I’ll believe it when I see it!

It’s February which means we’ve already had several months of winter, and people are over it. With that comes a bit of cabin fever, and people vying to guess if mares are pregnant. Sometimes it can be fun. The last few years, though, it feels less about a casual way to pass the winter months, and more like a competition to see who has more range knowledge.

With social media, it’s becoming more common to see younger advocates becoming more knowledgeable, and as one such young adult that lives in the midwest, I can relate to the feeling that I have to prove myself. Even if my opinion is backed by sound science, I still occasionally am met with the response that an older advocate is able to visit the range more times a year than I can their opinion is more valid. You can’t argue with facts, and the fact is that some of the most knowledgeable people regarding the Pryors have never been to them.

We’ve also been spoiled that before PZP having years where 20-30 foals born was common. The catch is that there was a higher mortality rate, but even then that left the end result in the high teens usually.* With 11 foals total, and 4 deceased this year was the first year in a long time that there was zero population growth. The idea that there’s so few foals isn’t a total surprise: with bait trapping and increased PZP use, it was bound to happen. But horses are often more adaptive to change than advocates, and it doesn’t stop people from trying to say every mare with a slightly round belly is pregnant.

Even without PZP, the idea of every mare with a round belly is statistically improbable (impossible? If I took stats I blocked it from my memory). Let’s pause to think for a moment. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy speculating if mares are pregnant, but people need to accept the possibility that even with the best guesses, they could be wrong. If people are going to admit their wrong, they also need to accept that it’s ok to be wrong.

Take Galadriel, for example. Ever since having Oceana she’s been 100% pregnant, except no one’s seen her with a foal since. Usually when confronted with the idea they were they were wrong, the response is that she lost the foal. It’s possible, but even with the healthiest mares, a birth will have an impact. Even if she had a healthy birth, but lost it there would still be some impact. Even if she didn’t have rapid weight loss due to a stressful birth, there might still be signs of a full udder. To me, if a mare has goes years without an obvious change in condition, she probably hasn’t been pregnant.

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This was from July, 2013. She’s always been a stocky mare.

 

 

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Unfortunately I don’t have a photo from the same month or angle (to me this angle makes her look rounder than she was, and was from May, 2015). I can see how it would look like she is more “robust” after having Oceana, but not all mares respond to gaining weight during pregnancy the same way.

To illustrate this, Jewel (BLM name Juniper) is my next example. In 2013 it was suspected she lost her first foal. My first visit that year wasn’t until May, but reports of her from earlier in the spring said she was a healthy, if not pregnant mare. By the time I saw her, she was thin. The most likely (only) scenario that I can think of in order for her to lose so much weight in such a short time is that she was indeed pregnant, but lost the foal.

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Even from far away it was obvious how thin she was. (May, 2013)

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By July, 2013, she looked healthy again.

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Demure, and Jewel June, 2016. This seems more typical of how Jewel looks.

Nova’s another mare that has been pregnant since her first filly Prima is Nova. I will concede that in the pictures I’ve seen of her in fall she looks more filled out compared to when I saw her in June, but that’s what summer is all about. I have similar views of Nova that I do on Galadriel: if it’s been speculated that a mare is pregnant for an entire summer, but she hasn’t had a foal it’s more likely she’s gaining weight for winter. When I saw her May 2015, it was obvious she was in foal. Maybe I’m hopeful since she’s still so young, but I think maybe people are jumping the gun with her.

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Even if the size of her belly wasn’t an indication, she looked like she was getting ready to produce milk. (May, 2015).

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Maybe I’m wrong and she’ll have a foal this spring, but to me this is a good prediction that she wasn’t going to have a foal over the summer. (June, 2016)

My next example is Flint’s band. There was an interesting case of someone thinking all the mares in his band are pregnant this year. I understand their desire, since out of his mares only Halcyon has been prolific. However, I’m going to bring up probability again. Maybe one will surprise me, but I think even Orielle is old enough to be on PZP. I’m really hoping even Halcyon is done foaling. If we’re going to gauge Flint’s band solely based on the size of their tummies, then Flint has the most likely chance of foaling.

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Having mares doesn’t automatically mean offspring. (Flint’s band, June 2016)

Even with mares, a completely round belly doesn’t mean a mare is pregnant. Electra has surprised us with foals the past few years, but her belly’s looked about the same since I’ve known her. To illustrate this, I’m also including photos of Washakie, and Firestorm for reference. All photos are from June, 2016, and after Electra had Quillan.

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If someone didn’t know Quillan was Electra’s filly, they’d think Electra was still pregnant. (June, 2016)

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Washikie has been so prolific that she is pregnant almost year round. (June, 2016)

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To me, Electra and Firestorm have similar stories.

There also seems to be an assumption that if horses were flirting that automatically means the mare is pregnant.  Unless some one sees him physically mount the mare, it doesn’t even mean copulation took place. Even then, the success of a breeding depends on a lot of factors. Hernando is a young stallion, smitten with Phoenix and War Bonnet, but they’re both in their 20s. Maybe they’ll take a leaf from Electra, Madonna, and Washakie’s books, but it’s more likely Hernando will need a younger mare in order to have his first foal no matter how hard he tries.

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Hernando may like the idea of War Bonnet being in heat, but at her age that’s not a guarantee she’ll conceive.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Pryor community, but sometimes people need to learn to pick their battles. I think people need to learn how to agree to disagree, and I have to wonder what good it does to get defensive for being wrong about if a mare is pregnant. If figuring out if a mare is pregnant helps you get though winter, I can relate. However, I can also see how people’s reactions to the possibility that mares are pregnant as perpetuating the stereotype that advocates are emotional. Like all responses on the internet I think it’s important to think before posting. Making sure one’s response is thoughtful, and contributes to discussion, rather than being argumentative is a must.

*The exception being the years with high mountain lion predation.

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4 Comments »

  1. sp Said:

    Isn’t it too early for speculations? Usually mares start giving birth from April but they don’t always have big bellys. Of course i find it fun and like to guess, but i don’t become overly upset when this or that mare doesn’t end up pregnant, there is always hope fore the next year. That been said can’t wait to see future posts with more posibilities

    • Yes, that was the point of the post. Some like Washakie get very obvious all foaling season, but there’s still a couple months until then. The horses in the Pryors are so well documented it doesn’t make as much sense to speculate if a mare is pregnant than bigger herds where it might be important to note if a mare lost a foal.

      • sp Said:

        Well i think thats understandable, since more people follow the Pryor horses and are attached to them, for example i myself always secretly hope for Cscade and Black to have a foal, especially since this year the names will start with R. Wouldn’t it be great to have a foal named Raven? These thoughts are a result of my liking to Bolder and the other horses that i follow the most. That being said i would like to believe that ALL BIG HEARDS are been followed and monitored at least from experts and conversationalists, so even if they don’t gain much publicity they too are protected.
        Of course my knowledge on the is limited but i think people can follow through facebook other heards and mares but the most important is for the experts to know the conditions of each herd and then pass it to the people, since there will always going to be the more popular herds versus the least heard of.

        Sorry for the long post i get carried away some times haha

      • I agree, I think everyone has their favorite mare, or an unrepresented line that they’d like to see have a foal. However, I personally don’t think seriously debating which mare will have a foal is very helpful. As a point of interest, Raven is Cloud’s sire, so unless it is a variation of the name, I don’t anticipate a foal getting named Raven. It’s a good connection, but generally names aren’t reused to avoid confusion.
        Unfortunately, most herds regardless of size don’t have a strong group of advocates to “protect” it. They’re all “protected” under the Wild Horse and Burro Act, but there are a lot of herds that people don’t visit.


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