The Nurse Mare’s Tale

The Nurse Mare’s Foal, as it tells the story of Dinky’s mother. This lovely story is told from the viewpoint of two aging nurse mares about to give birth, and the trials they go through. It tells us of Sadie and her friend Nellie and is accompanied with charming dialogue (both speaking and thinking). The plight of these animals is described in empathetic detail.

After enduring years of breeding and loss, the older nurse mares must face the auction with the promise of being slaughtered, as they have become too old for breeding and thus unable to be rented out as nurse mares to feed the foals of the high-dollar mares.

Do they accept their fate, or will there be another ending for the nurse mares that have given everything and received little in return?

The ending may surprise you. It is a poignant story that will rip your heart out and put you back together again.

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Jade Lazlow
5.0 out of 5 stars A Touching, Informative Story Inspiring Change
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The Nurse Mare's Tale is told from the perspective of a horse named Sadie, who is placed in servitude to feed other mare's horses with her milk. Like many of Marta Moran Bishop's stories, this book takes an unflinching look at the problematic things we sometimes do in society in pursuit of profits. In this case, it's the equine industry and the practice of using nurse mares.

Nurse mares are bred for the sole purpose of providing milk to more "desirable" foals, such as racehorse foals. Their own foals are often treated as throwaways in the industry. The industry maintains that the practice is necessary, while equine rights activists condemn the practice. Throwaway foals are sometimes slaughtered, and the mares themselves are often repeatedly re-bred with little opportunity to properly heal. There is a huge profit incentive for thoroughbred farmers to use nurse mares in raising their foals.

Before reading The Nurse Mare's Tale, I knew a little about the industry and the lengths it goes to in order to maximize profitability, pushing the boundaries of humane animal treatment. Mares are sometimes kept under artificial light 24/7 early in the spring to influence their reproductive cycle, for example. Bishop's book raised my awareness of issues to a new level, and at times, it was difficult to continue reading for that reason. Horses are sentient beings and treating them as if they aren't is disturbing.

It's important reading, however, because it raises awareness of the treatment of these beautiful creatures on whose backs fortunes are made. Awareness of the issues is the first step in cultivating positive change.

Bishop's book is beautifully written, and she weaves in factual information in such a way that it comes across as a natural narrative. The lessons she presents are artfully delivered through Sadie's eyes.

Readers who are sensitive to the plight of animals or who want to know more about the horse industry will find this book deeply moving. At times, it is touching, and at other times, it's sad. Regardless, its message is an important one.

“Why do you call her the Ghost?” Tom asked Sam, as they sat in the cab of the truck.

“She is white now and has been extraordinarily meek and mild-mannered since her second foal. You hardly remember she is there most of the time.” He replied.

There was a sly lazy air about Tom. A bit slovenly, his long hair hanging greasy, on his shoulders, with a few strands combed across his prematurely balding head. Sam could hardly bear the smell of him, a combination of greasy hair and a pungent smell of stale beer clinging to him. “Will you open the window a bit, Tom?” Sam asked. He wore his blue jeans in what humans commonly referred to as a plumber’s crack; I don’t see how he can walk properly, I will have to get the boss to discuss his clothes it won’t do working with horses.

The red truck backed up to the gate of Sadie’s paddock, “Tom would you please go open the gate for me?” Sam asked.

“I’ll take a look-see, Sadie; be right back,” Nellie said as she walked back out to her paddock. Poking her head back in Nellie said, “One of them is old Samuel, but the shorter man looks like a real greenhorn Sadie I never saw him before.” He is a little man, a bit sly looking, with a mean look in his eye and the smell of cruelty.” Both mares’ ears perked up to hear the two men outside the small barn.

“Tom here’s the rope, go get the Ghost. You can bring her out through the paddock. I’ll be waiting at the trailer for you. She will be a bit cranky, but education is what you are here for. Besides I am here to show, not do the work.”

“Sam, which one of them is the Ghost, and if she is cranky, what’s the best way to get the rope around her?” Tom asked cunningly.

“As I already said, she is the white one. How long have you been around horses Tom? Surely long enough to know what a freaking halter is. Just go up to her, talk soothingly, and put the lead rope on the ring. It is the ring on the chin strap, at the base of the halter.” Sam shook his head in disgust. What the hell did the boss think when he sent this useless piece of shit to him for training? I bet this jerk can’t even tell the difference between a forelock and a frog. Maybe the guy was just lazy, though he might be like some people who acted stupid so they can get out of doing chores. Sam thought.

“I hear Nurse Mares have become a big business?” Tom said, to delay going into the barn. His voice full of bravado, but the mares could smell his nerves even with the barn doors closed. Sadie, could hear it in his voice. It worried her.