I sat up and stared off into the dim light of the barn. A cool spring night breeze blew through the aisle. Maiden paced in her stall; her breathing was heavy, sweat thick on her neck. I looked at the time, the glow of my cell phone illuminating my makeshift bed of blankets and hay bales. 2:30AM. I had been awake all night and was going to be there until the foal came.
I leaned back against the wide boarded wall of the barn, pulling a wool cooler up around my chin. My eyelids started to drag, the darkness of the barn willing me to sleep.
‘A few minutes can’t hurt,’ I think to myself. ‘But people always say happens when you aren’t watching. Do I sleep and miss out on this once in a lifetime thing? Or do I suffer through and enjoy all its supposed magic?’
I close my eyes while I ponder my choice. My lids sear from overuse. Lack of sleep is like a violent reminder that we are human. The decision is not an easy one, but I am startled by a loud thud. I fight my brick-like eyelids, climb to my feet, and stumble to Maiden’s stall door.
The normally big-boned mare seems enormous as she stretches out on her side, her belly large as three bales of hay. Her breathing is still heavy. She shows the whites of her eyes in effort to look at me. I stand at the door, keeping my distance as Dr. Powell advised. Her legs move restlessly, her head writhing in the shavings.
I turn and walk to the barn doors. Through the open crack, I see the moon, pregnant in its waxing months. I poke my head out the doors. The deep hours of darkness have a pensive effect on the human, the magic of the stillness creating time for inner reflection.
I scan the barnyard, letting my eyes wander as I dive deep into emotional thought. The day I met Maiden, the soft moments we’ve shared after long rides and days at shows, and the countless times I’ve patched and bandaged her.
I hear her get up and start pacing.
‘Not yet,’ I think to myself. ‘Does this take long, or what.’ I turn back to the stall, the dim light cast by the moon reflecting off the mare’s glistening neck. She paces, stirring the shavings with her bowling ball sized hooves.
“Easy, girl. It’s okay.” Her usual prick of an ear to my voice is gone; her head low, her breathing still heavy, her ears tuned to her belly.
She bends her knees and flops to the ground with a loud grunt. I walk over to the stall door, eyes fixed on her now taut belly. She stretches out on her side; her legs suddenly tense. A ripple passes over her belly, as her legs stay tense. Her breathing has gotten heavier, her neck sweatier.
I lean on the door, pushing aside my exhaustion, suddenly engrossed with Maiden. As my heart begins to thump, I remember Dr. Powell telling me to keep calm, and leave her alone. She will be fine.
I take in a deep breath. Maiden’s muscles relax a moment, then tighten. The time begins to run together- Has it been an hour? Or only five minutes? Watching my mare exert so much energy while still lying down makes me remember how tired I am.
I retreat to my nest and find my cell phone. 2:45AM. How could it only have been fifteen minutes!
I stretch out on the blankets and listen to the mare. Her soft grunts come faster, I can hear her hooves moving as her legs flex and relax.
I stood up stretched my arms, took a quick drink and went to lean on her door. I was shocked to already see a form, encased in a slick white blanket. Within minutes, the whole foal is showing, having poked its nose free from the placenta. Maiden fully relaxes for the first time in an hour, her eyes ringed with sweat. She lifts her head, bringing her neck round to the foal, starting to lick it clean.
I smile in the dark of the barn, my heart brimming with pride for my mare. Before I know it Maiden is up and nuzzling her foal to do the same. I peer into the stall to at the foal and learn that I have a new colt to name. I slowly move away from the stall, my eyelids suddenly starting to droop. I reach my nest and collapse into a deep sleep of pride and satisfaction.