When offering a service as we do, one is always looking for ways to improve the service. This is how we came about our next generation of greys.
There is a regular horse sale in Echuca Victoria. A lot of quality horses go through these sale yards, so if you’re a gambling person, it pays to keep an eye on the catalogues. A few years back, in February, this nice grey percheron cross mare appeared in the sales. ’11 years old, Experienced harness horse, has worked in the city, green broken to saddle’. To me, this was worth the punt.
There are people on hand at sales, who will assess horses, discuss them with you over the phone, then if your bidding is successful, will assist with transport. Still a gamble, but the alternative would be to drive over with a float, which is a big investment, especially if you come home with an empty float.
Anyway, this horse was assessed, and after discussions with the assessor, I decided to put in a bid and hope. Bid was successful, and Mouse was taken back to Shepparton, to be cared for until I could make the trip to collect her.
It was March long weekend when the opportunity came, (have i mentioned unreliable cars in previous blogs?) And my husband and I set off on our road trip. Deciding to find a cheap accomodation rather than sleep in the float, we found a budget Irish pub that had a room. Budget was the correct word! The bathroom held together with duct tape, the vent on the roof harbouring multiple dust bunnies. The window wouldn’t open and there were what sounded like riots happening for most of the night outside our window. I don’t even want to think about what happened to make the disgusting curtains so sticky. We probably would have slept better in the float.
The next morning we collected Mouse and another horse heading for SA, and headed home. They floated brilliantly and settled in nicely. They did have a seperate paddock to the herd, as it is always sensible to quarantine new horses when they arrive. Before putting mouse into work, I had her vet checked. She seemed perfectly fine, but ruling out any pain, discomfort or poor teeth is always going to get things off to a better start. Mouse did have a suspicious vein, that lead back to her udder, so just to be safe, had her scanned to rule out a foal. Rather than rule it out, we confirmed there was one! Certainly not what I wanted, but two for the price of one is good isn’t it??
Rather than put her into work, I put her in the paddock, allowed her to settle in and grow her foal. Usually when horses are bred, they are scanned to ensure no twins and you are given an estimated due date. Having never had anything to do with horse breeding before and having no idea of mouses history, we were flying completely blind. It was fascinating watching her shape change and trying to guess when she might have it. We made a nice safe yard, and for what seemed like months, we were sure the birth was imminent!
A Foal is Born
November the 2nd we got home from work to find a large black foal wobbling around. We missed his birth by probably 15 minutes, but enjoyed watching mare and foal bonding. My husband posed the naming question to my then 4yo son Patrick. He replied with ‘Patrick Boris Dukeus, because won’t it be fun to have two Patricks?’ Don’t kids say the funniest things! Boris Dukeus stuck. Mouse was a brilliant mother, and they both passed their vet check, so onward we went, enjoying the time wasting antics of a foal.
As Boris was such a dude and Mouse demonstrated that she wasn’t going to make a trustworthy carriage horse, we commenced the search for a one night stand for her. We didn’t know Boris’s sire, but wanted to breed something that would grow to make a nice pair for him.
A thing that people often find fascinating, is that a white horse or ‘grey’ isn’t born white. Greys are born a dark colour, in the case of Boris, black, and then grey out over time. It really is dependent on their genetics how long it takes them them to grey out. They go through many coat changes, generally each one a bit lighter than the last, and usually go through a beautiful dapple grey stage. If a horse has two grey parents, it will be grey, so to be sure of getting a grey foal to match Boris, we sent mouse to a beautiful grey Percheron stallion in Victoria.
Mouse was ‘served’ and scanned. It is not uncommon for a horse to conceive twins, as mouse did. It is however very dangerous for both mare and foals to survive if twins are allowed to develop. For this reason, mares should be scanned at a certain number of days after serving, and in the event of twins, one needs to be squashed, to ensure the safety of the mare and other foal.
Horse gestation is approximately 11 months. I can assure you, that is a long time to wait! This whole process with an inquisitive 6 year old son means the ‘birds and bees’ talk happened a lot sooner than planned. It also means he has sworn off of piggy backs for life.
Another Foal is Born
Stanley arrived during a thunderstorm, and has been growing, learning and being mischievous ever since. He is a little smaller than Boris and is taking a bit longer to grey out than Boris did, but they look very similar and its like they know they are destined to work together! Mouse found a lovely home with the owner of the mare who we brought back from Victoria with her.
Our pair of young greys are incredibly smart, sometimes challenging horses and I am looking forward to working with them over the coming years. They are the most lovely, gentle horses, but do like to understand the job at hand before committing to it. They are also very strong, with Boris weighing a whopping 750kgs (and still growing). It will be a couple of years before they are ready for commercial work. I like to allow a horse the time it needs to learn with out stressing or rushing them, so they really have as long as they need. In the meantime I will try keep you updated on the progress of their journey developing into valuable members of our team.