‘Peaches’ ~ A Mare Extraordinaire
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Horses never cease to amaze us with their nurturing natures and ability to touch our hearts. When you run a horse rescue there are many special moments that make up the busy and sometimes emotional daily routine, and for Flare Oaks Rescue, Harnett County, NC owner Ashley Nelms, an amazing story of equine partnership unfolded this Spring that no-one saw coming.
“In late March 2019 we found a neglect case of 7 donkeys where their owner was breeding his jacks to his jenny donkeys and then sending the foals to auction. The foals were prematurely weaned without regard for their need for growth and for a nursing timeline,” explained Nelms. “We managed to remove all the female donkeys from the owner’s care and brought them to Flare Oaks Rescue too, and provided an outreach program for the owner so that the jack donkeys could be castrated.
Having adopted female donkeys before and having already had one unexpected foal hitting the floor, Nelms immediately had the 3 female donkeys checked for pregnancy and 2 out of 3 were found to be in foal.
Also around that time we heard about a three month old donkey foal that was being sold at a feedlot.
“Thankfully we were able to attend the auction and secure the foal and bring it home for the special care it required,” said Nelms.
The small donkey foal was named Peep, (it was Easter after all), following quarantine, she was turned out with Nelm’s long time equine partner Peaches, to provide companionship. And then an amazing thing happened.
Peaches, a retired Quarterhorse mare who had never been pregnant or given birth previously, tolerated Peep trying to nurse even though she was not in milk. Indeed the mare had never been bred. Within 24 hours, without hormonal administration or human interference she bagged up and began to produce milk.
“I’d never seen anything like this happen before. I called my vet and asked how this had happened and whether there was any danger to either mare or foal from this development. My vet explained that the mare must have been in a part of her estrus cycle that allowed her to develop her maternal instinct to the point of providing milk, aided by the stimulation of the foal’s attempts to nurse. While I was advised that the milk might not be adequate from the nutrition standpoint, the nursemare duties would not harm my mare and the foal would benefit from being less stressed by being allowed to nurse,” said Nelms.
Provision of nursemares to the horse industry in an ethical manner with no foal left behind utilizing hormone therapies is a topic close to the heart of this author, and I have written about it before. There have been instances of mares being stabled close to or with an orphan foal and coming into milk production, but normally those mares have at least had a foal of their own before.
“I had never expected that my mare would become my partner in this rescue quite this way,” explained Nelms, delighted at this unexpected outcome.
The timing was perfect, as four or five months previously an adopted donkey Tulip had surprised everyone by foaling out a jenny called Josie. When Peep was weaned it wasn’t long before Peep and Josie became fast friends and developed their own donkey sisterhood.
Flare Oaks Rescue currently cares for 60 critters in need. We spoke with Nelms a year ago when she was the lucky winner of a free run-in shed in the Horizon Structures Sweepstakes competition, and back then she was caring for 65 animals.
When asked how the last year or so had gone along since taking up 501(c)3 status, Nelms was happy to report the successful adoption of several of her charges to forever homes.
“I try to keep the numbers realistic, as it is just myself caring for the animals on a day to day basis. By keeping the number at a reasonable level I am able to give every animal the one-on-one attention it deserves and really get to know each horse, mule or donkey as an individual. This means that when it comes time to find them a new home, I have knowledge of all the quirks or needs a particular individual has and can therefore provide a better match. Hopefully this produces the best possible outcome for all involved. When we have an animal successfully adopted out it makes room for us to bring in another one in need,” explained Nelms.
Flare Oaks Rescue is also home to goats, geese and a myriad of other animals. The constant need to fund raise for supplies such as hay is a consistent struggle.
“We have had a difficult time finding top quality hay this year. Ivy, one of our pregnant donkeys required timothy/orchard hay and we had to pay $14 a bale. The drought conditions regionally have made good hay hard to find. Thankfully being a donkey she doesn’t eat too much!” said Nelms.
Located on just 10 acres the property does not allow an opportunity for haymaking, something that Nelms would like to get into in the future.
“We have had a very good year overall and our farm has provided sanctuary to many. When Hurricane Florence hit in 2018 and took out our newly built run-in shed that turned out to be not wellbuilt at all and blew down, our hearts sank. And then we were so fortunate to be blessed with winning the Horizon Structures run-in shed, literally from a drawing out of Boyd Martin’s hat. We love our Horizon run-in shed. It’s so sturdy and I don’t have to worry about my horses in poor weather. They are very happy and safe in it. If it were up to me I’d have a whole farm full of Horizon Structures buildings,” said a happy Nelms.
Who knows it could happen! Nelms and her husband Chris, have lots of plans for the future meantime all the animals that get a ‘soft landing’ at Flare Oaks Rescue are winners.
Coming soon! Horizon Structures LLC is giving away another run-in shed and the contest will open October 15th, 2019. We’ll keep you posted.