Taking Tailgating to Extremes

Chef Tommy Klauber

Ok… I have my own little fieldside parking spot to use for watching the Sunday games at the Sarasota Polo Club. I have never been a tailgater before; I have no idea what’s involved or what’s expected. I’ve done plenty of catering so I figure I’ll catch on pretty quick. Who the hell came up with this concept, anyway? Basically, a party in a parking lot… hmmm? A slight breeze and there is all manner of detritus; dust, air-borne scraps of paper, and other stuff that's just too horrifying to consider. Paper supplies get scattered about willy-nilly every time you lift the carefully placed brick off the pile. And seating is so limited that the entire group seems to be in the midst of some bizarre version of musical chairs. But whatever the weather – cold, rainy, hot, sunny – there is something quite thrilling about spending an afternoon socializing with friends and family, while watching endorphin-fueled, adrenaline-crazed polo-players aboard finely-tuned, protein-infused, high-priced, sweat-lathered, talented, 1000-pound beasts thundering past you, that creates an appetite for daring culinary feats. This is not your average leisure dining experience… this is, literally and figuratively, dining on the edge.


I’ve heard tailgating can be an elegant event, reminiscent of the lifestyle so beautifully described by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Portable tables draped with white linens…silverware is substituted for plastic cutlery; wine is served in real glasses and the beer is strictly of the handcrafted variety (formerly known as "microbrewed"). Well that is fine for some, but I prefer the more relaxed approach… getting together with a group of friends, simple but satisfying foods and splitting up the work, making the whole effort that much more enjoyable.

Tailgating Tips

Shop smart  Remember food safety begins at the store  Start by buying the freshest produce and meats  Slip meats into a plastic bag to prevent juices from leaking on other food and contaminating it  Stock up on plenty of plastic utensils, cups and serving plates  Be prepared - do some of your prep work the night before  Pack up the car the night before with portable grill or burner, tables, chairs, trash bags, and soap, water and towels to wash up with before cooking and eating  Use two insulated coolers - one for drinks and ready-to-eat foods, the other for raw meats  Pack foods in reverse order so the last ones packed will be the first ones used  Instead of loose ice, consider freezing water in a lightweight plastic milk jug and putting it in your cooler to keep everything cold - that way, you won't flood the cooler, and you will end up with a clean supply of cool drinking water post-game  Pack up leftover food safely in clean resealable bags or shallow, airtight plastic containers and store in the cooler, but toss food that's been sitting out for more than two hours.

Mmmmm… I can smell the delicious aromas already…or is that the smell of horses? Happy tailgating! See you on the sidelines this polo season!

Not-too-Whipee Shrimp Mallets on Grilled Peach Divots

Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

18 uncooked colossal shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled, tails left intact, deveined

2 red bell peppers, each cut into 12 pieces

2 firm but ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, each cut into 12 wedges

6 12-inch bamboo skewers (for colossal shrimp) soaked in water 30 minutes, drained

Guava-Lime Glaze

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add shrimp, bell peppers and mangoes; toss to coat. Alternate bell pepper, mango and 3 colossal shrimp on each of 6 skewers (or use 3 jumbo shrimp on each of 12 skewers). Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Grill shrimp until cooked through, brushing with glaze during last 2 minutes, cooking colossal shrimp about 4 minutes per side.

Grilled Peach Divots

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. water

4 medium peaches, halved and pitted

Combine brown sugar and water in a bowl. Place peach halves on grill over medium heat and cook 5 to 8 minutes, turning peaches occasionally and brushing with brown sugar mixture, until hot and lightly browned.

Guava-Lime Glaze

2 cups canned guava nectar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

Combine nectar, orange juice and vinegar in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Mix in lime juice. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Makes 1 cup.

Serve the shrimp skewers resting on the peach divots.

Giddy-Up Geeks: Saddle Up Your Smartphone for a Ride Through Equine Cyberspace

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By Jaymie Klauber, Owner of Epic Equine Experiences, Epic Polo Club & Epic Equine Riding & Polo Academy, Polo Player and enthusiast of all things horse

 Although it may seem the antithesis of the often zen-like digital detox that usually goes with a riding and barn experience, computer technology has entered the lives of every equestrian.

