Foal born at Del Mar Fairgrounds during Bernardo Fire evacuations

By Kristina Houck

As a wildfire blackened nearly 1,600 acres between Rancho Peñasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe last week, new life was sparked at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. A horse gave birth to her first baby — the morning after evacuating a Rancho Santa Fe farm during the Bernardo Fire, which broke out just before 11 a.m. on May 13 in northern San Diego.

“If you can imagine Rancho Santa Fe on Tuesday, this whole place was chaos,” said Chase B. Casson, who owns the 5-year-old mare named Time Given and her yet-to-be-named newborn.

“But it really went extremely smoothly,” added Tish Quirk, who led the foaling process and stayed with the new mom and baby until they returned home in the late evening on May 16.

Time Given was the last of roughly 40 horses evacuated from Dave and Kathy Sherer’s Rancho Santa Fe farm, where Quirk runs her breeding, foaling and training business. The mare had been staying at the property as she was expected to give birth around May 6.

“She had been on close watch for quite a while,” explained Quirk, a fifth-generation horsewoman who has been in the business for more than 30 years. “That morning, before any of the fires started, I looked at her and said, ‘We’re going to have a baby tonight.’”

Because her facility has necessary equipment and more space, she didn’t want to leave with Time Given unless she felt they were in danger. She also didn’t want to add unnecessary stress to the pregnant mom.

“If I had felt it was safe, I would have stayed here for the sake of this mare and foul,” said Quirk, whose La Costa home was later evacuated due to the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, which erupted about 10:30 a.m. May 14.

“Once we got the first call, I started packing immediately. But I didn’t make the final decision until I saw that black smoke start running this way,” Quirk said. “While we were loading, there was ash falling on us.”

Casson, his wife Amy, and their three young daughters stayed with their horse at the fairgrounds until 2:30 a.m. At 6 a.m., Quirk called the family with news: Time Given was having a baby. Her daughter was born soon after.

“It was stressful because everybody was on pins and needles for the last week and a half waiting for this racehorse to be born,” Casson said.

By the time the Carlsbad family arrived to meet the new addition, a crowd had gathered around the newborn, which was helped to her feet.

“We shooed the visitors away so the girls could see up close,” Quirk said. “I opened the stall door and the baby went straight to the little girls, and let each of them pat her little wet face.”

Although she doesn’t have a name yet, the Casson’s daughters have been calling the foal “Ember” and “Tribal Fire,” in honor of her father, “Tribal Rule,” a leading California sire of 2-year-old progeny earnings in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He suffered a fatal heart attack May 1.

Time Given’s father, Point Given, is an American Hall of Fame champion, who won the 2001 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, along with the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, when he was 3 years old. In 2010, Point Given was voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The Casson family hopes their newest horse continues the winning lineage.

“She’s going to be an awesome racehorse,” Casson.

Currently feeding and resting at Quirk’s maternity ward, the mare and foal will soon join the Casson family’s four other horses across the street at Rancho Santa Fe’s Osuna Valley Stock Farm. The couple leases the roughly 14-acre farm to board their horses. All three of their girls attend Horizon Prep in Rancho Santa Fe, and their oldest, Caroline, is a competitive hunter-jumper rider.

Casson’s company, Casson Capital Inc., has hosted field trips for homeless children from the San Diego Rescue Mission at the couple’s farm three times. Children from the Rescue Mission will once again visit the farm May 31 to groom, feed and ride the horses.