Our small blue and green planet has once again reached a point in its orbit, where the part that we call home is tilted away from the sun as autumn beckons winter. However, for the foals here at Château de Fontaine, the reasons don’t really matter all that much. Instead, what matters to them is their breath lingering in the air for a few seconds as the cold temporarily holds it hostage. And the irritating, yet tolerable bite of flies being replaced by the unrelenting bite of winter.
However, with the approach of winter, the doors to the stables open wide and provide a place of refuge from the elements. Life in the stables is boiled down to a few of the foals’ favourite things: lots of food, warm beds and good company. So, despite the loss of the open grass fields, the foals still welcome the warm embrace of the stables without hesitation. Once inside, every shivering muzzle quickly disappears in a pile of hay as it attempts to simultaneously flee the cold and fill the belly, until at last it’s impossible to tell where hair ends and hay begins.
During the rush and excitement of meal times, the foals are fully immersed in their food and sounds of contented whinnies can be heard echoing through the stables. In the small time frame of chewing between bites of hay, the foals have time to look up and observe the surrounding workers. But the food takes priority here, and the workers are soon left to their own devices.
Having escaped the cold and with a full stomach, the foals are able to relax and get comfortable. Some choose to huddle up in the straw and they quickly succumb to sleep. Others might choose to find two side-by-side barrier openings where they can share their stories and their food in private. And as the days grow shorter and shorter, the foals spend more and more time eating, huddling up and sleeping.
The foals also have many daily encounters with the horses from neighbouring enclosures, as they greet each other with touching muzzles and a kiss on the cheeks, or a little attention-grabbing nip through the fence. Whinnies and ‘neighs’ can also occasionally be heard as horses call to each other from side of the stable to the other, not letting winter get in the way of socialising.
These first weeks after having fled the weather, the foals live day-to-day, looking only into the future far enough to locate their next meal, nap or playdate. Things are peaceful and even the thought of any tension is still far away. However, anywhere there’s a herd of 3-year-old foals together in a confined space, there’s trouble brewing on the horizon. When the memory of the cold fades away and summer starts to enter the foals’ dreams, things are sure to get lively as they get restless. So, until then, huddle up and bottoms up!