Smartphone technology has created a fun and easy connection among communities of horse people in general, or within a specific discipline like polo.  You can reach out globally and ask for help, stay informed, or find your ‘people’ and keep in touch – electronically.  A polo player, or just a fan, can find a polo club almost anywhere in the world and immediately pinpoint polo games to watch, horses to ride, and new acquaintances with whom you share this common interest/passion.

A  small device strapped to an arm, stuffed into a pocket or tucked in a boot or bra, enables working people to stay on top of professional demands while pleasure riding or training, allowing more time to pursue the obsession/addiction of horses and all equestrian sport.  On the track, trails and stick and ball fields at the polo club it is common to see someone on the phone; a groom taking a set of 5 horses, keeps them calmly in control, while having a smoke, and texting.

The safety advantages are significant. During a casual trail ride in the club with friends, a member fell off a spooking horse, shattering her ankle.  Absent of their phones, her friends likely felt ridiculous, but the ever-prepared injured party herself called for help and within minutes someone arrived to assist and transport her to the hospital. These friends now are never without their phones attached to them, in case of emergency.  

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The A-type well-organized equestrian keeps detailed, records concerning their horses, including pedigrees, medical data, purveyors, contacts, grooms, feed sources, tack and gear purchases, as well as fitness regimens, photos, histories and barn upkeeps . With numerous horse management apps like Equisketch, Equiagenda, Horse Box, Horse Keeper, and the $50 Ranch Manager, all that information is right on their devices and instantly accessible with the swipe of a finger. Like any new computer program, it is initially time consuming to enter all the data and attach all related records, but once done, these apps make the multitasking horse person’s life much easier.

Very helpful, and often most humorous, is the modern equestrian’s use of the smartphone to play vet, mimicking people who self-diagnose their ailments on the web. At the first sign a horse may be ‘off’ physically, or mentally, the owner stands, bent over, often holding a leg, or pointing to/pressing on some lump, bump, cut, scrape, oozing, swollen, throbbing, heated, tender part of the horse’s grand and complex anatomy…. Or hand trotting the horse, while five of her barn-mates look on in horror, simultaneously grabbing their smartphones to bring up an article they read on that very thing, or to reference one of their many equine medical apps like Horse Side Vet & Equine Vet, so it must be “this diagnosis” or “that diagnosis”. Or they visit online forums, so it is certainly “other diagnoses” -- all dedicated to their horses’ well-being and recovery while trying to sell  a panoply of natural and/or medicinal products to fix the issue. The friends compete for the status of being the most knowledgeable of equestrian know-it-alls, the one who offers the cure, because all along she knew hers was “the right diagnosis”, which the virtual vet just validated. History shows all equestrians are self-proclaimed vets, and now, armed with their smartphones, the extent of their knowledge (and delusion), has become limitless.

Currently, every  state has numerous Facebook ‘groups’ that pop up for horse folks that help you buy, sell, rent, board and trade anything in the equine realm, as well as learn about fun group social or fundraising rides, poker runs, local shows. They have proven to be a handy beneficial resource, and our area alone has several, such as Sarasota/Manatee Horse & Tack Exchange, S.W. Florida Horse & Tack Trader, Florida Horses and Trailers for Sale and Horse Peeps. There’s always someone seeking a horse or used items, a boarding facility or trailer, that is “just perfect” for their friend, so they tell a friend …and the online chain of comments and tags effectively leads to that perfect thing. Nationally, groups within every discipline connect people and provide information and an audience. For polo alone, Facebook has many groups that include US Polo Connection, Polo Gear for Sale in USA, Polo Horses for Sale, to name a few.

