Lifestyle

Urban girl - First horse born on Island since 2000

By Mary L. Grady

For two weeks in early April, 10-year-old Chloe Westgate had been waiting for Lonesome, a quarter horse stabled at the Stevenson farm, to have her baby. Some nights, the fourth-grader slept in her clothes with a flashlight nearby to be ready when the call came. Her mother, Melinda Westgate, said that Chloe was so focused on the mare and the impending birth, she couldn't coax her away from the Island for a trip during spring break.

The call came just after midnight on April 10th. ``Lonie'' as they call her, had given birth to a filly.

``We jumped into our clothes and raced up here,'' said Chloe, a West Mercer Elementary School student. The mother and daughter arrived at the farm just minutes after ``Annie,'' named for famed cowgirl, Annie Oakley, emerged.

It all happened very quickly.

Tovi Thomas, who owns Lonesome and a half-dozen horses boarded on the farm, was alone to deliver the 100- to 120-pound foal.

``There was not time to call anyone,'' said Thomas, an experienced horsewoman who had helped mares give birth in the past. ``I was nervous, but it was a normal birth, and when I saw the head and hooves in the right position, I knew it was going to be all right.''

After the mare delivered the foal, it immediately got up and moved around because of the pain, Thomas said. ``I held on to the baby and waited to make sure she would settle down to take care of her.''

She did. Mother and baby are doing well.

This is the first birth of a foal since 2000 on the five-acre farm just west of Island Crest Way near 60th Street. That year a palomino named Cameo came into the world on the land owned by the Stevenson family for decades.

Thomas, who grew up on the Island, will soon move her six horses to Woodinville where she has bought land. That will leave just a half-dozen horses at the pasture with its mix of tumbledown barns and sagging fences.

The Stevenson land and the Saddle Club are the only places where horses can be found on the Island.

The increasing urbanization of the Island and high land values mean that open space for pastures are a thing of the past.

But horses used to be an important part of Island life.

Long before mechanized transport appeared here, the animals were needed for plowing fields, pulling stumps, delivering mail and carrying children to the schoolhouse or ferry dock. So prevalent were horses that a blacksmith named Charlie Fruehof still had a shop in an east Seattle neighborhood in 1914.

In the early 1960s, a forerunner to Summer Celebration, called MercerFair, included a horse show. Horses and riders from the Saddle Club were featured in parades.

And Thomas can remember a time not too long ago when several riders with their mounts would saunter down to Lake Washington so the horses could swim on a hot summer afternoon. But no more.

Unaware of her role in Island history, caramel-colored Annie bounds about the fenced pasture, complete with tame chickens and a pair of dogs. She has a fluffy woolly duster for a tail and a distinctive white stripe with a single freckle splashed down her nose. She also is frisky and perhaps a little too independent for her anxious mother who follows her every move.

Chloe, who was in the saddle at age four, has been at the farm every moment possible since Annie arrived. When Thomas moves her horses to Woodinville, Chloe will travel there to ride, her mother said.

``It is not the same to ride on the Island now,'' commented Thomas, who grew up in a house across the road from the Stevenson spread.

She is uncertain how much longer the Stevenson farm will remain undeveloped.

``It is much too valuable,'' Thomas said.

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