The trip to Taylor Made Farm is familiar now, along with the views: herds of horses roaming in the infinite green, the endless miles of black fencing, and the markers of Kentucky bluegrass: the honky tonk bars, the water towers, the cardinals, the robins. On Friday, an auspiciously sunny afternoon, we pulled up outside of Bona Terra A, the foaling shed, to check in on The People’s Horse, our campaign to breed the first collective foal. About six stalls in, we found who were looking for.
We’d come 700 miles to see Colorful, the winner of our mare vote this winter. It was her due date.
“She’s just hangin’ out,” Bob White, the foaling barn manager, told us.
We stood, pondering.
“It’s not an exact science,” he went on. “That’s why we have someone sitting in here twenty-four hours a day.”
According to the farm staff, the birth could come as soon as tomorrow and as late as another week or two. Hard to say. But no worrisome signs, White told us. She’s healthy. She’s eating. She spends time with other horses in the pasture, not alone by herself, fidgeting. Once the foaling begins, she’ll break water. Then the foal can drop in as short as a half hour.
“Wolves are comin,’” White says of why horse’s give birth so quickly, and often at night, an evolutionary memory they never seem to forget.
Known around the barn for her sweet nature and nonchalant disposition, Colerful edged over to say hello as we talked about her. There is no exact science, no way to predict when the baby is coming. All we could do was wait, and decamped to Midway, a small railroad town and the halfway point between Lexington and Frankfort. It’s a small town, population just 1,620, though every resident knows about the agony of waiting for a foal to drop.
“It’s terribly nerve-wracking,” said the candy shop clerk, pausing from handling the lollipops and fudge. After learning about our project, a local bartender demanded an update.
‘The foal chooses the day—the mare chooses the hour.”
We’re now living in a hot bed of hunches, theories, well-wishes, consulting the stars, studying the Farmer’s Almanac, even talking to one equine detective who conducted some amateur stool analysis. Meanwhile, People’s Horse members sent in their hugs and kisses from across the country with Colerful’s address.
On the Live Cam, the web sleuths were hunting for the smallest clues. Star Stragratanio noticed that Colerful’s legs were muddy, meaning she’d been out in the rain. Clock End Farm Yeah didn’t seem to miss a single bowel movement. “She had pretty loose manure last night I noticed.”
There were disputes over how many times she rolled. Did it mean something? Queries about the implications of moaning. Was that even a moan? Some wondered if the whole thing had already happened already, the young foal already whisked away and Colerful returned to life as usual. Others lost sleep as they were convinced she was about to fall. “Slept with one eye open,” said one, while others nearly canceled plans out of devotion and the faithful tuned in from New Zealand, New York, Mexico, Kentucky, Canada, Australia.
“As the saying goes, ‘The foal chooses the day—the mare chooses the hour,” wrote in livecam commenter Sroseys, with age-old wisdom to share.
The official report, as of this afternoon: still no waxy fluid. Her bag (udder) isn’t yet full. And yet: everyone has their own story of a horse birth. As one neighbor and former breeder told us: “It doesn’t have to have wax. They’ll fool ya.
As we continue to wait for the birth watch around the world, here are some other signs to look for: Colerful starting to get up and lay down frequently. Restless shifting around, starting to sweat. Dripping milk is the cardinal indicator — at that point, there’s about 24-hours to go. But the truth is no one really knows, not even the experts. Could be any minute now, and no matter how hard you try, you can never plan what happens next.
As one of the Taylor Made veterans told us, “It’s Mother Nature teaching us she rules.”