Travelling with horses no longer seems lonely and frightening. Trailer-ing horses to other venues for a competition or match or to their summer or winter turnout in your own region or one many miles away, historically has been daunting: your truck could break down or trailer tire blow out, and fear of the unknown sets in. Where can you stop to give the horses, and yourself, a break? Towing ginormous live animals, often in hot weather, makes a simple flat tire a life-threatening situation, exceptionally stressful and miserable. When such a misfortune occurs, horses remain inside the hot trailer, often for hours, until help arrives, unless you can repair yourself. AAA does not cover large trucks or trailers. Now, with apps like Horse Travel Planner, a smartphone can help plan your trip and prepare you for emergencies. It is possible, if you’re enduring a road mishap, to post on Facebook that you are stranded with horses, and there is a very good chance someone in the area will see it, offer to come pick up your horses and keep them in a paddock until the problem is remedied. Knowing where to ‘layover’ is also important, and sites like travelinghorse.com and horsemotel.com make it  easy to find a nice place to overnight your horses in stalls or paddocks, for a reasonable price. Many of these places offer a bunkhouse or room in B&B fashion, for the human and canine companions as well. Some boast quick accessibility to tens of thousands of acres of park land for great trail riding while on the road trip. One will even loan you a vehicle to go get a bite in town without having to unhook your rig to take your truck. Again, all at your fingertips.

Trail riding in state parks and in other unfamiliar areas has always given new meaning to the word ‘adventure’. Most long-time equestrians have a cache of scary ‘adventure’ stories that end with their gratitude to be alive to tell. Getting lost, falling off and having your horse take off, sustaining injury with no access to help, sudden and dramatic weather changes, are all risks equestrians take in pursuit of endorphin-fueled fun and freedom on horseback. Thanks to handy GPS apps like Equitrail and Horsetrails, designed specifically for horseback riding, your odds of finding the way back to your camp area or trailer increases exponentially – a HUGE help, though some of the excitement and potential for dramatic tales is sacrificed for  safety and peace of mind. There are also apps for state parks that offer riding trails, and sites that link to all available trail riding spots within in a given area. Handy Facebook ‘meet-up’ posts provide opportunities to discover new places and have others to ride with who share your passion for the trail.

To the detriment of the independent local feed-store/general store selling tack and supplies, countless websites offer greater selections of equine-related products, at a lower price (sometimes half), often with free shipping.  These convenient online resources have threatened the future of the mom and pop supply store, mirroring the general retail environment.   But, consumers of equine products are a compulsive bunch who favor immediate gratification, and are drawn to more affordable and extensive options for their perceived need.  Loyalty only goes so far; busy equestrians   dislike traveling to town -- only to be reminded how costly their hobby/passion is.

Quick access to information is usually helpful, but be aware that minor equine-related issues can spread like wildfire and create panic that is often an overreaction. For example, and not to dismiss the dangers by any means, news of ‘Creeping Indigo’ appearing in Florida, and some horse deaths apparently caused by the poisonous weed, manifested in a local Facebook page called Nina’s Warriors. This post was ultimately shared to just about every horse owner in Florida, and had property owners and boarders alike on their hands and knees sifting through acres of pasture in search of the murderous, deeply rooted and sprawling stubborn weed.  Upon a sighting of Creeping Indigo, or any suspicious vegetation remotely resembling one of numerous photos shown, the frantic weed hunters followed the detailed online instructions on pulling or killing the weeds, notoriously difficult to eradicate. For a year or so it was hard to take even a short ride on the polo club bridle paths or any nearby riding area without peering down the whole time, identifying the presumed weed in any number of places, then flying into a panic and repeatedly reporting it to management. We would then live in fear that all our horses were going to die. Although caution is a good path, the local vets, who did not entirely dismiss the gravity of the reported cases in the Tampa area, had never actually seen a case of CI poisoning.  The hype eventually and finally has died down.

From intrigue back to internet… to assist in the success of any equestrian, an endless number of teaching and training videos are readily available at your fingertips: to name only a few, the poloskilz.com and polotraining.org websites, and sites for any discipline. Trainers and teachers for lessons, as well as horse trainers of all style, can also be found online for any equine realm.

The creator-managers of these super-helpful groups/pages, apps and websites should be applauded for presenting important information and convenient methods to improve and simplify all that is required to deal with each day in the equine community.

