Whiz Ms Dolly, a reining mare, is raising a big-boned Clydesdale draft horse this year at Britta Jacobson's farm in California. • Photo by John O'Hara.

Reining Mare to the Rescue for Orphan Clydesdale

You all have heard this before “when life hands you lemons, you go make lemonade,” a slightly sarcastic saying to deal with things when they do not go your way.

That was never clearer than with a tale this spring from the Western performance horse industry.

It began with the joy of two new foals entering the world: a long hoped for colt out of 18.1-hand black Clydesdale mare, Nakita, and a filly out of a little 14.1-hand Quarter Horse reining mare Whiz Ms Dolly. 

Within the horse world there are many different disciplines and the boundaries between them are seldom crossed.

The following events resulted from a double tragedy and the willingness of strangers to help each another… a stillborn foal and the death of a mare right after foaling.

Orphan Clydesdale

The first phone call regarding the Clydesdale from a veterinarian clinic came at 8 p.m. on April 9.  

“I wanted to let you know that your mare Nakita gave birth to a healthy colt … He is up and has already nursed once,” Carl and Kirsten Absher were told. “If you want to come see them tonight we will make an exception to the normal visiting hours.”

The Abshers, the proud owners of both Nakita and the newborn baby Clydesdale, lived 40 minutes away in Shingle Springs, California. They wasted no time in making the trip to the clinic to meet the new arrival.  

Early the next morning the second call came in at 4 a.m. The mare was down with complications, but because she had been under observation as was the clinic protocol, they caught it immediately. A third and then a fourth call came in to inform the stunned owners, that at 4:19 a.m., April 10, their mare had died. 

Not wanting the risks of raising the orphan Clydesdale without a mother, the owners, the Abshers reached out to their friend Shamarie Tong for help in locating a nurse mare.  

Reining Mare Available

That same morning, 130 miles away in Santa Rosa, Britta Jacobson’s Quarter Horse mare, Whiz Ms Dolly, gave birth to a stillborn filly by Colonels Shining Gun. 

The 2003 broodmare by Topgun Whiz and out of Che Moe Cylip (by Doc’s Cylip) was one of many horses – in some case, generations of horses – raised and shown in reining by Jacobson. That includes Whiz Ms Dolly’s daughter, Ms Benz, a mare by Cromed Out Mercedes who has won more than $11,000 in reining and was ridden by Jacobson in shows like the Low Roller Reining Classic.

Having bred and raised her own competition horses for many years and having been in the situation of raising an orphaned foal herself many years ago, Jacobson knew that her loss could benefit someone else. While still monitoring the mare with her veterinarian, she immediately posted on Facebook that she had a nurse mare available. 

Through friends and intermediaries on Facebook, including Tong, who posted that her friends lost a mare and were hoping to find a nurse mare, and Ryan Fowler of Skyline Silversmiths (the first one to connect the two posts), Jacobson was made aware of the orphaned foal. She wasted no time in calling.

Kirsten Absher laughs when she recalls that phone call: “Hi, this is Britta Jacobson of Bennett Valley Ranch.  My mare just had a still born foal this morning and if you want a nurse mare, I suggest you pack up your foal right now and get down here. We have saved the placenta to help introduce your foal to my mare” 

It sounded more like a command than anything and was just exactly what she and her husband needed to hear at that moment. Several hours later the Clydesdale foal, Spindrifts Kiskasen, was given the OK to travel.

Big Surprise

When Jacobson volunteered to let Whiz Ms Dolly be a nurse mare to a foal, she didn’t know what breed of foal would be introduced to her mare.

“Well, I hadn’t thought to ask about the breed of the foal prior to the transport,” she recalled. “I was somewhat surprised to find out it was a Clydesdale.” 

She took the surprise well however, and in no time at all Kiskasen was unloaded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, once the orphan Clydesdale arrived at Bennett Valley Ranch everyone donned masks and gloves.  Jacobson had saved the placenta from earlier that morning, and Carl and Kirsten rubbed the colt with it thoroughly. Then, Jacobson draped it over the foal’s back and led in the distraught Whiz Ms Dolly. After a few tense minutes the mare began to relax and to everyone’s relief allowed Kiskasen to nurse.  

Future Star?

Kiskasen is now growing up with Whiz Ms Dolly, Ms Benz and another reiner, the gelding Sir Don Q, in a paddock at Bennett Valley Ranch, a beautiful facility owned by Jacobson, a long-time reining horse breeder and NRHA non-pro competitor, and her husband, Ted.  This is not a place one would expect to find a pure-bred Clydesdale colt, let alone one who has a 14.1-hand Quarter Horse for a mother. 

A significant portion of the approximately 600 Clydesdales born in the United States each year are bay, with the other colors being chestnut, black, or roan.  Kiskasen is one of the small percentages that will be black once he sheds his baby fuzz.   

So, the next time you see Budweiser Clydesdales performing in commercials during Superbowl or in a parade… you’ll wonder if Kiskasen will grow up to become one of them with a little red Quarter Horse following alongside as his mother.

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