Caring for Horses is a 24/7 Job
Among the dozens of horses and foals that Jeanette Maner has cared for, a few faces stand out.
First, there was Oliver the colt, who orphaned when he was 12 hours old. Then, there’s Maximus, 5-month-old foal whose mare died this spring from pregnancy complications. Maner’s favorite charge, though, is Bruce, a small colt born 30 days premature in mid-April.
“Usually they don’t make it if they’re this young, but we worked really hard to make sure he lived,” says Maner, adding that Bruce might be the youngest surviving preemie at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Center. “He’s fine now but he’s a little smaller than the rest of the horses.”
Maner, an agribusiness major who is part of the breed crew at the Arabian Horse Center, was one of the few people present at Bruce’s birth at 7:30 a.m. – quite unusual because mares normally give birth in the middle of the night.
“We didn’t know if [Bruce] was going to make it or not. We’ve never had one that young,” Maner says. “He wasn’t breathing for a while. My next step was to get oxygen if he needed it… then he looked up and started breathing. I was like, ‘Oh my god, he’s alive!’”
The colt’s first steps were also a major victory. Normally, foals stand up about an hour after birth, but not Bruce, who is also nicknamed Preemie and Primo. He apparently put off that breakthrough for two long days.
“The day he stood up, he started getting up on his own, he started nursing on his own and his mom started liking him better,” Maner recalls. “That was the day everything turned around, and we knew he was getting better.
“It’ll be a great day when he grows up, goes out to pasture and gets sold. That is what we strive for here, and to see that happen is amazing. That’s what we hope for for Bruce.”
Maner started working at the Arabian Horse Center in spring 2009 after asking farm manager Kate Smith about a breed crew job, which comes with a room and a modest monthly scholarship. In addition to caring for pregnant mares and foals, she also watches over sick and injured horses, dedicating 30 to 100 hours a month.
“Being a student and living at the horse center is a huge commitment,” Smith says. “During foaling season and most of the year, students are on call 24/7 to assist the mares with foaling along with all their other regular chores, including herd health, light maintenance, feeding and cleaning stalls. Jeanette has taken on these tasks and more.”
Maner, who plans to graduate next spring, wants to become a farm manager or breed manager. It’s a rewarding experience, she says, to watch a horse regain full health or witness the birth of a foal and know that she was instrumental in their care.
“There’s a whole other world involved in horses that’s not about riding. You can ride them, you can take care of them on the ground, you can help them have babies, you can nurse them back to heath, you can train them on the ground,” she says. “I love riding them, but I like taking care of them more.”
In the far future, Maner hopes to open a horse camp targeted to inner city youth, in the same way she was introduced to the equestrian world. Growing up in South Los Angeles, Maner knows firsthand how rare such opportunities are.
“I grew up in inner city, and there aren’t any horses around there. I want to offer that option to kids who would probably be great riders and be great equestrians.”