The speed at which technology is advancing makes future possibilities seem endless. Imagine a ‘fit-bit’ for your horses…. cadence, jump height, stride size, number of steps, heart beat… anything.

Il Palio; They call it a horse race…


By Jaymie Klauber

After returning from Italy a few years ago, I had to rearrange my register of thrilling experiences.  Topping the list now is Il Palio, the most fabulous, brilliant display of pageantry I’ve ever witnessed.

Our Italy trip was conceived by Malaka Hilton, owner of Admiral Travel, who invited my husband, Tommy, chef and proprietor of Pattigeorge’s Restaurant on Longboat Key, to be the culinary guide for her group tour.  Our journey began in Tuscany at the villa Il Borro, an idyllic 1700-acre sprawl that includes horse paddocks and a winery.   Following was three days in Florence, and a day-trip to Siena to attend the spectacle known as Il Palio.

Owned by the Ferragamo family, Il Borro is run by Salvatore Ferragamo, a gracious host who personifies Italian hospitality and is, by the way, movie-star handsome. As well, he is an avid polo player.  My dreams came true when Salva asked if I wanted to “stick and ball” with him at his polo club.  Guess what my answer was?!  It was an unforgettable experience, also right up there on my list.

 Il Palio is a centuries-old tradition brought to life twice each year, a fierce competition between Contrade, or city wards.  Owners of private stables offer the pick of their top horses, who participate in ceremonious trials, during which Palio horses are selected and assigned to represent a contrada for the race.  A lottery is held to determine the pairings of horse and rider.  The jockeys are never from Siena; many are Sardinians who, I am told, tend to be rowdy mercenaries, which adds a certain dynamic, of course.  Both horse and rider will don the colors and arms of the Contrade, their costumes evoking those worn when the tradition began in 1660.

On the morning of the race, each horse is blessed by a priest in the church of its contrada, while spectators, both local and from around the globe, begin arriving -- eventually filling the center of the town square (inside the track) to capacity. As for the size of that unseated throng, I’ve heard numbers ranging from 50,000 to 80,000...  The band and sundry others who’ve figured it out are seated in bleachers hugging the buildings that rim the outer track.  The local police seal the entrances once the festivities begin in earnest, at around 4:30, and the only way one can leave is on a stretcher. 


Malaka and Salvatore had arranged for our group to watch the race from the spacious historical apartments of Contessa Delchi.  Antique-filled, velvet-draped, gilded and frescoed, it overlooks the square from a story above.  Deep window ledges are upholstered with red canvas cushions, so delicate elbows and forearms can lean unscathed.   The location and view from the Contessa’s villa compares to an owner’s box on the 50-yard line at the Superbowl.  From this vantage point we are able to witness every nuance of this awe-inspiring event.  Tommy and I were glad to see an acquaintance of ours there, Salvatore’s friend and special guest, Tim Gannon, owner of Outback, and big-time polo player.

Three hours of Medieval pageantry precede the race.  Oh, the pomp and splendor! Showy costumed flag throwers march solemnly, sword-wielding carabinieri enter astride glistening horses;  acrobatic jesters, followed by an ornate 16th century wagon (precursor to the parade float) that carries the Palio’s founding family.  The music changes, and leaders of the 17 districts (some accompanied by bodyguards) saunter in and take their place in a VIP box.   

Salvatore points out two very sharp curves along the shell-shaped track, which are padded with much-needed crash barriers. He assures us that, although riders often fall at these curves, and are carried off to waiting ambulances, all have survived.  The Saints of the Palio watch over these proceedings, he tells us.  As do a great many pigeons, I notice.

He fills us in as well, about money and pride driving all that is related to Il Palio: deals are made with jockeys, and bribery is perfectly legal, ongoing right up to the starting line.  If your contrada has drawn a bad horse, all is not lost; you can still bribe a jockey to make sure your enemy doesn’t win.  It’s the next best thing to winning yourself.  

