An Orphaned Colt and How I Learned to Feed Him From a Bottle
He was so small he fit in my lap
Our family moved to the outskirts of the city of Guadalajara when I was about 12 yrs. old. We went to the villages in the areas outside of the very large city in which we lived, and this village in particular, called Ahuatlan, took about an hour and a half on highway roads, and then about another two hours and across a river on dirt roads. We went there on the weekends to pass out vitamins, worm medicine for the children, and to teach them about health issues in general, for they did not even have outhouses, but were using their corn fields for this.
While my parents were doing what they did, I often would walk about looking at the animals, and did my part to teach them why their horses and cattle were not doing so well, for they never fed them anything but the old dried out corn plants from the year before, which hardly had enough food value to deep the livestock alive, no less keeping a horse that worked all day in the fields plowing healthy.
One weekend just before we were ready to leave a young girl came running up to the vehicle, with tears in her eyes. It seemed that their horse that they used to pull the families vegetable cart through the streets to sell goods to keep the family in money, had been pregnant, and had had the colt and then died for the tremendous effort it had put on her. When I went to see, the poor old mare was nothing more than a bag of bones, and she just did not have the physical stamina to give birth and survive.
The colt was about the size of a small doberman, and was so weak that he could not stand. He was several days old, and the family did not have the money to by milk for him, and had been feeding him nothing but a few soda crackers since he had been born.
"What do you want me to do?" I asked the adults. He needs to be fed immediately, is there another mare that you could use as a substitute for him. Indeed, there was not, and the family, having already taken a huge loss when the mare died, financially could do nothing but watch as the colt came nearer to death, They gave him to me and asked me if I could keep him alive.
I would try, was all I could promise them, and I scooped him up and carried him back to our vehicle. We traveled the near four hours with the colt on my lap. He was shaking, not so much from being cold I think, but from the lack of food, he was so weak. I doubted if I could save him, but I would try.
My vet came to the house the next morning, and took a look at the colt.
He went to his car and came back with some vitamin shots, and a small amount of dry mares milk substitute. "Mix this with the amount of water indicated, and give him as much as he will drink every two hours, day and night for at least a month, then you can slow it down to every three hours day and night." he told me. What had I gotten myself into I thought. This sounded like a lot of work.
My next problem was that I only had enough stable for one horse, and I had a six year old Arabian mix mare already. I was afraid that if they didn't take to one another, for I had seen mares attack colts that were not theirs before, I would have yet another problem. I introduced the two of them a couple of days later, for the colt got stronger quickly after eating some. He ran straight over to my mare and nuzzled under her looking for the real thing. I held my breath, hoping that Princess, my mare wouldn't mind. She not only didn't mind, but she nuzzled him and licked him like he was her own. This was unexpected, as she had never had a colt of her own. She seemed to be a natural born mom.
Everything was a nightmare, other than the two horses getting along. I had to feed the colt from a big soda bottle with a rubber nipple on it, and he hated it. I practically had to wrestle him down with each and every bottle, and each feeding was a bucket three fourths full. This meant about 8 or 10 bottles full every two hours, which wasn't too bad during the day, but at night, when he really needed the feeding of warm liquid to keep him warm, was the worst.
One night, about three in the morning, I was out back and was struggling to get the rubber nipple on the bottle. I finally got it, turned around to find the colt just draining the last of the milk straight out of the bucket. "Boy, didn't you make me feel stupid", and Andy just looked at me and in the highest little voice I had ever heard whinnied at me. I laughed, and from then on it was just a matter of mixing the milk, which by the way cost me most of my paycheck every week.
Andy never got very big, for his growth was not only stunted from the lack of proper food the first week of his life, but because of lack of nutrition his mother had while she carried him. Also because he came from a mutt bloodline, for back in the villages where learning was next to nothing, they didn't know that it was not a good thing to allow inbreeding, and Andy was the offspring of his mother and brother, and who knows what the true bloodlines were, but he was the size of a Shetland pony by the time he was nine months old, and that is as big as he ever got. He was a pony sized full grown horse.
He started eating regular feed around four or five months old, and got regular vitamin shots, but it was just destiny that he never grew much. I ended up giving him to a young American girl of twelve years of age, and she knew from coming and watching me all the time that she had to take special care of him, and that she would not be able to ride him any time soon if at all. She was good with that, and just wanted him for a pet, so he got a good home.
So was the beginnings of Andy, the smallest horse I ever saw, and also a very lucky little horse, who was tough enough to have survived at all.
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