Foaling around with Bert and Ernie

Bert and Ernie, half-brother Quarter Horses, both lost their mothers as infants two months ago and are being raised by their human “parents,” Julia and Wayne Hall.

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June 14, 2021 - 10:29 AM

Colts Bert, left, and Ernie are now two months old and enjoy exploring the farm of Wayne and Julia Hall near Uniontown. Ernie was orphaned when he was seven days old. Three days later, Bert’s mother died during labor. (REGISTER/VICKIE MOSS)

UNIONTOWN — You’ve probably heard of the dynamic duo of Bert and Ernie.

You may know of the Sesame Street puppets.

Or maybe you remember the cop and cab driver from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Uniontown now has its own version.

Bert and Ernie, half-brother Quarter Horses, both lost their mothers as infants two months ago and are being raised by their human “parents,” Julia and Wayne Hall. 

Ernie, left, and Bert at 1-months-old. COURTESY OF JULIA HALL

They’re like inseparable, trouble-making twin toddlers with an infant’s feeding schedule — at first, every two hours but now every four — and they’ve basically taken over life at the Halls’ rural ranch.

“We don’t go anywhere now,” Julia said. “Our life has changed.”

The foals wander around the yard while the Halls supervise. 

They play in the dog’s swimming pool.

They eat the heads off Julia’s roses and other flowers.

Bert even snuck into the tack room, nosing around at the halters and bridles.

“They’re just so curious. They’re neat little turds,” Julia said.

After finishing his milk, Ernie tries to nose in on Bert’s supply. REGISTER/VICKIE MOSS

ERNIE was born on April 12, 10 days before Bert.

At first, everything seemed fine. He nursed his mother for seven days, until she became fatally ill. She was one of the Halls’ best-producing mares, and they were devastated by the loss.

They called 10 veterinarians to try to save the mare. 

Dr. Fred Gardner from Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Garnett drove to Uniontown to examine the horse and delivered the bad news.

“Now, let’s talk about this colt,” he said.

“He stood here for two hours, telling us how to raise a colt,” Julia recalled.

Most horse owners can’t invest the time and effort needed to hand-raise a foal, Gardner said. Countryside offers that service as part of its business model because of the challenges involved.

Curious Ernie and Bert check out a visitor, Register reporter Vickie Moss. COURTESY OF JULIA HALL

“Traditionally, that’s been a difficult area for horse people,” Gardner said. “The nutritional and behavioral needs of a foal are considerably different from adult horses and even weaned horses.”

It’s not like hand-raising a puppy or kitten, he noted.

“Horses learn bad behaviors from an early age. They’re very intelligent animals. Their mother and other horses teach them how to behave like a horse,” Gardner said.

“Many hand-raised horses are very disrespectful to humans, but they don’t have to be.”

Gardner said it’s important to find a small horse or pony with a gentle and kind disposition, but also unwilling to tolerate bad behavior, to mentor an orphaned foal. 

The Halls put Bert and Ernie with their ponies, but they didn’t get along.

“The thing about those ponies, they’re older. They’re still more dominant and they picked on them,” Wayne said.

Julia Hall greets Ernie. REGISTER/VICKIE MOSS

However, they discovered one of their stallions is very patient and interested in the foals. He’s kept in a separate, fenced area but spends much of his time along the fence or in a stall so he can be near them and teach them a few tips about being a horse.

The Halls plan to wean Bert and Ernie along with their other foals when the time comes, usually between 4 and 6 months of age. After that, they’ll be treated like any other horse.

Julia said she and her husband were very grateful for Gardner’s advice, especially when it came to behavioral issues. 

“That first night (with Ernie), I was planning to sleep in the stall with him,” Julia said. “Fred said not to do that.”

Indeed, at one point during the interview for this story, Ernie attempted to rear on his hind legs toward Julia. 

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