At 7:30 the steeds and jockeys arrive on the scene, and pandemonium breaks loose. Frenzied fans scream, banners wave, whistles blare and cannons fire as time after time the officials try to align the horses in correct order, to start the race.  They push and shove each other, as more bets and bribes are signaled to the riders from the big-wigs of the Contrades. We hang out the windows in heart-pounding anticipation, thinking the mossiere is about to raise his arm to signal the start, but then he nods imperceptibly, the air fills with thousands of groans, and the horses all file out to begin again. We get used to the repeated disappointment of false starts, so that when the rope finally does fall, we are taken by surprise and must adjust our focus on the magnificent animals hurtling by at breakneck speed. 

The jockeys ride bareback, taking three laps around the treacherous 339-meter track,  which takes only 90 seconds.  The riders are allowed to use their whips not only for their own horse, but also to agitate other horses and riders. The winner is the first horse to cross the finish line with its head ornaments intact – with or without the rider, who need not necessarily finish.  Often he does not. More than surprising, it seems crazy -- bareback riders galloping, crashing into each other while maneuvering tight turns, some less than 90 degrees. A few riders fly off their horses, and the crowd cheers even more enthusiastically, urging the riderless horse on towards the finish line, in hopes their steed crosses first.

The after-party is not unlike Mardi Gras: jubilation through the streets of Siena, visitors and locals roaming, in either celebration or defeat, through the winding corridors of the ancient town.

Our animated chatter is drowned out by the singing of the victorious contrada, as we wend our way to our thankfully, air-conditioned bus for the trip back to Florence, and reality.

Asado Adventure


By Tommy Klauber

Cooking with wood on a fire is like a first date, it is something you look forward to with great anticipation and a little anxiety. You can never know what the conditions will be: the day can be windy; the wood may be seasoned or green. In a way every time you cook over wood outdoors you are starting in a fresh strange kitchen. Once you have done it enough you will always be able to adapt.

Argentina is a country known for many things including Polo, the Tango, and Evita. In the culinary world, phenomenal beef is their main contribution. Asado is essentially a South American cookout. Served to small and large groups, this style of grilling vast quantities of meat over an open flame is based on the traditions of the gauchos, or cattle herders, who once roamed the grasslands of Central Argentina.

But asado is more than a meal. My friend and asado guru Manuel Lossa says, "Asado not only refers to the meat . . . it is also the company." The asado is all about patience and enjoying your life, nature, family and friends Manuel says.

A fire is started and wood is burned down to coals, which are then used to slow-cook the meat, infusing a smoky flavor. The asado is the center of all social gatherings. Comparing the asado to a typical barbeque isn´t fair and any Argentine would cry foul to this claim. Things like propane gas or even charcoal are sacrilegious to the authentic asado, which uses only a wood burning fire. The asado isn´t Spanish for barbecue or grill, it´s more of an event, an art form, and a ritual steeped in generations of family tradition. Grilling was typically a man’s territory and veteran asadores could debate the benefits of their techniques for hours. Fancy recipes are not common, just a sprinkle of salt is needed, as the quality of the meat is the showcase. Beef ribs, steak, lamb, chorizo, and blood sausage are typical and are served with chimichurri sauce, a mixture of olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, and vinegar.

This communal nature is woven throughout the culture. For example, mate, a bitter green tea, is consumed with friends - never alone. In a receptacle resembling a gourd, one member of the group places a metal straw and a handful of mate leaves. That person pours boiling hot water over the leaves and consumes the first brew. The steeping process is repeated, and the mate is passed to the next person. Each person takes turns drinking from the same vessel. Like the word mate, which refers to both the utensil and the beverage, the term asado applies to the event and the meat. The cuts of meat here are larger and have more surface fat. Individual steaks are far less common. The slow cooking process of asado melts the fat cap of less expensive pieces, giving way to tenderness and flavor. The asador (grill masters) technique is key; various components are placed on the parrilla, or grill, according to cooking time and order of consumption. Chorizo, the lightly seasoned pork sausage, and morcilla, a blood sausage, go on the grill first, and consequently are consumed first. Meats follow, and large cuts, often the showpiece, are the finale. The asador will slice and offer up each piece immediately after removing it from the parrilla. In this way, the meal is served in rounds. Accompaniments are straightforward, designed not to overwhelm the meat, nor take away from socializing. Always use hardwood; I am partial to oak because it makes great coals. Maple is also good, as are Birch and Hickory. The smoke of fruit wood adds a whiff of flavoring. Fire is used as a source of coals, which you then take your shovel or rake under and around your cooking grate. Just as you can control the temperature in your oven you can control the amount of heat that you use in wood fire cookery. By moving the coals closer or farther from the food you can adjust the temperature.

