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Foaling around: Horse breeder welcomes new crop of horses
The arrival of a new foal is one of nature’s signs that spring is here.
As a horse breeder, Louise Reuble has grown accustomed to this ritual and understands a new baby often attracts more visitors.
What Reuble also has learned over four decades of seeing new foals arrive is the collateral damage.
Evidence this week was the bare snag of a once-promising young Japanese maple tree in the front yard.
Walter loves to nibble on that tree.
Further evidence was on her television screen.
Ruby loves to rub her back on the satellite dish in the yard, which plays havoc with the signal.
Walter and Ruby are foals born on Reuble’s five-acre Coupeville property this spring.
But they’re not just any horses.
They’re the latest of several generations of draft horses bred by Reuble over the years.
And like most young human children, their playful, sometimes curious nature can lead them into trouble, and leave Reuble shaking her head.
On one recent evening, Reuble had to shoo Ruby away from the satellite dish only to notice Walter munching on the tree.
“Get off my Japanese maple!” she yelled. “It’s not going to survive!”
It takes a lot more than a few maple leaves to satisfy her horses.
Reuble and her daughter Leandra Reuble take care of 11 draft horses on the farm. The adults weigh in excess of 2,000 pounds. The foals can weigh nearly 200 pounds at birth.
They’re all Shires, a breed of draft horse from England known for their height, overall size and enormous capacity for pulling weight.
The Reubles have been breeding this type of draft horse since 1971.
Louise Reuble was introduced to horses through her late husband, Lawrence Reuble, soon after they married in 1970.
Lawrence Reuble, a dairy farmer whose father was a blacksmith at Fort Casey when the fort was in operation, spent his entire life on the Reuble Farm off Fort Casey Road.
“Lawrence had wanted a six-horse hitch of draft horses,” Louise Reuble said.
The Reubles spent an extended honeymoon searching for draft horses of the best Shire stock, traveling through Alberta, Canada, Montana and Idaho.
They wound up purchasing a stallion and two mares from a breeder in Blackfoot, Idaho, which arrived in Coupeville in the spring of 1971.
A year later, they learned of an opportunity to buy a Shire imported from England that was stranded in New York after a buyer backed out.
A month later, it arrived in Coupeville.
“Here was this poor little old filly stumbling off a truck that had been in transit a month,” Louise Reuble said. “She looked terrible. She hadn’t been eating. Lawrence looked at me. I looked at him. We thought, ‘What did we do?’”
That filly came from a stock of Shire that was taller than those bred in the United States. Her appetite for hay was tremendous.
“She kept growing and growing and growing,” Reuble said of the horse they named Annie. “They grow until they’re 7.
“When she finished she was 17.2 hands (or nearly 6 feet tall).”
The Reubles started raising children, too — first, Lawrence who went by the nickname “Pard,” and Leandra. The Reubles began showing the horses at various fairs, parades and shows, including the rare competition in California.
They were sponsored by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and participated in Seattle’s Torchlight Parade, Daffodil Festival parade in Pierce County and Marysville Strawberry Festival parade.
After Lawrence Reuble died of cancer in 1989, the showings decreased and finally stopped in 1995.
An educator like her mother, Leandra Reuble said showings might resume once she completes her doctorate’s degree in education.
“Most of the major events in my life have been marked by which foal was born that year or some event we did with the horses,” Leandra Reuble said. “They have always been there, and even though they are a major expense, it is difficult to conceive of a life without them.
“My hope is to continue raising registered Shires descended from the bloodlines my parents created, selling them to new enthusiasts all over the country, and get back into showing. For me, the horses are a responsibility, a privilege and a legacy.”
In the meantime, the Reubles will continue to get an education in horse behavior.
Over the weekend, Walter wiggled his way out off the property and his mother, Marionette, stuck inside a shelter, went “bonkers,” Louise Reuble said.
Marionette’s bloodlines trace back to Annie, the filly that took the month-long trip to Coupeville from England.
Sensing her foal was in trouble, she reared up high enough to rip off half of the gutter attached to the structure.
“Marionette threw a fit,” Reuble said. “Walter was on the loose and she couldn’t get to him.”
But it resulted in a happy ending.
Except for the Japanese maple.