Last week I visited a friend who rents a home on a farm here in Lexington. It was a very chilly night—did I mind if we went out and put a turnout blanket on a mare before dark? And maybe we could also see a few of this year’s foals?
I don’t know how you’d respond, but for me it didn’t take a lot of convincing. There are few things I consider more irresistible than a youngster’s inquisitive gaze.
A few of the farm’s foals were very gregarious and craving human attention—they’d figured out that good things come from visitors at the stall door, namely a scratch or two. One little month-old guy, a bright chestnut with a star and a neck set just high enough out of the shoulder that he looked like a perfect, alert little Breyer Thoroughbred foal model, pressed his muzzle through the stall bars and begged me to come in for a visit. Of course I complied, marveling at his wispy little red mane that stood straight up, and his bright, inquisitive brown eyes.
Who wouldn't want to take this home with them?
Photo: Stephanie L. Church/TheHorse.com
(I really just wanted to take him home and raise him in my back yard, but I’m not sure my suburban neighborhood association would be too thrilled with that!)
Another foal was much newer—he had been born during the night. He was still working on the coordination thing, and wobbled hesitantly as he took us in. Then, unfazed by our presence, he wandered over to his dam, roughly nudging elbow, then chest, then shoulder, then, finally, (Such a patient mama!) udder.
Something that fascinated me about each of these foals was their beautiful, expressive eyes. We all instinctively look to the horse’s eye; we know our adult horses’ expressions, especially, and can distinguish “worried” from “content,” “distressed,” or “curious.” I noted the vast difference between these foals’ interactions with their surroundings, and recalled that this month’s issue, which contains several articles about eyes, had taught me about how a foal’s brain programs the eyes over several days to interpret visual information.
As we drove back toward the house and were discussing foaling, somehow the conversation turned to giraffe births (giraffes being my second-favorite large mammal) and the more than two yards that giraffe calves fall when their standing mom’s give birth. Again, my mind went back to the April issue article on foal eye issues. Even though most foals have a friendlier introduction to the ground at birth than their giraffe counterparts, they can sustain trauma during birth. And sometimes their eyes suffer the consequences. Add environmental irritants to the equation, and you have recipes for infections and ulcers. (A whole lot of other things can go wrong with foal eyes as well--as with adult horses’ eyes—but you’ll need to pick up a copy of the issue to learn about them!)
Photo: Shelley Paulson/TheHorse.com
Besides several in-depth articles and illustrations on equine eyes (our cover story, which contains state-of-the-art information on eye research, is available to read, and you can also download 15 Fascinating Facts about Equine Eyes), here are some other things we offer in the April issue that I really enjoyed learning about:
- Equitarianism Takes Off. Veterinarians are working together to improve health care of working donkeys and horses around the world. As you might already know, taking care of these animals and, thus, their people, is very close to my heart, so you’ll probably hear a little more about this program in the coming weeks.
- Controlling Pasture Weeds. This article gives some great tips on preventing weed growth and getting rid of existing weeds (Did you see our slideshow to help you recognize the common ones? It’s a great resource!);
- The Science Behind Saddle Pads. (Cool stuff, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t miss it!)
- Handling Lacerations (I know I can’t get enough refreshers on this topic.); and
- Last but not least, Castrated and Confused. Some fascinating behavior in a castrated donkey.
So if you’re not already a subscriber, please join us. Or, if you just want to dip your toe for now, single copies are available for purchase as well. The magazine offers another dimension to what you experience on the website—with all kinds of useful imagery and additional information—I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of having it arrive in your mailbox (or inbox, if you get the digital edition) each month.
Tell me about any experiences you’ve had with equine eyes in your barn: Injuries, disease, blindness, or anything you found interesting or fascinating.