Fern was born at least a month premature in August 2005. Her mum Alfie, unlike the rest of the mares that have foaled here, seems to like to give birth in the middle of the day, on the muck heap, surrounded by all of the other horses. Luckily, as mentioned in Ferns older brother Spirit’s story earlier, I was in the field, about to collect her first born, who was a year old and needed to be weaned in preparation for the new arrival. As it turned out, I had left it too late, but was luckily there to witness the birth. Though we had already had 4 foals born here, this was the first birth I had managed to catch in progress and I was very excited. Things seemed to be progressing normally to begin with but after a while I became worried that Alfie was in trouble – the foal had started to appear but then everything seemed to stop. I knew that it was best not to intervene and let nature take its course, but when the delay seemed too long, my instincts took over and I decided that I needed to help a bit. Luckily with a gentle tug on her legs, Fern was finally born, so tiny but perfect. I now had to worry about the afterbirth and of course you remember all the advise about checking for holes etc , I just had to trust my own judgement that all seemed normal. It was a wonderful experience but I must admit to preferring finding a nice healthy foal in the morning – much less stressful!
Knowing that Fern was so premature, I was then quite worried to see that she was taking a long time to get up and suckle. Again, I knew that I should not try to intervene too soon, and ran up to the house to check my books and internet to find out how long a delay was acceptable for a foal to stand. Reassured that it could take some time, I raced back down to the field to wait. After what seemed like hours, Fern had still made no attempt to stand and I began to get worried. I decided to try to help her to her feet and placed her in a position to suckle. To my relief everything worked out fine and Alfie seemed delighted with her lovely, tiny new baby. Within a few days of her birth, Fern not only had a loving Mum but also a very proud brother to look after her. Fern and Spirit were soon inseparable and eight years later they still enjoy playing together, though Spirit does prefer his male companions and Fern has become very bonded with Lola and Blackberry.
Being so tiny at birth, Fern has remained very small; she actually looks like a miniature horse, with everything perfectly proportioned. It was a problem when the time came for backing her as we needed competent light weight riders but she was perfect from the day she had a saddle on and over the years, due to her small size (no more than 13hh), she can go months at a time without being ridden, if we don’t have small enough riders around, yet she is so calm and well behaved, she really enjoys going out and if anything worries her she just has a good look at it but very rarely reacts to anything. She is a little pocket rocket though, and can give the bigger horses a run for their money – it is best to have her in front when planning a canter or she will do her best to wiggle her way through to be in the lead! As tiny as she is, she will happily take up to around 60 kilos, without even breaking into a sweat, so has become very popular with the lighter weight ladies!