Almost any food can be made delicious when cooked over fire. Each food has a particular stage of fire at which it cooks best. Listen to your ingredients—they will be your best guide—and keep your fire going all through the meal, including dessert.

Asado Menu

Empanadas Los Naranjos

Rescolodo Vegetables with Orange Basil Tapenade (Vegetables roasted in the coals)

Fresh Figs with Mozzarella, Thyme and EVOO

Grapefruit Salad with Arugula and Toasted Hazelnuts

Salmon with Charred Fennel and Aioli

Lamb al Asador and Chimichurri

Chorizo on Parrilla

Split Chicken with Lemon Garlic and Parsley

Dulce de Leche Flan with Dakin Dairy Unsweetened Whipped Cream

Chimichurri Sauce:

1 cup lightly packed chopped parsley (ideally, flat leaf "Italian" parsley)

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (optional)

2 tablespoons shallot or onion, minced

3/4 cup vegetable or olive oil

3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all chimichurri sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed.

Orange Basil Tapenade


2 cups green olives, pitted without pimentos

2 tsp orange zest

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 tbsp. chopped fresh marjoram, plus a few unchopped leaves for garnish


Put olives and orange zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 times. Get your olive oil ready. Turn on the motor and pour the oil through the spout. Once the oil is added, turn off your motor. Check the texture. It should be grainy without any large chunks. If you have chunks, scrape down the sides and pulse a couple more times until consistently grainy. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. (If you are serving immediately, proceed to the next step.) At service, stir in orange juice and chopped marjoram. Sprinkle 3-5 whole marjoram leaves on top for edible garnish

What to Expect When You're Expecting... A Foal (A Love Story)

By Jaymie Klauber

You are about to embark on a wondrous process –thrilling, fulfilling ….expensive.  Do make sure you are breeding your mare for the experience, and not with thrift in mind, as in getting a free horse.  Consider, besides the often costly affair of actual breeding, the vet bills, buying feed … more vet bills, for which you get nothing in return except love for three years before riding enters the picture.   Release any notion that this will be more economic than buying a horse.

The experience, however, is priceless.  One you’ll not likely forget.

Choose your best mare: conformation, color, flash, athleticism.  Congeniality factors in.  Selecting a people-friendly mare simplifies the entire affair for both you and veterinarian. (In my case, many wondered why I picked Paula, a mare who lives to resent and avoid humans.) Then you must choose the ‘baby daddy’, whose accessibility is not unlike a Match.com bachelor. Breeders have websites.  And as the parental arranger of this coupling, you have high standards, surely seeking a harmonious outcome. You might want to jot down the criteria that must be met.  Note: female owners may find themselves listing qualities they’d like in a man … must be at least 15 hands tall with shiny hair and a kind eye, enjoys long walks on the beach ….

Don’t be shy about negotiating stud fees.  A breeder might reduce fees, knowing he can make it up in volume.  Stallions (not unlike aforementioned bachelors) have a nearly unlimited supply of semen.  Thus they are high-strung, horny, and often unruly. In fact most barns and equestrian centers of any riding discipline do not keep stallions.

If you want to save wear and tear on your sensibilities, there is the option of artificial insemination, wherein you can find an impressive stallion online or by referral, and arrange that when your mare goes into heat, his sperm will be ‘collected’ (a process better left to the imagination) and Fed-Exed to your vet, who then inseminates the mare. This can be more costly, and robs you of the in-depth uncut version of the adventure.

