Great Expectations

Foaling season has arrived at Schiller Ranch. By the time you read this, we may have as many as four spindly-legged, future champions on the ground.

Raising horses and allowing my daughter Sinclair to experience the wonders of birth and the trials and tribulations of making a champion—a real world, life study—was one of the main reasons I came back to horses.

I’ve placed our mares in the very capable hands of Donna Hanover, who becomes a nocturnal being during foaling season. She keeps sharp records on foaling dates and carefully observes each mare for impending signs of delivery. Even though the hours are horrible, she loves her job and is damn good at it.

Schiller Ranch has special video monitors so we can watch the mares from anywhere—even Casa Chaos in Houston. Most nights when Donna’s up and watching, I am too.

I’ve done so many exciting things in my life—traveled to so many exciting places—met so many wonderful and fascinating people, but to walk into barn hours before the first rays of sunlight have crested the horizon, smell the fresh shavings and hear the first soft knickers of a mare to her foal…it’s a quiet glory that few will ever understand. The pride you feel when the just minutes after birth a foal is standing and walking is almost indescribable.

You marvel at how something so fragile—and uncoordinated—will grow into a 1,000 pound athlete with speed, grace and the desire to be the best.

That desire to be the best is what most people outside the horse world don’t understand. You can select for many superior athletic traits, but the hardest of all to harness is desire. Insane For Fame, my beloved J-Lo, has it and so does my stallion, Epic Leader.

Sadly, Mother Nature can be so cruel. We lost my royal baby—the first foal by Epic Leader out of Insane For Fame late last fall. The recipient mare that was carrying J-Lo’s baby via embryonic transplant birthed a big, black colt much too early due to a twisted umbilical cord.

The ranch felt the loss so keenly that it became the elephant in the room. No one wanted to talk about it. Our year of waiting and great expectations were all for naught.

Thankfully, I own the factory and we will try again this spring. Until then, I’ll watch my monitor—text and call Donna to no end—and make my treks down to the foaling barn whenever our newest foals arrive. Each one is special. Each one touches my heart, simply because they’ve arrived safe and sound.