Special foal on the way this season? Why not mark the occasion with a party? You can throw a "foal shower" for your own favorite broodmare, or one owned by a friend. Either way, it's a perfect excuse to get together with your barn buddies.
So says Andrea Archer, who threw a foal shower last year for her favorite show mare, Impulsive Ethel. "Everyone knows I'm just crazy for this horse," says the top Quarter Horse youth trainer of her reserve world champion pleasure horse. "I have Ethel-engraved spurs and Ethel-embroidered underwear. Plus," she adds, "it was a great reason for us girls to get together and have fun."
And did they ever! We'll give you the details of Ethel's event, an elaborate affair that barred no expense. We'll also provide less costly alternative ideas, for those who'd prefer to work within a budget. Plus, we'll give you bunches of additional suggestions for party activities (see "Games Galore" below) and preserving the memories of the special day (see "Scrapbooking It!" below).
All told, you'll have everything you need to stage a terrific foal shower of your own.
Ethel's plan: Custom-printed cards invited friends and clients to "Ethel's Baby Shower," which took place on March 2, 2002, in the indoor arena at Steve Archer Quarter Horses in Richmond, Texas.
The "shower" was hosted by mare owner Andrea Archer and Katie Forrest, the client who previously owned Ethel and showed her under Andrea's guidance from 1999 through 2001. ( The pair's honors include the 1999 American Quarter Horse Youth Association Western pleasure reserve title.) Additional help came from Andrea's mother and grandmother.
About 40 people attended; upon arrival, they greeted the four-legged guest of honor (who was loose in the arena but preoccupied with alfalfa) and were given a campaign-button-style pin bearing the mare's likeness.
Save money by: Using store-bought invitations and customizing them with horse-themed stickers, or copying your own invitation message onto party-themed
8 1/2-by-11-inch bond paper (available in stationery stores); making your own picture-name tags using snapshot reprints of the mare and clear-plastic name-tag holders (available in office supply stores).
Ethel's food, decorations: Party tables set in the arena were draped with pastel cloths and set with "Ethel" monogrammed paper napkins. The tables bore centerpieces of flowers in buckets. Each bucket was decorated with handwritten script depicting a potential foal name beginning with the letter "E"--Elmo, Edgar, Elvis, Eloise, Elvira, and so on.
Because the temperature that day was literally freezing, Mexican stoves (chimenia) were scattered around the tables to warm guests as they enjoyed catered box lunches of chicken salad, fruit salad, and spinach salad. For beverages, guests had a choice of hot coffee or the offerings of a frozen-margarita machine, which helped to keep the party humming.
Dessert was a custom-ordered ice cream cake decorated with a picture of Ethel; each guest also received trail mix in a tiny, string-tied burlap bag.
Save money by: Preparing sandwiches and other party snacks yourself; making your own cake and decorating it with toy horses and/or the mare's name in colored icing; holding the party inside a barn, where less heating may be necessary. (You can set the tables directly outside the mare's stall).
Fun & Games
Here are the games guests played at Ethel's shower.
All About Ethel: Each guest received a sheet of fill-in-the-blank questions concerning Ethel and her likes, dislikes and escapades of the past. The person with the most correct answers was the winner.
Guess Ethel's Girth: A baby-shower classic! One at a time, guests pulled from a skein of twine a length they thought would encircle Ethel's pendulous belly. The person whose length was closest to correct was the winner.
Pin The Tail On Ethel: A clever adaptation of a birthday-party classic. Andrea commissioned a rear-view portrait of Ethel at the 2001 Youth World Show; she later enlarged the photo to poster size and mounted it on foam board. She and her mother made "tails" out of yarn that matched Ethel's real tail. As in the child's game, guests were blindfolded and required to pin the tail in the appropriate place--on the photo, not the horse! The person who came closest to correct positioning was the winner.
Ethel's Prospective Husbands: A scrambled-word game. Guests received a sheet of paper featuring the jumbled names of a dozen top pleasure and reining stallions (such as Blazing Hot, Hollywood Dun It, Topsail Whiz, and Zippo Jack Bar). Players had to unscramble as many of the names as they could in the time given; the winner was the person with the most correct names.
It's In The Bag: A baby-shower classic. in this version, a large laundry bag was filled with horse-themed items--curry comb, hoof pick, Vet wrap, bell boot, splint boot, and the like. Guests had 30 seconds to feel the items through the cloth sack, then another minute to write down as many items as they could remember. The person who correctly identified the most items in the shortest amount of time was the winner.
Ethel's Money Pot: A variation on the classic office pool. Each participating guest put $5 into the pool, then made her best guess as to the ultimate foaling date and time as well as the foal's gender, color, and markings. Andrea kept all the answers, and, after the foal was born, sent the full pot (some $175!) to the person with the closest-to-correct predictions.
Gifts & Prizes
Ethel's prizes: Awards to game winners consisted of various items, each monogrammed with "Champion: Ethel's Baby Shower." They included a horse sheet, a halter and lead, a sweatshirt, a throw blanket, a baseball cap, and a beach towel, among others. At the end of the shower, the centerpieces on the tables were given to the guest at each table with a sticker on the underside of her chair. A prize also went to the guest who traveled the farthest to attend; in this case, the winner was the Archers' first-ever client, who traveled from Michigan to partake in the festivities.
