22. Son of Red

Blog 22 – “Son of Red”

I had two reasons to go to Ireland, the first was to catch up with my dear friend Anna Gordon-Redmond and her family, and the second was to find out more about the stud that had bred Mac.

“Blackmoor “Mac” Rua” was a Pure Bred Irish Draught, DNA tested and his paperwork was in good order.  His sire “Crosstown Dancer” and his dam “Suma’s Little Red”, along with his lineage going further back was detailed along with the stud name and address but in spite of extensive online searches and telephone calls I was not able to find out more.

We drove twice through the tiny village on the beautiful Wicklow Mountains looking for the stud but couldn’t find it so asked a local walker where we might find the “Blackmoor Stud”.  They had never heard of it but when I told the name of the breeder they knew instantly where we could find them.  We followed his directions back down the mountain and found an overgrown gravel driveway with a bungalow on one side and a small run-down stable block on the other.  

Our knock at the door was eventually answered by a friendly elderly gentleman who asked how he could help and I told him I owned a horse that I thought he had bred.  “Oh you’ll be wanting Mary” he told me, calling her to the door.  “These people think they own a horse that you bred.” He told her and she said, “It that right, what’s the horse’s name?”  “Mac.” I replied with pride, “Oh dear” she said, visibly paling, “I think you’d better come in.”  

My imagination went in to over drive, I wondered whether he had been stolen, perhaps I was going lose him, all sorts of crazy stuff.  But she offered us tea and invited us to sit down and said, “Now you must tell me, is he very big?”  “Oh yes” I replied, “He’s very big!”  Nodding her head, her eyes filling with tears she said, “Yes, that’s what did for his mother.” 

It turned out that “Red” was her darling horse, a 15.2hh ID, she had put her in foal to “Crosstown Dancer” twice - it turned out that Mac had a full brother a few years his senior, still in Ireland and who stood 16.2hh.  Having bred one lovely foal she sent Red to the same stallion and Mac was conceived.  The pregnancy went well but the foaling was difficult, it was apparent that Mac was big and Red was having trouble.  Mary explained that the vet, whose arrival was delayed eventually helped to deliver Mac.  Red managed to get to her feet and suckled him but tragically she died a few hours later.  “We had such a time getting her out of the stable and keeping him in there, he was climbing the walls and cried like a baby for weeks.”

Mary had certainly done her best in the circumstances, she told us that she had fed Mac from a 2 litre 7-Up bottle every two hours and tried to find a foster dam.  The first two rejected him but at 3 months old he was accepted by the third and went to live with her.   Mary named him "Blackmoor Mac Rua”, her prefix being “Blackmoor” and “Mac Rua” meaning “Son of Red”.

When it came to weaning the owner of the foster dam wanted to return Mac to Mary, but as she explained, “I just couldn’t look at him.  I’m so sorry, I sent him to the sales, I never knew what happened to him.”

We filled her in on Mac’s history from weening, starting with the lovely life he’d had with Michael and his horses and now with us.  She was desperate to find the picture she had of Mac to give us, she had put it “somewhere” after he went with the foster dam and was distressed that she couldn’t find it and assured us she would forward it.  She was good to her word and after she had found the picture her son emailed it to us and we sent her some up-to-date ones in return.
3 month old Mac with his foster dam.
By now Michael was living in Australia and I would contact him from time-to-time to update him on Mac.  I told him what we had found out in Ireland.  “That makes so much sense” he said, “he just didn’t know how to be a horse, he’d get down on his hands and knees and beg for food, soppy big oaf.”

8 month old Mac at Michael's yard in Essex
Finding out about his start certainly did explain a lot about Mac’s behaviour and it is testament to Michael’s skill as a horseman and clicker training that Mac turned out to be such a lovely horse, hand-reared horses are notoriously difficult to manage into adulthood.  What I didn’t yet know was that his difficult start was to be his undoing at the end.

"Barefoot Debacle" 20th April.

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