Miss Piggy's now a mother-to-be

Horse racing: Mary Bo Quoit, never much of a threat on the track, is expecting her first foal.

July 11, 2002|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Miss Piggy is grazing for two. The horse, who raced as Mary Bo Quoit but is better known by her nickname, is three months pregnant. She's awaiting the pitter-patter of little hooves, which, her owners hope, will one day run faster than most.

Her racing days done, Miss Piggy wiles away the summer heat in a barn cooled by electric fans; nights, she frisks under the stars in a verdant pasture with several other mothers-to-be. It's a mare-ternity ward for thoroughbreds - quite a change for the 6-year-old, whose life has been chronicled in The Sun.

"She's `working' these days. She's making a baby. That's her new job," says co-owner Cindy Hipple, of Ivyland, Pa.

A horse's gestation period is about 11 months. If this were a race, Miss Piggy has passed the quarter pole, a critical point for her unborn foal. More than one-third of all equine fetuses are lost, most early in pregnancy, says Dr. Tom Bowman, veterinarian and president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

"The [foal] is pretty much developed by now. It should have all of its working parts," says Bowman, of Chestertown. "But there certainly still are dangers from a number of infectious diseases that can result in abortion."

Colic, or abdominal pain, is another concern, especially for Miss Piggy, who fought off the ailment two years ago. Though seldom fatal, the condition strikes one of every four horses and can require surgery to repair an intestinal blockage. Anesthetizing a pregnant mare always puts the fetus at risk.

But those concerns seem far off now as Miss Piggy lolls with other broodmares in a 15-acre field at Black Willow Farm near Philadelphia.

"She's doing great and getting chunky," says Hipple, who, with her sister, Vicki Herlinger, bought the steel-gray Maryland racehorse last year and retired her. Mary Bo Quoit's pedigree overshadowed her performance (three victories in cheap claiming races).

Bred in April to Meadow Monster, an 11-year-old bay with a sound resume (11 victories and earnings of $500,000), Miss Piggy appears to have adjusted to life off the backstretch. She plays with her water bucket, romps in the pasture and enjoys an occasional massage on the rump.

"She's always after you to scratch her buns," Hipple says.

It's a cushy life, compared with her time at the track. There, between workouts, Mary Bo Quoit languished in a stall lit by one bare bulb. Now, she cavorts in a partially wooded field among willow trees and white-tailed deer.

Keeping her job will depend, eventually, on whether she can crank out winners. After delivering this foal in March, she'll likely be bred a year later. Most owners breed their mares year after year, hoping for a return of 15 foals during the horse's prime reproductive years (ages 6 to 20). Hipple likes to give her mares a break every other spring, explaining: "A woman wouldn't want to be pregnant every year. I try to treat my horses the same way."

Her caretakers indulge Mary Bo Quoit's idiosyncrasies during her pregnancy. Never one to embrace change, the mare has become more set in her ways as motherhood approaches.

Once, Hipple moved a wheelbarrow several feet to one side in the barnyard. The horse refused to leave the barn until the wheelbarrow had been returned to its old spot.

Another time, Hipple left sawdust chips in a small mound after mucking Miss Piggy's quarters. "Most horses will go in and paw at the pile or roll in them," she says. "This one said, `Uh-oh, I'm not going in there.'

"I had to go into that stall and rake the chips out. She has her own routine; she really likes to be babied."

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