After Red disappeared, we were left with an increasingly pregnant Beauty. She couldn’t be ridden, her belly was so wide that it was nearly like doing a split to sit on top. She couldn’t be worked, the plow wouldn’t fit around her middle anymore. So she ate and ate.
I admit, we neglected our animals a bit during the hospitalization and subsequent funeral and novena of my mother-in-law (see on life and liberty, mass and burial Mexican style, El velorio viewing and wake and la novena). We barely had time to throw some food and water at them and then run up the hill to do the same for my father-in-law’s animals, before we headed back to town to attend to all that was involved. During one of these lapses, Beauty somehow got tangled up in her lead line and fell. We untangled her, and she seemed no worse for wear, but surprised us the next morning with a new potrilla (colt) which we are pretty sure came at least 2 weeks early. She was quite a handful, this little filly and we named her Spirit. She often reared up on her hind legs when approached and even knocked over both my husband and my moto with her frenzies.
A few months later, my husband decided he couldn’t care for the horses anymore and sold both Beauty and Spirit. Beauty was pregnant again, so the new owner felt like he got quite a bargain. For a time, we were horseless. The new owner sold Spirit but kept Beauty, and as he housed her in La Yacata, we often saw her. She seemed sad and underfed. Then, some months later, hoping to receive his U.S. visa permit, the new owner sold his vehicles and livestock. My husband was all in a lather to get Beauty back.
Again, he made payments and scrimped and saved, and bought Beauty a second time. We were back to one horse, and pregnant.
My husband immediately made her a better corral next to the house, set about fattening her up on the lush green grass of the rainy season and tied a red rag in her mane. When I asked about that, he told me that the red cloth was to protect the pregnant mare from eclipses. As near as I can figure, it’s a practice meant to guard the fetus against being aborted during certain “dangerous” times of the lunar cycle. Cows are also subject to the changes of the moon, and pregnant heifers are adorned with a red cloth tied to their tails. Goats and donkeys, as their value is less, apparently do not need this extra talisman, since the owner would lose less in case of miscarriage.
Then the waiting began. A mare has a gestation period of 340 days, about 11 months. My husband hadn’t marked the date of the maquila (impregnation) and now was all afire with impatience for the birth. June passed, and Beauty’s belly was enormous, but her udder hadn’t swollen yet. My husband, son and I took bets on whether the colt would arrive the 13th (me) the 14th (my son) or the 15th of July (my husband). Well, the 16th came and went and no caballito. Everybody in the neighborhood had an opinion of when the blessed day would arrive. Some said it depended on the moon. A new moon or full moon would bring on labor. Some said it was exactly 11 months and 2 weeks from time of conception. Some said if it were a boy, it would take a few days longer. There was even some speculation on twins based on the size of Beauty’s belly, although twinning in horses is extremely rare.
My husband had me consult the horse reference book, but it didn’t give the magical day. Every day, he checked her udder for ripeness. But Beauty wasn’t about to be rushed. It wasn’t until July 28th at 10:30 at night that the new colt made her appearance. And my husband wasn’t even home!
My son and I ran out in our PJs to get the first glimpse. It wasn’t much of a glimpse because the colt was all black, as is Beauty and the sun had already set, but it was enough for us to see that the little one was healthy, alert and well formed. In the morning, we all gathered around and commentated on her size, she seemed smaller than Spirit had been, about her color, all black with a small white marking on her forehead and two little heels of white, and her disposition, she was very friendly and not at all skittish as had been her elder sister. We named her Shadow.
My husband was a bit disappointed she wasn’t a little stallion, but honestly, I think for us it is better to have all females and rent-a-stud when necessary, rather than have a fully hormonal male on premises.
All that next day, my husband, as proud poppa, received visitors, mostly the same men that had gathered to watch the breeding process. They came to look the colt over and make commentary. The previous owner came and nearly cried when he saw Shadow–regretting he had sold his livestock for a visa that was never given. The man who wanted to trade 10 borregas (sheep) for Beauty came to negotiate–but my husband decided he wasn’t interested in selling anymore. Several men who own stallions-to-rent for the maquila (breeding) came to see if my husband was interested in their services (mares will go into season about a week after they give birth, so he had a small window to find a stallion he liked and that was affordable–most maquilas are between $800 and $1500 pesos for 2 visits.) The visitors came from morning until early evening. By then, my husband had gotten over his disappointment and had begun building castles in the air with his future animal kingdom.
My son was also pleased as punch. He stood sentinel by Beauty and Shadow most of the afternoon. He has claimed ownership of Shadow and determined that she shall not be sold. We wonder about her final color. As Beauty is black and the stallion was black, we thought perhaps she would remain dark. However the fur in her ears is a dark chocolate brown, and we think that perhaps when her baby hair falls out, she will be dark brown and not black. Only time will tell.