Birth Announcement: Finn MacCool, my Horse

Finn MacCool, son of Padron’s Elegante and CNH Header, made his front-foot-first dive into this world at 8:02 pm, Tuesday, April 17, 2001. Header, also known as Studley, was peering into the stall from his own stall two doors away. Ellie made an enormous effort to help Finn find solid ground and rested a half hour before licking him dry. Finn was on his feet in 44 minutes but alas had one heck of a time finding the source of milk, trying every protrustion and vertical surface he could. Each time he got close, Ellie squealed and Finn backed away. She was full of milk and apparently in some pain. Cheryl, the barn owner and former owner of Ellie, milked Ellie and she and I bottle fed him after three-four hours of his searching.   While Ellie was being milked, I held her at the halter and I could feel her relax.

At about 1 am, I slept in the apartment at the farm with my dog Molly under a newly washed horse blanket of Ellie’s–hoping that Finn would find his way without us. He did. At 6 am, Ellie’s nipples were shiny from use.   Getting that first milk into a foal is essential because they are born with no immunities to anything and must get them from mama.

Ellie is an attentive mother. I can practically hear her nicker right now. She nickered from the moment Finn stuck his head out of the amniotic sac and nickered about 50% of the time I was with them. The sound is gentle, like water over rocks. Finn had his vet check today, and he looked terrific in every way, including having enough mother’s milk in his blood. He should–he eats for 10 minutes, poops for a minute, bucks and runs around for 1 minute with Ellie following him, and then he sleeps for 10 minutes. I know. I spent hours watching, even missing a faculty meeting, whose existence did not cross my mind until two colleagues whose emails reached me tonight asked me what happened.

Ellie was cool right before she went into labor–so much so, that she showed no sign, except some tail-lifting and a few contractions which she’s had for at least a week. She did not sweat, she was not restless, she did not bite at her sides, and she did not get up and down–all signs of impending birth. There are a couple of other signs that I will let you imagine–she didn’t have those either. So, I decided she wasn’t going to give birth on the day she did.

I left her at 6 pm on Tuesday and got a call at 7:45 that the baby’s front legs were sticking straight out of Ellie’s back end. Travis, Cheryl’s son, videotaped the event, and I’m almost glad I wasn’t there. Ellie worked really hard, pushing, breathing, groaning. It was an awful lot of work.

Finn MacCool is an Irish hero said to have been a giant. He had long red hair and saved Ireland from invaders. He also created the Giant’s Causeway at the top of Northern Ireland in order to make a bridge to Scotland where the woman he loved lived.

Finn the newborn foal has legs that are almost as long as Ellie’s and he thus might be a big horse. He is chestnut (red) with one white sock, a blaze, and a flaxen mane and tail. He’s knock-kneed and his right back leg turns out, all not unusual in long-legged foals who have a heck of a time trying to figure out where to put their legs while they are inside the mother.   The vet told me to get a rasp and file the outside of those three feet twice a week starting a few days after his birth.


Finn grew to be 15.3 hands, which is a good size. He is a lovely horse with straight legs. The rasping I did worked. He is still in Ellie’s and my life and always will be.