Fortuitously, in the spring of 2012, there happened to be a well-mannered stallion at the Polo Club, that one of the pros was playing in polo.  I went to check out the stud, whose name was Ice Man.  I found him appealing, and haggled with the pro/owner as to the stud fee, eventually reaching an agreement.  We shook hands on the deal, although most breeding of registered breeds is formalized by paperwork.  In this case, we would be creating a hybrid (well, mutt of sorts), hoping for a highly athletic cross of his American Thoroughbred and my Argentine Thoroughbred.  No money changed hands: interestingly, you need not pay until you have a live foal.

Determine when you’d like your mare to ‘drop’ the foal, and count back eleven months.  Yes, eleven months gestation period, which can seem an eternity. Then off you go to the vet for a negative uterine culture, and a shot to bring your mare into ‘season’.  While some mares are quite obvious about being in heat (tails held high in the air, exposing themselves unashamedly, indiscriminately --even around geldings), with others it is hard to tell.  Thus, the inducing injection provides a clearly defined time frame.   The vet will need to examine your mare a few times, check the uterus to see how far into the heat she is, and if she is ovulating.

At the optimal time, I rode Paula over to the stallion’s barn.  As his name would suggest, Ice Man is not a romantic.  No candlelight, no enticing whispers, no nibbling at her forelock.  Simply straightforward: slam bam thank you ma’am: the Ice Man cometh.  It was powerful though, wondrous, actually --nature working its birds and bees magic, as we’ve seen on the Discovery Channel….

Four mornings we rode over for a quickie, and walked home, back to the barn.  Paula seemed fine with it, but I felt somewhat uneasy, as if it were the walk of shame following a one night stand. 

Within two weeks, my vet, Dr Bill McGinty, could verify Paula’s pregnancy.  He offered a fundamental timeline covering the next eleven months, until the bundle of joy would arrive.  We planned a few visits for vaccinations and occasionally ultrasound or palpating.  It was unnerving to learn that the vet need not be present for the blessed event.  Over time I asked Dr. McGinty dozens of questions; he patiently offered standard answers, always adding the caveat, “that is, if your mare read the book”.

It seems Paula had indeed read the book: everything was on course. As her due date approached (eleven months, five days after conception), I had to tackle the fear surrounding the actual birth (!), and figure out how to handle it.   I now had just one month to research this phenomenon, its uniqueness compelling me toward obsession.  Every book and all online information includes a list for a “birthing kit”, so I gathered all the items, hoping I would not have to use them, because many are required only in an emergency/unusual situation. But in due diligence I prepared.

Two weeks before due date, I purchased a baby monitor and began confining Paula in her double-wide stall (she was rather double-wide herself at this point) at night which is when 95% of mares have their foals).   Exercising restraint by not scoffing at my 24-hour surveillance plan, the laid-back Dr. McGinty said I could just leave her in the paddock and one morning I would find her baby beside her.  But I wanted to witness the miracle and be involved in case help was needed. 

On the first Saturday in March, the coldest night of the year, transfixed on the baby monitor, I saw Paula pawing and sniffing the ground, and pacing her stall.  My advice: rather than awaken your disinterested spouse, immediately phone a horsey friend.  Claudia came right over.  We wrapped Paula’s tail with vet wrap and washed her ‘private area’.  Soon, she lay down and quickly, with a certain grace, sent forth her foal.  Thankfully, it was ‘by the book’.

Coincidentally, the owner of stallion Ice Man was staying in my barn apartment for the weekend, so came to help, lending his vast experience.  Paula actually had done all the work, but he helped to clear the placenta, then guided me to sit down right beside the baby boy, who appeared black, wet, and all legs.  Paula licked her baby while I ‘imprinted’ on him, rubbing and touching him all over his body, in his mouth, nose and ears so he would know me forever and be unafraid of humans in the future.  Imprinting is essential to establish your relationship with the foal, but it is important that you allow the mare and foal to bond. 

