In the Wake of Three Broodmares

Stormy Reply

Stormy Reply

Stormy Reply

We knew she would die. Halfway through her pregnancy, a long-ago leg injury festered, and the pain made it difficult for her to stand. We never imagined she’d carry full term, but she proved us wrong.

Weak and in labor, her vet thought he’d have to take the foal by cesarean and put Stormy down. Instead, he shook his head afterward. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “She didn’t want my help and did all the work herself.”

She had pushed out a filly and fought to nurse her for three days. None of Stormy’s previous foals ever resembled her. This one was her spitting image—her swan song.

Stormy Sea    

Stormy Sea

Stormy Sea

A half-sister to Stormy Reply, she appeared healthy and was soon to foal when I noticed her stumble. Her legs looked fine, no heat, no injury. So I was shocked by her diagnosis: Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), an insidious but treatable disease spread by opossums.

She birthed a bold and playful colt.

We put him with a nurse mare to treat his mother’s EPM. And the treatment seemed to be working. My husband and I were a pasture away and looking right at her when she fell. She got up, fell again, and again. Danny hurtled a fence, kneeled beside her, and coaxed her to stay down.

I knew she was gone when I felt an enormous whoosh! of energy leave her body, the pasture, the farm.

Tap It Twice    

Tap It Twice

Tap It Twice

Once owned by Joe Pesci, our gray beauty raced with so much gumption and heart, I worried about her adjusting to retirement and motherhood. But she acquiesced into her growing body with grace and mellowed throughout her pregnancy.

She foaled with only a slight tear that could be repaired. We had no reason to worry. She nursed her filly (the prettiest I’ve ever seen) for about a month before undergoing a routine surgery to mend her cervix.

She threw a blood clot and died.

Uncomfortable with sharing sadness, I fell mute with my grief. I read Richard Gilbert’s Shepherd: A Memoir, an honest account of farming and its hardships. I admired Gilbert’s ability to write about loss. He covered joyous and comedic moments, too. But he didn’t shy away from hard truths the way I do.

And then I read a lovely tribute to Fenton the Canine by Fenton (the human) Johnson on Cynthia Martin’s blog Catching Days. That’s when I decided to write about the passing of our beloved broodmares. Not to bellyache, but to honor three remarkable equines.

In their wake are hard lessons, fond memories, two fillies, and a colt.

Stormy Reply's filly out for a run

Stormy Reply’s filly out for a run







Tap It Twice with her Filly

Tap It Twice with her filly









friendly colt

Stormy Sea’s colt aka Mr. Personality







About Darrelyn Saloom

Darrelyn Saloom co-wrote My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl who Yearns to Box (Glasnevin, 2012) with world champion boxer, Deirdre Gogarty, but her pugilistic passions are confined to a keyboard. Darrelyn lives with her husband and various critters on a horse farm in south Louisiana, where she is working on a collection of personal essays and stories. To learn more, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter: @DarrelynSaloom
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25 Responses to In the Wake of Three Broodmares

  1. Lovely, Darrelyn. You were so lucky to have those horses; lucky also that they were mares so you can keep something of them. We don’t get that option with our beloved geldings. And most of all, they were lucky to have you.

  2. Thanks, Roz. It’s so tough with geldings. The foals are a huge help. I wish you could see them right now. They’re lined up on the fence with their nurse mares and waiting for their morning feeding.

  3. Richard Gilbert says:

    This is a fine tribute, Darrelyn. It conveys how humbling are such situations. Birthing is a peak, mythic, and epic event—even without something going wrong or a mother suffering through it despite a handicap. Of course animals have no self pity, but their human friends are flooded with emotion. It is so big, though, that as a writer you must underplay it, as you do here, and it resonates all the more strongly.

  4. bullion9 says:

    Hi Darrelyn. This is so sweet, and gives a taste of life on the farm. We are at the clinic in Dallas for Jack’s appts., which is a good time to catch up on reading. I hope you’re well. Looking forward to more stories! Love, Cindy

    Sent from my iPad


  5. Barbara Weibel says:

    Hi Darrelyn: I’m so glad you finally found a way to write about your three fillies. Not only does it honor them, I’m sure it helped you to deal with your grief. They were all beautiful and champions in their own right. Barbara

  6. cynthia says:

    Darrelyn, lovely to read these words and see all six in one time and place–past, present, and future, the continuous feel of it. My new image of where you are.

  7. niyacsisk says:

    This narrative grabbed my heart and will likely have a hold for a long while. Thank you for this genuine account of grief. Horses really get to me. Sending you tons of good energy. Love, Niya

  8. Ro Rainwater says:

    My deepest condolences. And my heartiest congratulations! Somehow, writing eases things, doesn’t it? It’s a saving grace, just as the mares were, and their babies are, and to have that grace is unspeakably consoling to a kind heart. I have missed you, D.

  9. Thank you, Ro. I needed to write this to move forward. I see that now. I’ve missed you, too.

  10. Jill Fickey George says:

    As always Darrelyn, you’ve grabbed my heart. How bittersweet this story was. What a nice tribute to all the horses and their babes. I feel your pain and your joy and as usual you’ve brought the farm to life for me. You have taken me by the hand once again and I cried with you then rejoiced with you. Even though it is through marriage, I love that I can call you family and I love the way you write darling.

    • Thank you, Jill. I’m thrilled we are family. Just wish you didn’t live so far away. It’s one of the many reasons I enjoy social media. Connecting with loved ones and watching Jane Fickey grow up. And I love that you dropped by for a visit on the blog. xo

  11. Jodi Paloni says:

    Thanks for telling us this story. Makes me want to jump on a plane and work on that farm for a few days. xo

    • That is so funny because I was imaging you here this morning (though I wish I were in Vermont with you and Suzanne). It’s flooding here today. We may hit 15 inches by nightfall. Get on that plane. We could use the help. 🙂

  12. fernfruge says:

    So sad but a lovely tribute.

  13. Writing to the Sunrise says:

    I wasn’t feeling strong enough to read this when you first published it. I saw it on Facebook, quickly scrolled by and said “tomorrow.” I should have known you would handle love and grief and hope with incredible finesse. Beautiful, Darrelyn. The energy “whoosh!” you felt from Stormy Sea was powerful to read. I can only imagine what it must have been like for you.

    p.s. I’m blogging again, mainly to chronicle a particular experience, and using a pseudonym, Sally Harper, at least for now. Sally and her husband, Tom, are two favorite characters in my someday hopefully in this life to be finished novel!

  14. Thank you, Elizabeth. I just read the post about your husband’s diagnosis and your gawd-awful rash. Wish you were closer so I could help. Sit beside you, hold your hand. Something. For now, I’ll send good thoughts and lots of love your way. And I hope you’ll let me know if there is anything I can do. Now go finish that novel. I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

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