Pony Mom Waits To Have Baby Until The Moment She's Safe
It seemed the only question left for the urgently pregnant pony standing in a Texas feedlot was where she would be having her baby.
Would it be right there in the cramped lot, alongside the donkeys and other ponies?
Or would it be in the packed trailer bound for Mexico?
Or would she manage to give birth at all before a slaughterhouse swallowed her up along with her unborn foal?
In any event, would it even matter?
The pony was among a contingent of equines in the town of Bowie - five ponies and five donkeys - with a one-way ticket to a Mexican border town, where the animals' only value might be their hides.
Still, the pony, who would later be called Velvet, fought off labor valiantly, and long enough for the most timely of interventions.
They found several pregnant horses and donkeys. All were in urgent need of medical assistance.
"The Ark Watch Foundation negotiated the release of the ponies and donkeys with kill buyers in Bowie and arranged to have them transported to our rehabilitation facility," Whitney Hanson of the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) tells The Dodo.
Loaded into a trailer bound for the rehab facility in Crowley, Velvet fought her pressing labor pains. What was she waiting for?
Perhaps, it was her destination.
Once the animals arrived in Crowley, they were given healthy feed, fresh water, space to graze, medical care and, most vitally, love.
And then, just hours before Valentine's Day, the pregnant pony gave something back.
She gave birth to a tiny foal. Her name was Valentina.
"Velvet and Valentina are doing fantastic," Hanson says. "Once Velvet heals from her infections and Valentina is a bit older, we will begin searching for an adoptive home for the pair."
They're hardly the only ones who will be looking for a home soon. In fact, nearly half the females in that once-doomed herd are expected to go into labor shortly.
And all of them have a long road to recovery.
"Many of these equine need to gain more than 100 pounds," Hanson says. "And all are still battling pneumonia and severe parasitic infections."
It will be at least three months, she adds, before any of them are ready for adoption.
Since giving birth to her clumsy, bumbling, awkward, completely adorable foal, Velvet has kept her close by her side - aside from a fleeting moment when Valentina trotted up to rescue staff and gave them loving nuzzles.
But rescue staff says Velvet has already proven a very protective mother. And it's no wonder.
After all, that awkward, clumsy foal is her precious Valentina. Her funny Valentine.
This happy ending, and countless more just like it was brought to you by the Humane Society of North Texas.
But there are still far too many tragic chapters being written, especially in Texas, where Hanson says sending animals to slaughter in Mexico has reached epidemic proportions.
"It started in 2007 when Texas outlawed equine slaughter in the state and closed the last of the equine slaughter plants down," she explains. "Most residents assume that by closing the plants, the practice of equine slaughter stopped, but in reality it just moved to Mexico."
Slaughter plants may be illegal in Texas. But transporting donkeys to Mexico where they can be slaughtered? That's perfectly legal.
Want to help the Humane Society of North Texas in its efforts to save ponies like Velvet and Valentina? Consider making a donation.