Miss Piggy's new career arrives with first delivery

7-year-old mare makes her transition from track to barn with birth of colt

April 02, 2003|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

"Miss Piggy" delivered in the barn better than she did at the track.

The 7-year-old thoroughbred, who raced as Mary Bo Quoit but is best known by her nickname, gave birth to a fawn-colored colt March 21 on her owner's farm in Ivyland, Pa.

"Mary didn't have a little lamb. She had a little dear," Cindy Hipple said of the broodmare's first foal. Hipple and her sister, Vicki Herlinger, purchased the Maryland-born horse two years ago and retired her from competition.

The Sun has chronicled Miss Piggy's career, which was less than stellar: victories in three cheap claiming races in 23 starts and earnings of $27,825. Stubborn and high-strung, she had to be coached, coaxed and cajoled through every step of training.

By contrast, she seems to have adapted swiftly to motherhood, delivering the colt in the middle of the night, by herself, with none of the uncertainties that go with being a first-time mom.

"I got up at 1:30 and found her laying in her stall, grunting, like she was starting to foal," said Hipple. "I thought, `Boy, I timed this right!'

"Then I heard a little noise, looked around and saw [the colt] off to the side. Apparently she'd had him, gotten up and walked around, before laying back down to expel the afterbirth."

Since his arrival, the colt has not left Miss Piggy's sight. They amble from stall to barnyard, a mare and her trusty sidecar.

"She is more concerned about the baby than herself," said Dale Schilling, a Pennsylvania veterinarian who examined the pair. "She's a very good mom - and a good [milk] producer."

Watching the colt nurse is comical, said Hipple: "As he sucks on one nipple, the other [teat] is also squirting milk - all over his head."

She nicknamed him "Little Tough Guy." The moniker fits. Three weeks ago, Miss Piggy developed pneumonia and a high fever, endangering the life of the unborn foal. A horse's normal temperature is 99 to 100 degrees. For five days, Miss Piggy's hovered around 105. Would she "cook" the baby?

"We worried about aborting," said Sean Saltsburg, the Ambler, Pa., vet who treated the stricken mare. Toward the end of Miss Piggy's pregnancy, he said, "Her lungs sounded horrible. You worry about the virus going from mom to placenta to baby, but it didn't.

"It's a happy ending, for sure."

Though puny at birth - the result of his mother's illness - the colt has good conformation and promising bloodlines. His sire, a broad-shouldered brute named Meadow Monster, earned nearly $500,000 with 11 victories (six in stakes) in 24 starts. He stands at stud at Green Willow Farms in Westminster.

Those aren't the foal's only green genes. Miss Piggy's sire, Waquoit, won $2 million at the track.

But the colt's potential career as a racehorse is at least two years away. The task at hand is getting the hang of the pasture. Helping him do that is his mother's job.

"She'll teach him the social skills, from what's good to eat to how to behave with other horses and people," said Schilling, the vet. "If [Miss Piggy] says it's OK to be touched, then it's OK.

"She'll tell him, `Stay away from this fence and from those weeds. This is what you drink. Now is when you nap.' "

His dam will help sculpt the young colt's personality and attitude, said Sharon Crowell-Davis, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Georgia: "Horses aren't a carnivore species, so they don't teach much complex behavior to their young, like how to hunt. Still, foals learn habits by following their mothers."

By summer, when the colt begins to really stretch his legs, Miss Piggy will still provide a nurturing, nickering touchstone. "She provides the safe haven from which he explores this strange and scary world," Crowell-Davis said.

Even at six months, you'll likely find the pair within a few feet of each other in the barnyard, equine experts say. "When he's upset, the first thing a foal does is suckle. It's like taking a tranquilizer," said Katherine Houpt, a veterinary behaviorist at the Cornell College of Veterniary Medicine.

But, like all children, "Little Tough Guy" must grow up. Come autumn, he'll be weaned (separated) from his mom, given a formal racing name - his owners like "Quoit A Monster" - and set on the path to the track.

By then, his mother - who has a date next month with another stud - should be pregnant again. That's her job now.

This is the 28th and final article in The Sun's series on the life of Carroll County-born-and-bred racehorse Mary Bo Quoit.

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