Originally Published In May of 2017.

     Every mother deserves to be honored. It really doesn't matter what she has or hasn't done. Being a mother is not easy and honestly, the longer I am a mother, the more I learn about the complications that come along with motherhood. Especially when it comes to what and how much of life a mother shares with her child.

     In the last year, I have learned a lot from my mother about what her life was really like when I was a kid. I have been blessed to discover so much of what she was dealing with when I was growing up and how it has shaped me as a mother. It should be no surprise to my mother that I have the deepest respect and appreciation for the sacrifices that she made to protect me from as many hurts as possible and also the support she gave me that allowed me to form and chase my passions. I could not ask for anything more from my mother. And that is not because we had an easy life and a fantastic relationship. It is because she instilled in me a  confidence that gave me the frame of mind that I knew I was and am capable of ANYTHING that I wish to pursue. I watched her struggle and was never quite grateful enough for everything she was going through to give me what I wanted- and she was patient enough and strong enough to endure my ungrateful attitudes because she knew that my world view didn't include all of the things she was constantly doing for me.

     Mother's Day is not just a day that I celebrate my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and several other human mothers in my life. There is also a  special horse named Rompaway Ocala, that I think of every Mother's Day.

     Several years ago, in typical spring fashion at our family's Standardbred racing farm, we were prepping for foaling. Ocala was in her late teens and due any day. She was extremely healthy and really did not show her age at all. As usual, there was an air of excitement and a divvying up of foal watch duty. 
I received an early morning text that Ocala had foaled in the night and that my sister needed to be relieved of duty since she had been up all night with mom and baby. I was excited to get to the barn and to share such an exciting and beautiful surprise with my young daughter. When we arrived, we found a very beautiful baby and a very healthy mare. However, I also learned that the foal had not successfully stood on its own yet- and after being in this world for several hours, this was not good news. 

     My sister spent her evening milking the mare and feeding the foal, but something was wrong because the milk just came out of his poor little nose. I relieved my sister and took over trying to love life right into that foal. The vet came and went, doing everything he could to no avail.  Everyone spent the day brainstorming and trying to help our new little colt stand and eat. Nothing we did helped. Ocala remained calm and let us help and work with her and baby into the afternoon.

      Eventually, our tiny friend's body began to fail him. Within 24 hours of birth, he died. To say we were crushed and heartbroken doesn't seem to convey the magnitude of our dismay. My step-father and his friend (and fellow trainer/breeder) took the tractor out to the field to dig a small grave and Ocala continued to smell and nuzzle her baby's body. She was actually very calm considering. However, when the men came back to retrieve the foal, her real mom feelings began to show.

     I  will never forget the panic in her eyes as her colt was removed from her stall and she began to spin in circles and attempted to find a way out of the barn to her baby. Her screams are forever seared into my mind. I felt for her, from mother to mother.

     Just a short time after we finished filling in the hole and I had explained to my daughter what had happened and why Ocala was so upset, we received a call from another breeder in the state that she had lost her mare shortly after she had delivered a strong and healthy foal. They were desperately searching for a mare that would be able to nurse this foal in order to not lose him too. In an effort to save the foal we loaded Ocala up within an hour or two of her loss for a several hour ship to the other farm where a new foal was scared, alone and hungry. 

     This was a risk. Not all mares will just allow another mare's foal to nurse from her and some will even attack another mare's foal. Ocala, however, is a mother through and through.  Without hesitation, Ocala put aside her pain and loss and took in the orphaned foal as her own. This was such a relief and honestly, it is still awe-inspiring. Ocala demonstrated exactly what it is to be a mother- self-sacrificing and radiating unconditional love. I'm not sure I, or anyone I know, could have done what Ocala did at all, let alone with so much grace.

I  am happy to report that Rompaway Ocala is now completely retired and enjoying life in a very green pasture- she has raised her many children well.


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