Introduction To a Nurse Mare’s Foal

by | Jan 2, 2023

The elite of the horse world are the high-dollar mares. They are show animals or racing animals, bringing high dollars for their foals because they have a history of excellence and winning. For them, time is money and it’s important that the mare be kept busy birthing instead of spending weeks nursing her offspring. That job is given to a nurse mare.

Much like the old-time wet nurse employed by wealthy mothers throughout history, the nurse mare is of uncertain or unimportant bloodlines and incapable of bringing substantial income to her owner. In order to nurse the important foal, she must have recently given birth and produce the necessary milk. The question is: What becomes of the nurse mare’s foal?

By many called a “junk foal,” this unfortunate newborn is considered a necessary evil, a disposable byproduct. The cost of trying to nurse this foal until it is weaned is high, so often the “junk foal” is killed outright and disposed of. Sometimes it’s shipped off to auction and bought by manufacturers who use its hide to make expensive bags or shoes. Whatever its fate, the nurse mare’s foal is considered an unimportant nuisance.

The nurse mare’s foal is usually taken from its mother anytime from one day to a week after birth instead of the ten to twelve weeks that foals commonly nurse. The times vary, depending on when the high-dollar mare foals. Generally the nurse mare is shipped off to the farm to nurture and foster the high-priced foal.

“The man who put the rope around my neck complained as he slammed the door, “Stupid junk foal. I don’t know why we always get stuck with this job, do you, Joe?”

The way he said junk foal made me cringe. It sounded as if he was talking about a piece of garbage. Holding my head up even in my dread, I let my mother’s words again run through my mind. “Remember, do not pay any attention if you hear the words junk foal. These are words used by ignorant humans.” For a little while, letting her voice play in my mind helped ease my panic.

It was fully dark, and not even a shadow could be seen in this huge container. The box stood still as they came in with the bucket. This time I didn’t wait for the man’s dirty fingers. Instead, when he set the pail on the floor, without hesitation I put my head in and drank. I nearly got my fill before they took it away again. I didn’t try to beg them to let me go home. I knew they were deaf to my pleas. They didn’t care.

Fighting off my loneliness, I tried to remember her teachings. “Think of the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the stars, the sound of thunder in the distance,” I told myself.

Unfortunately, the roar of the truck made it difficult to think. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make sense anyway. The sun and stars are only pictures in my mind,” I whispered to the walls. I was barely able to hear myself over the drone of the motor.

My anguish was getting to me. The solitude and need for love and warmth was too deep. I wondered with the smell of death around me would I, like others before me, die in this rolling box? My young legs were wobbly from fear. I was still bumping into the walls and falling down, though it was much easier to stay on my hooves than it was when they first put me in this trailer. I knew that some of the stink in here was from my own panic and waste.

The future seemed bleak without Mother. Now that I didn’t even have the sunlight keeping me company or the patterns on the walls, the loneliness was brutal. Even though I could see a little in the darkness of this box, each sound that was different from the drone of the engine echoed off the walls and made me jump. I was hungry.

We stopped again, and again the doors opened. The men’s anger filled the box. There was a light shining in on me. I couldn’t see because it blinded me, but I could smell the bucket, and my stomach growled in spite of my horror. Because I couldn’t see the men, the sound of their boots coming toward me frightened me even more. I froze in my corner.”


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