6 min read

Horse Could Only Sleep While ‘Holding Hands’ With Her Mom

Bebe, a horse at Australia's Whisker Woods Sanctuary, is the cheeky "problem" child of founder Shannon Mortlock. But Mortlock wouldn't have it any other way.

Shannon Mortlock

After all, Mortlock's grown used to all of Bebe's demanding ways over the years - including hand-holding. Literally.

Shannon Mortlock

Seven years ago, Mortlock met Bebe's mother, Emily, while buying the property for Whisker Woods in Canberra. "Local farmers said that Emily had been wandering the area for years," Mortlock told The Dodo. "One of the farmers had threatened to shoot her, as she had damaged his fences."

Mortlock said she managed to herd Emily onto her property and keep her there where she would be safe - and a few months later realized Emily was pregnant However, as soon as Bebe was born, Emily rejected her straightaway, kicking the newborn every time she dared to come close.

Shannon Mortlock

Mortlock said she called a veterinarian for guidance on what to do and was given two options: She could "let nature take its course" and allow Bebe to die, or hand-raise Bebe herself.

Mortlock's choice then became clear. "I wasn't going to just stand there and let her die," she said. After Bebe got colostrum, a special milk newborns need that contains essential proteins and vitamins, Mortlock found herself locked into months and months of bottle-feedings and dealing with one very fussy horse.

Shannon Mortlock

In her youth, Bebe wasn't above stomping her hooves on the ground while waiting for food or nibbling at the back of Mortlock's shirt.

Bebe snooping around | Shannon Mortlock

Bebe lived with Mortlock in her home and naturally developed a close bond with her - to the point that Bebe was unable to sleep at night without having a hoof near Mortlock's hand, arm or any other part of her body.

Shannon Mortlock

"Bebe refused to sleep unless I'd lie down with her and she had her hoof resting on me," Mortlock said.

Shannon Mortlock

Bebe also needed to have many towels, as they seemed to comfort her. "I was so tired from all the feeding and running the rest of the sanctuary that I didn't even care about sleeping on the concrete with her," she said.

Shannon Mortlock

As Bebe grew older, Mortlock introduced Bebe to the outdoors and, at first, Bebe wanted nothing to do with it. Mortlock said a small yard was built for her out back where she was still able to see inside the cabin whenever she wanted.

Shannon Mortlock

The next step was to get Bebe acquainted with other horses like herself - a herd at the sanctuary that included her mother, Emily. But Bebe had a hard time fitting in. The other horses chased her away, going as far as trying to kick and bite her.

"[It] was really hard on the both of us," Mortlock said. "She was very much my baby, and before I knew it, I was running around, trying to protect her from the other horses."

Bebe (second on the right) and the herd | Shannon Mortlock

These days, Bebe's a full member of the herd, though she still has her human moments. "She still tries to come inside [the house] and follows me around the sanctuary like a dog would," Mortlock said.

Bebe with her mother Emily in the background. | Shannon Mortlock

"Overall, [Bebe's] very sweet," she said.

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