Baby Horse Climbs Into Bed With The People Who Love Him
When Ruby was saved from a horse auction in Pennsylvania this winter, she was a skeleton. She pinned her ears back whenever anyone came near her, but her big blue eyes caught the attention of a rescuer who came up with the money to bail her out.
Penny Parker, barn manager at Thornbury Farm Stables in West Chester, Pennsylvania, got a call from the woman who rescued the mare and needed a place to quarantine her for a month. Horses who are rescued from auctions often sit in crowded, filthy "kill pens" for up to a week, sometimes with no food or water. They can become very sick, which is why they can't be around other horses at first. Parker's quarantine pen at the barn was full, so she brought Ruby home to her backyard.
"Within the first three days, she wasn't really trusting, which was normal," Parker told The Dodo. "I tried to blanket her, and she kicked me, pretty hard."
Then Ruby's belly started to show. Parker figured the horse had worms, and had the vet come out to examine her. That's when they found out she was pregnant. No one could tell how far along she was since she was so thin, but the vet figured it might be three or four weeks until her baby came. (Horses are pregnant for about 11 months, so that was a pretty rough guess.)
Parker's friends at the barn threw her a foal shower, and Parker planned to name the baby Winter Sky. Three months passed, and Ruby - now out of quarantine and pastured with other mares - was still pregnant. Finally, on Friday, April 29, a spindly baby boy was born. He was named Skye.
Parker and her boyfriend, Dave Manning, quickly fell in love with the handsome foal - but unfortunately, his mother didn't. They tried to get him to nurse, but Ruby kicked Skye in the head and in the ribs. The vet sedated her to the point where she was nearly asleep, and she was still trying to kick him.
"That whole first day, it was total turmoil trying to get this baby to nurse," Parker said. "At the end of the day we had to pull him from her because we thought, 'She's gonna kill him.'"
No one knows what Ruby's life was like before she ended up at auction, but Parker suspects her rejection of her baby had something to do with her past.
"I think she'd probably given birth, and they had probably taken them away from her right away," she said. "She's got PTSD, for sure."
Now that Parker and Manning had separated Skye from his mother, they had to bottle-feed him around the clock - and they were very worried about him getting the colostrum he needed in the first 24 hours.
Because the colostrum levels in his blood were low, baby Skye had to get a blood transfusion.
He was weak, but taking several bottles of formula every hour and a half. Night came, and it was getting cold fast.
"I looked at my boyfriend, and I said, 'We've got to take him home. I can't leave him here,'" Parker said. "So we put him in a minivan and he was asleep, he wasn't stressed. We had a 15-minute drive home and we brought him into the house, and my boyfriend slept on the queen-sized mattress on the floor with him."
Manning dozed on the mattress with Skye, who kept nudging him every hour throughout the night for his bottle.
When Manning finally fell asleep around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, he was soon woken up by the baby horse standing over him in the living room, ready to start the day.
Later that morning, Parker and Manning brought Skye back to the barn. They set up bottle-feeding shifts with friends - and started desperately looking for a surrogate mother. On Sunday, their calls were answered.
Lucy, a retired racehorse from Castle Rock Farm in West Chester, Pennsylvania, had lost her own baby three years ago, and had more recently become a surrogate mom to another foal who was rejected at birth. On Sunday, Parker picked her up and started injecting her with medication that helps stimulate milk production in mares. She was introduced to Skye that day, and proved to be a perfect mom.
"By Monday morning, they were in love," Parker said. "She's lying next to him, standing over him while he sleeps. They're running around together, connected at the hip."
Skye is nursing from his new mom now, while Parker and Manning continue to supplement her milk supply with bottles of formula. He loves people and the other animals on the farm and will never know whatever trauma Ruby experienced.
"She's lonely and confused, as you can understand," Parker said. "You still can't touch her beyond her shoulder. She's dangerous, and it's a shame."
Parker has rescued four horses from kill pens at auctions in the last couple of years, and she said it takes a long time to gain their trust. Horse auctions are, sadly, a common way for horse camps, racing farms and individuals who no longer want to care for their horses to quickly unload them.
"They're every single week, and they're all over," Parker said. While horse slaughter is illegal in the U.S., "kill buyers" show up at every auction to buy large numbers of horses for as little as $50 a head and ship them to Mexico or Canada to be killed for meat. Meanwhile, the woman who rescued Ruby had to pay $750 to get her pulled from the deplorable conditions of the kill pen.
"They pull on our heartstrings and get a lot of money out of us rescue people," Parker said.
Skye and Ruby will always have a loving home with Parker and Manning. To help them out with the costs of his vet bills and the nurse mare, you can donate to Skye's Gofundme page.
To learn more about horse auctions and how to end horse slaughter, visit the Humane Society of the United States.
Watch a video of the first time Parker met Skye: