Foal-watch can get really boring, especially when you are sitting around waiting for a young mare (or jenny) to figure out what is going on and get on with the job. There comes a time when all there is to do is sit around and tell stories about previous nights sitting around waiting on a young mare....
It was about this time of year in 1991 or 2, I was a young college student studying Equine Science and Agricultural Technology. I was at the time, a very serious student, trying to deal with the very recent death of my mother from cancer; worried about keeping my grades up so I could continue on to vet school and not lose a desperately needed scholarship and possessed of very underdeveloped social skills. One of the duties of such lowly creatures was to do foal-watch once a week throughout the Spring.
One of the riding instructors (whom I shall call Mr. Jones), was an exceptional horseman, a mediocre teacher, a drunk and he had a reputation for sleeping with his favorite, female students. And before you ask, the answer is no, I was not in that group. I fit more neatly into what would have been the overly tall-awkward-shy-driven-grief stricken group, had there been more than just myself for such a group to exist.
The barn housing the expectant mothers also housed the school's six-horse hitch of Belgian draft horses, plus a couple of Clydesdales in for training. All of whom lived in tie stalls and none of which had been groomed for several weeks (I never did understand why, but there was a pervasive attitude that the draft horses did not require grooming). As I said, it was Spring, these horses had not been allowed outside and were in tie stalls so they could not roll. The shedding hair coming off of them covered them like a wave. It was fairly clear that none of the mares were actually going to have any babies that night so I decided to pass the time by grooming all of the draft horses. A job that took several hours and resulted in a pile of discarded horse hair the likes of which has seldom been seen.
After grooming all of the draft horses and still facing many hours of uninterrupted boredom, I decided to entertain myself by building a horse sculpture out of the pile of hair at my disposal. It was in the wee hours of the morning (sometime after the bars shut down for the night) and I was just putting the finishing touches on my masterpiece when I heard the barn door being opened and went to investigate. Mr. Jones had stopped by on his way home from the bar to see how things were going (and most likely hoping to find a bored, lonely co-ed. He was a bit disappointed to find me). He was just saying hello when suddenly his jaw dropped, his eyes bulged and all the blood drained from his face,
My confused response, "huh?"
He begins wildly pointing down the isle, "why didn't you call someone??!!"
I started looking around myself, trying to figure out what was wrong. Was he hallucinating? Had I unwittingly messed something up? Was there actually a reason (aside from laziness) that the draft horses weren't supposed to be groomed? I began to wonder if one of the mares had somehow had an unnoticed baby in the last 5 minutes and managed to squirt it out of a crack in a stall door into the isle or something, but I couldn't see anything wrong anywhere.
"What happened to that baby??!?"
I squinted down the barn isle, trying to decipher his wild gesticulations, and finally realized that in that light, at that angle and with a seriously elevated blood-alcohol level, my sculpture could, sort of, look a lot like a dead foal laying on the floor. Ooops.
After several minutes of explaining and convincing, we were standing over the body of my sculpture and Mr. Jones shakes his head and starts laughing. He laughs so hard that he falls back against the wall and slides to the floor, tears running down his face. I stand there, starring rather bemusedly. After an eternity of this he finally gets to his feet wipes his eyes, pushes his hat back and says, "You know, I've kind of wondered about you. You're so darned quiet, but you know, you're alright." And with that he thumps me on the shoulder, straightens his hat and weaves back out into the night.
I decided to put my hair sculpture into the trash barrel and spent the rest of the night reading a book. Boredom didn't seem so bad.