Save money by: Substituting inexpensive, always-appreciated items (such as brushes, rubber curries, horse treats, horse-motif socks, etc.) for more costly, customized prizes.
Ethel's gifts: A handmade quilt, a monogrammed foal blanket, a book of horse stories, a manure fork, a cookie bouquet, a mare/foal picture frame, and a leather halter. Some of the most imaginative gifts included a "diaper bag" full of foaling items; a dozen carrots with tops in tissue paper and a box, as though they were roses; and spurs with carrots as rowels.
Save guests' expenses by: Having a "wishing well" approach instead of traditional gifting at your shower. Decorate a large plastic water bucket (the "well") in your party colors, and ask guests to bring only small, foal-friendly items to drop into the well (small brushes, gentle curries, soft lead ropes, healthy treats, and so on).
About six weeks after the shower, Ethel gave birth to a dark brown colt with a star. Andrea sent a printed card to each shower attendee, announcing the arrival of "Edgar" (registered name: Some Kinda Chocolate). Sired by Chips Hot Chocolate, the All American Quarter Horse Congress Western pleasure champion and AQHA reserve champion, the youngster will be shown in pleasure and all-around events by the Archers. Now a yearling, Edgar's is developing right on schedule, his progress documented in a scrapbook created by Andrea's mother to commemorate the shower--and the resulting foal.
The Internet offers endless suggestions for shower games; just type "baby shower games" into the subject line of your favorite search engine, then select the offerings with the best potential for horsey adaptation. Here're some examples to get you started:
Name the Baby: This is a variation on Ethel's Prospective Husbands game. Players are given a sheet of paper with a dozen or so potential foal names, all with scrambled letters. They must unscramble the names, then identify the one the mare's owner has chosen for the foal. The player with the largest number of correctly unscrambled names--as well as the correct selection of actual name--is the winner. Or, players could be given the registered names of the pending foal's sire and dam, and asked to create as many potential foal names as they can. The winner would be the person with the most names.
Draw The Baby: Each player is given a blank sheet of paper; a book or other firm surface to draw on; and a pen, pencil, or marker. She must place the paper (with the drawing surface under it) on top of her head, and then draw a picture of the foal. The mare's owner determines the winner by selecting the "best" drawing. As an alternative, give each player a handful of modeling clay (such as children's Play Doh), and ask her to "sculpt" the foal.
Baby's Life Story: Players are divided into groups of equal numbers. Each group is assigned a segment of the future foal's life--foaling, imprinting, halter-breaking, weaning, saddle-breaking, showing, and so on. During a set time limit--say, 10-15 minutes--the members of each group work together to compose a paragraph concerning their assigned life period. The mare's owner then reads each paragraph, in chronological order, and determines the winners. (Or, after being read, all the paragraphs can be put into a box, and the mare owner can draw out one paragraph at random, which designates the winning group.)
Foaling Kit Mystery: Various items related to foaling and a foal's first few days are put into a large sack; items might include a bottle of iodine, towels, an enema bottle, a large baggie of bran (for the mare), and so on. The mare owner is asked to leave the room (or arena) while the players are shown the items in the bag, and asked to predict how many items the guest of honor will be able to identify through the bag. The mare owner then returns to "palpate" the items through the bag, naming as many as she can. The winner is the guest with the closest prediction of number of correctly identified items.
Putting together a scrapbook is a wonderful way to create a lasting memory of your foal shower and the foal, as well. Andrea Archer's mother created such a scrapbook for her daughter, and included the following features, which you may want to incorporate into your own foal scrapbook:
- A title page; Andrea's scrapbook was titled "Baby's Days & Neighs."
Regarding the shower...
- An example of the foal shower invitation.
- A sign-in sheet of guests at the shower.
- Photos of the shower guests eating and playing games.
- A souvenir napkin and mare-of-honor button-pin.
- Play sheets or other mementos from the various games, with pictures of the winners and their prizes.
- A listing of shower gifts received, with photos of each gift and giver.
- The gift cards that accompanied each gift, preserved between plastic.
- A written summary of the events and activities of the shower.
- An example of the thank-you cards and birth announcements sent out.
Regarding the foal...
- Photos relating to the foal's conception--arrival of "the man in the can" (frozen semen container), a shot of the mare before insemination ("you're going to put that where?!"), a picture of the first ultrasound image of the foal.
- A photo of the foal's sire, and his pedigree chart.
- A photo of the foal's dam, and her pedigree chart.
- A family tree, showing distinguished members on both sides of the foal's pedigree.
- A copy of the foal's registration papers (when available).
- The foal's first photo, post-foaling.
- A written description of the foal's development in his/her first year.
- A listing of "My favorite things" (such as Mom's milk, running and bucking, playing with the dog).
- A listing of "My scrapes and bruises."
- An immunization history.
- Lots of plastic picture-holding pages for future use.
This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.