Kelly Alley 03/17/21

Another horse-themed Wanderer column? You bet, although to be quite honest, I have never actually stopped horsing around.

A quick word before we move on into things, this column has nothing to do with traveling. Instead, it has just a hint of adventure — the kind of adventure that only new life can bring.

Here recently I had the great pleasure of sleeping in a barn for about a week and a half. To give you an idea of this, imagine a long camping trip during the coldest snap of the winter. Now add electrical luxuries like heated blankets, internet and an electric kettle, and then finally add a heavily pregnant horse to round everything off.

Yes, I was braving the chill of winter to hopefully see a baby horse be born and ensure the delivery went well. As us horse folk like to call it, I was on foal watch.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank goodness for those online classes right now. Being able to say that part of my graduate career was done in a barn is quite the conversation starter.

Huddled in my very own M*A*S*H Swamp-like tent of tarps stapled to the stall walls and wood support beams, I’ll admit that I stayed pretty toasty even on the coldest nights. A good heated blanket is a must-have for wintertime foal watches, as well as an oil heater.

There really wasn’t much to it, just a lot of waiting. Patience plays a big part in the horse world, and a foal watch is certainly no exception.

A typical day during that time looked about like this.

First, I wake up at around seven or eight in the morning. Then, I walk over and check on the pregnant horse, April. Then a walk back to the stall-tent, wrap myself in a heated blanket, eat breakfast, read or check emails and just generally work on school or work stuff. After that I have class, eat lunch and then clean April’s stall. Afterwards I head home for a few hours to shower and eat dinner, then head back to the barn. I check April again, wrap myself in another blanket, then watch YouTube or a streaming show ‘till around two or three in the morning, all the while checking April via cameras every so often.

Usually at around two in the morning, my eyes would get heavy and I would sleep until around seven later that morning. Thus starting the same process for the next day.

It was a gloriously gritty way of temporarily living and I loved it.

April finally started showing signs of giving birth on the evening of the eleventh day that I had camped out for foal watch.

I won't really go into too much detail about the birth here, but it went by the textbook definition of a fantastic foaling. I only had to help April out a little, gently pulling on the foal until its shoulders made it out, then making sure she had a quiet environment for bonding with her new baby.

So, at 12:53 in the morning on February 26, 2021, I helped deliver and welcome a new being into the world — a long-legged, spunky spotted colt I named Arty.

Life is absolutely amazing.

The little stall-tent was taken down and folded up in the week following as I didn't have much use for it after the baby horse was born.

Normal life got back on track soon afterwards too, with my sleep schedule finally returning back to the normal seven to eight hours a night. I've learned that I can't operate very well on much less.

In the nearly three weeks since his birth, Arty has grown up quite a lot. He's learning to be led like a big horse and having fun playing with assorted "scary" things like plastic bags and pool noodles, to make sure he has a level head later on in life.

So there it is, an abbreviated tale of the adventure of helping deliver a baby horse into the world.

(Then again, foal tails typically are pretty short at first.)

Kelly Alley is a graduate student studying journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu.

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