First frolicking foals born at Best Friends

Two foals and two mares running
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just welcomed a trio of tiny trotters, and everyone is falling in love.
By Best Friends staff

Three sets of spindly legs learning how to stand, walk, run, and play. Tiny horse nickers punctuating the familiar deep snorts of the herd. A bright-eyed baby face shyly peeking out from beneath the long tail of a friend. Neighbors neighing in the next pasture over, necks craning for a glance at the newborns. Adoring “awws” from onlookers. Foal fever has completely taken over at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s Horse Haven.

This spring not just one, but three healthy baby horses were born in the canyon. The three foals, all fillies (female horses), are the first ever born on-site in the Sanctuary’s history. It’s big news, and the mamas and babies are thriving with care from staff and adoration from all who meet them.

The filly flurry

Mama mares Gertie, Priscilla, and Liberty came to the Sanctuary in November, following a call for help from a local sheriff’s office. The animal services officer had been working on a neglect case for the past year and needed to find a safe place for the 33 animals — including 22 horses — to land.

The large herd had been kept together in their previous pasture, stallions and mares cavorting freely. So it was no surprise when, shortly after their arrival at Best Friends, some of the mares’ bellies started expanding even beyond what their new healthy diets should have given them. Veterinarians confirmed Gertie and Liberty were mothers-to-be. But for mares like Priscilla, who could not yet be touched, it was a matter of giving them the right nutrition and waiting to see whether someone would need to step in.

[Wild mustang mares and foals make Best Friends their winter rest stop]

Horse pregnancies are long (12 months), so Sanctuary staff had plenty of time to anticipate the arrival of the little ones. And then, five months later on April 13, it happened. Palomino mama Gertie became the first mare ever to deliver a foal at the Sanctuary: a leggy little chestnut lady with a bold snip of white on her nose.

Hearts melted as caregivers and visitors got their first glimpse of the newborn, tucked close to her mother’s side as they left the stall she’d been born in and ventured into their outdoor paddock. Horses on the other side of the fence were just as excited to see the filly, following the mother-daughter pair back and forth in wonder of the newest addition to their home-between-homes.

Soon, that first foal — aptly named Prima — was stretching her legs and dancing circles around her mom, eager to explore, play, and learn all about this strange new world. And just a week later, she’d have new friends to enjoy it all with.

On April 21, people-wary Priscilla was the next mama joined by a tiny tagalong: Yarra. And the following morning, Liberty was waiting for breakfast with her own bouncing baby Bellisima (Bell to her friends). It was a full filly flurry, and it had gone off without a hitch.

Horsin’ around

Gertie, Prima, Liberty, and Bell have become quite the fantastic foursome. When they’re loose in the big arena, babies Prima and Bell are sisters in shenanigans, running around after each other, playing with giant stuffed ball toys and other curious contraptions, and one-upping each other’s fearlessness. Even their moms join in on the fun — and when four horses get the zoomies, it’s quite a sight to see.

When caregivers take their mamas out for walks, Prima and Bell toddle right behind them, wandering only far enough to greet each new neighbor — a pony barely bigger than they are, a massive motherly mule who fell in love at first sight, and every other eager equine they pass. They are the new princesses of the pastures, and everyone knows it.

[Curly-coated horse gets a personal trainer]

With Priscilla and Yarra, staff are careful to take things slowly. Priscilla still isn’t sure what to make of all these humans around her, but if someone sits quietly for long enough, she will eventually grace them with a glimpse of her petite precious. And curious little Yarra can’t help but peek around Priscilla’s legs (or under uncle Carson’s tail) to check out her two-legged caregivers. It’s a balance between socializing young Yarra and keeping mama Priscilla comfortable, but they’re both getting there.

Once everyone is ready — when the babies are weaned and their mamas have nurtured them to independence — it will be time for the next big adventure: going home. But for now, everyone’s pleased to watch the families grow and the babies blossom, making sure the first fillies of Horse Haven have a beautiful beginning to their lives.

Bellisima the foal taking a nap
Photo by Molly Wald

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