So within three hours of Paula sniffing and pawing the floor, there was her beautiful baby boy, Ice Ice Baby, son of Ice Man, on his feet and nursing.  And we humans actually managed to get a few hours sleep that night. 

A word to the wise – from the newly wise: BE CAREFUL in the stall with Momma and Baby, and avoid having too many people nearby ogling and cooing at Baby while in the stall.  If Momma starts to spin around and encircle the foal, get the hell out of the way.  Fast.  Faster than I did, when Momma, protecting her baby, dealt me a double barrel kick.  After that first day, though, Paula was happy to let me assume some of the responsibility and keep Baby entertained while she enjoyed her time to eat and rest.

Ice Ice Baby has been friendly, playful and kind from the get-go. I feel gratified and exuberant when he whinnies upon seeing me, and runs to greet me in the paddock. Oh, what a feeling!

Over the next five months Baby grew, loved, romped, and of course, ate and contributed his share of fertilizer to agriculture.  As is demonstrated by most horses, he could often manage a mishap and sustain injury requiring treatment. (Note: Your fretting over it does not promote healing). On the brighter side, a colt then becomes accustomed to handling which includes first encounters with the farrier, and other close-up care such as deworming, wrapping, brushing, and a clipper trim. Ice Baby was a rock star through everything; his personality the polar opposite of his unsociable mother. I believe I’ve seen Paula actually roll her eyes disdainfully when observing her offspring consort with humans, being a sappy love kitten at that.  Thankfully he inherited his daddy’s cordial temperament.

 As Baby grew we could tell he would lose his baby coat, that lighter color fluff, and become a beautiful bay colt – and as summer approached his gorgeous black legs, mane and tale accented his silky copper-brown coat.  Handsome and shiny, that boy, a true beauty, as really all horses are.

 As for weaning… 

They say that nursing can be hard on the mare and make her tired and cause her to lose weight. This is not always the case.  Paula and Baby both grew larger. But finally I determined it was time to wean baby from momma. Now, here is where you’ve got to appreciate technology and social media: I posted an ad on local Craigslist asking if someone else had a mare and foal they wanted to separate (wean). Sure enough, a pleasant young woman, a Sarasota Sherriff with a ranchette off East Fruitville, contacted me and we set up the ‘exchange’.  I had anxiety about separating momma and baby, having heard and read horror stories about both of them crying for days on end. I waited for a weekend that hubby would be out of town, as I knew that kind of horse related stress/drama would drive him nuts too. Then we set the plan in motion. On the weekend of Ice Baby’s five-month birthday, I went to my new friend’s ranch and picked up her beautiful mare and cute appaloosa filly (four month old baby girl) and brought them to my ranch. Holding the mares outside a paddock, we introduced the youngsters inside the fence line, letting them run and play for a while.

We then moved the babies into the double stall together and quickly loaded the mommas into the trailer, which proved a challenge through their prancing, dancing, and dramatic whinnying.  A neighbor brought them over to her ranch and turned them out together while I stayed at home attempting to calm the babies who, astonishingly, were trying to climb the walls and leap out of the stall, crying and crying for their mothers. My friend had it a bit easier, having only to deal with one night of the mommas crying out, which soon settled into peaceful acceptance, perhaps glee at their freedom, now able to eat, and rest as their milk dried up. I endured three days of crybaby antics, which finally subsided, as the babies too seemed to get over it.  They became more independent with each passing day. We maintained this arrangement for a month before trading back, the Sheriff welcoming the return of her cute appaloosa baby, and me receiving Paula, who, despite our personality differences, I missed very much.

Now at five years old, true to his affable nature, Ice Ice Baby is one of those horses that anyone can ride, including kids - a perfect angel, so easy going.  And he is already one of my best polo ponies, and a favorite amongst my epic trail riding guests. How lucky I am. 

Ice Ice Baby & I love to cuddle. A special intimacy I am happy to share….  I often enter his stall and sit beside him while he is lying down. He places his head and neck across my lap and falls back to sleep. We are both rapturous in the total trust and friendship horses rarely show to humans.