal wasn’t going to be born a flesh-eating bicycle with crooked front spokes.
On the way to the foaling shed I passed by Marvelous Mark (MnM), the full sibling to my unborn foal. I was pleasantly surprised at how big he was – wide backed and solid, significantly taller than he had been back only a couple of months ago, with a pretty little head and a deep red coat. He glanced at me pleasantly, ears pricked forward.
I did not reach through the slats of his stall to pet him, as he is a two-year old stud. Maybe he would be a perfect gentleman. Maybe he would be bored and try to see what he could get away with.
I value my fingers, so it wasn’t worth the gamble.
Then again, since I’m missing a chunk of muscle in my left arm from where an angry stallion bit me and tried to drag me into his stall to trample me, I’m a bit warier around stallions than most.
I passed through two other barns, all wide open aisleways and picturesque brass nameplates on doors. When Caspian was there he made the stalls look ridiculously tiny. With the Morgans in them they looked sizeable.
Sparkle was in the last barn, in one of the foaling stalls (complete live feed video camera!) She was in wonderful shape, bedded down deep in straw. Well, I mean, she was in wonderful shape for a very pregnant mare. She wasn’t going to be completing any 100 mile endurance rides any time soon, but she could probably win some “wide back” awards, if there was such a thing. She was marvelously pregnant and looked as comfortable as one can be, with about 100 pounds of foal all wadded up inside.
To be honest, after going through a twin pregnancy I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to look at a pregnant animal and feel anything but sympathy for them.
I scratched her neck, and her super wide, flat back, and her belly. I glanced at her bag – already full with milk, although not waxed (most mares will develop a kind of waxy beading of colostrum about 24 hours before they foal.)
She ignored me for the most part, and drove her face deeper into her pile of hay, munching with a steady determination. I sympathized. Pregnancy hunger. It’s real, yo.
Kathleen waited outside the stall and chatted with me. The mare across the aisle is due two weeks after Sparkle, and she’s also in foal to Trademark. Scandias Dancer is a beautiful mare, taller than Sparkle, but built with a little more refinement.
She’s the last filly by UVM Coming Attraction, out of….
Is anyone event paying attention to all the names anymore? I’m sorry. I am pretty much just blogging all of this for future Becky, so she can have a quick reference guide down the road.
Anyways, Dancer is absolutely GOOOOORGEEEEOOOUUUUSSS, but a little too much horse for the kind of backyard riding I tend to do, which is why she never factored into my “who shall I breed” planning.
She’s also a maiden mare, so even though there’s only 2 weeks between the mares due dates, it’ll probably be a little bit longer than that. It’s kind of a relief that I’ll have another foal to compare mine against. I have to admit, I’m not very good with foal conformations. They all look kind of…. Adorable? to me. I just can’t eyeball them the way I can an older horse and see what they’re going to turn out like.
Unless I can see a photo, and then compare it to the photo of ANOTHER foal, my concept of foal conformation boils down to, “Oooh, look at that one! It’s bigger. And that one’s running around – look!” which is anything but technical. With a foal of a similar age, who is also by the same stallion, it will be great to be able to compare the two to each other.
Per Kathleen my foal will be “sturdier”, which is good – I’m hoping that he or she will inherit some of Sparkle’s size and flat, broad back…. but I imagine I’ll be over the moon with whatever comes out.
I still feel like this is almost too much of an indulgence. Now that it’s almost here, I feel…. Guilty? Like I need to apologize, or over explain why I’m doing this?
I mean, let’s call this foal what it is: an extravagance. There is literally nothing I do that requires me to have a horse this nice. I don’t show, I don’t do endurance (with four young kids, I wonder if I ever will.) The biggest riding aspirations I have are that I would like to have a costume and ride around in some kind of SCA event, and I’d love to look into Working Equitation. I don’t have to go breed some fancypants foal to do any of that.
And yet… It’s hard to carve out space for yourself, as a mom. I am not anywhere as footloose and fancy-free as I was in my 20s. My days are filled with schedules, and packing school lunches, and helping kids with homework, and wiping snotty noses, and quick-grab-a-snack as we dash out the door, telling toddlers to get off the table or don’t pull the cat’s tail, he’s gonna scratch you. I have a full-time job, and a car payment, and a mortgage, and dentist appointments, and tire rotation appointments, and a plan to pay down all our debt.
These are all good things.
They’re just not terribly exciting things.
I have quite a few friends whose lives have taken a very different path than mine has – the kind of path I always imagined mine would take. I see photos of their travels, and I am filled with longing. I see them exploring the world – all the corners of the world, meeting all manner of humanity, tasting all sorts of new foods, plunging headfirst into new adventures. I see them… as I sit on my dented couch in my nice suburban living room, surrounded by cheerful, happy children who need and need and need until I sometimes feel sucked completely dry. I see them, and I remember how it felt to be so free.
I think that’s also what this foal is to me – not just a chance to start a horse from scratch the exact way I want, and not just a chance to own a horse that’s the exact breed I’ve wanted for years and years…
It’s a chance to do something zany and exciting, for no other reason than because I can.
If I were traveling the world with a backpack I wouldn’t have all those boring, necessary appointments…. But I also would never, ever be waiting for a made-from-scratch Morgan foal from a barn I once only dreamed of visiting.
And that is just a really, really cool thing to be doing.
First photo of me with the foal…. still in its wrapping. Sigh.