Bebe, a horse at Australia’s Whisker Woods Sanctuary, is the cheeky “problem” child of founder Shannon Mortlock. But Mortlock wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, Mortlock’s grown used to all of Bebe’s demanding ways over the years – including hand-holding. Literally. Seven years ago, Mortlock met Bebe’s mother, Emily, while buying the property for Whisker Woods in Canberra. “Local farmers said that Emily had been wandering the area for years,” Mortlock told The Dodo. “One of the farmers had threatened to shoot her, as she had damaged his fences.” Mortlock said she managed to herd Emily onto her property and keep her there where she would be safe – and a few months later realized Emily was pregnant.
However, as soon as Bebe was born, Emily rejected her straightaway, kicking the newborn every time she dared to come close. Mortlock said she called a veterinarian for guidance on what to do and was given two options: She could “let nature take its course” and allow Bebe to die, or hand-raise Bebe herself. Mortlock’s choice then became clear. “I wasn’t going to just stand there and let her die,” she said. After Bebe got colostrum, a special milk newborns need that contains essential proteins and vitamins, Mortlock found herself locked into months and months of bottle-feedings and dealing with one very fussy horse. In her youth, Bebe wasn’t above stomping her hooves on the ground while waiting for food or nibbling at the back of Mortlock’s shirt. Bebe lived with Mortlock in her home and naturally developed a close bond with her – to the point that Bebe was unable to sleep at night without having a hoof near Mortlock’s hand, arm or any other part of her body. “Bebe refused to sleep unless I’d lie down with her and she had her hoof resting on me,” Mortlock said. Bebe also needed to have many towels, as they seemed to comfort her. “I was so tired from all the feeding and running the rest of the sanctuary that I didn’t even care about sleeping on the concrete with her,” she said. “Overall, [Bebe’s] very sweet,” she said.