Hoof Beats: All the Pretty Horses

I haven’t written about breeding your backyard mare — or bred my own — because it’s usually a bad idea. We were raised on “The Black Stallion” books — but don’t believe them.

I’ve only seen one foal being born and it was magical. It was late at night and John and I were talking with the mare’s owners when all of a sudden the mare grunted and there he was, wet and silvery in the barn’s dim light, lying in the straw. The first few minutes when he struggled to stand up on those impossibly long legs — as if he wasn’t quite sure they belonged to him or not — took my breath away. “Yes,” we whispered in unison as the foal staggered under his dam and finally located the source of his first meal. In the days that followed, I looked in at the two of them. He was full of himself, always on the go, although he hid behind her if strangers showed up. When he nursed too vigorously, or nipped her, or reared to strike at her, she let fly with her heels or bit him hard enough to hurt. In other words, she taught him manners. As he grew, he was handled by humans and taught to lead and to stand quietly while his feet were trimmed. After he was weaned and had grown into a good-thinking adolescent, he was ready to begin formal training. And none of those lessons involved feeding him treats.

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