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Thousands lose sleep over horse's birth

By Jareen Imam, CNN
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
A mare in Airville, Pennsylvania, developed a devoted following online, all waiting with breathless anticipation for her to give birth. Meet Stormy. A mare in Airville, Pennsylvania, developed a devoted following online, all waiting with breathless anticipation for her to give birth. Meet Stormy.
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Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
Horse gives birth, internet rejoices
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thousands watched and waited for a horse, Stormy, to give birth on webcam
  • Mare Stare is a site devoted to livestreaming videos of horses giving birth
  • "It's nuts. If my feed goes down people call me at work," says horse's owner
  • Stormy gave birth to a foal early Tuesday morning

(CNN) -- When it comes to animals, it seems people like to watch just about anything give birth.

That includes an Airville, Pennsylvania, horse named Stormy. It's been over two weeks since Stormy's owner, Jodie Otte, flipped on a streaming webcam inside the horse's stable so she and her 14-year-old daughter wouldn't miss the birth.

But soon there were thousands of eyes watching Stormy's every move over the Internet, waiting for her foal to arrive.

The cream and white mare, who gave birth to a filly early Tuesday -- days past her due date -- has drawn the attention of horse enthusiasts, parents and children around the world.

Stormy's live webcam feed is hosted on Mare Stare, a site devoted to hosting webcam videos that feature horses giving birth and show foals standing, eating and playing for the very first time. Otte says the first day the 18-year-old horse's webcam went live, it got more than 10,000 hits on Mare Stare. A friend of Otte's posted a screenshot from the webcam on CNN iReport, where it in turn got 18,000 views.

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Otte, an accountant and photographer who lives in nearby Norrisville, Maryland, said she and her close friends all understand the humor and slight absurdity in Stormy's unexpected popularity. "It's nuts. If my feed goes down people call me at work," she said.

"I have no idea why people are so into Stormy, but I think it's the miracle of birth," Otte said.

Sandra Armenteros, a close friend and photography colleague of Otte's who shared the story on iReport, has been closely tracking the horse's rise to stardom. "The first international fans came from Canada and Australia, where we have colleagues. After that, it really took off. The world is literally watching this horse."

One family that eagerly awaited Stormy's delivery was the Bielawski family in Goshen, New York. Jamie Bielawski, another friend of Otte's, home-schools her four daughters, ages 7 to 11. She started showing her girls Stormy's webcam feed after Otte opened the webcam up to the public.

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"I wanted the girls to experience a horse be born," she said Tuesday. "A lot of kids today go to Walmart and see a chicken come from a package and that it comes from Perdue, but I want my kids to understand the environment and animals and what animals go through."

She has made the webcam a learning experience for her girls, teaching them about horse anatomy and the science behind pregnancy. "When they wake up they don't say, 'Has the foal been born yet?' They ask, 'Is the sac showing yet? Are the hooves showing?' They know the process of a horse's birth," she said.

Her 9-year-old daughter, Andie, loves watching Stormy with her sisters on their smartphone, and they'll pass it around to see how the mare is doing. "It is cool watching an animal give birth," Andie said. "I am excited to see what the baby will look like. I hope it happens soon."

Stormy's foal took its time to leave the womb, which made some viewers impatient. "I stayed up till 4 a.m. watching last night! So tired right now! The royal baby wasn't this anticipated," Gemma Reeve of London wrote on Otte's Facebook page, which has pictures of Stormy with her foal, a filly.

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Another commenter said the webcam feed was becoming an endless loop. "This is like the movie 'Groundhog Day.' We might all start to lose it like Bill Murray soon," Kelly Barclay wrote.

Some people blamed the worldwide exposure for Stormy's delay in delivery. On Mare Stare's Facebook page, one commenter wrote, "Poor mare is holding back on foaling because there are way too many people hanging out around her."

This isn't the first time an animal's health has gripped the attention of thousands of Internet fans. Scores of people were outraged when the National Zoo's panda cam was turned off during the 2013 U.S. government shutdown. And Reddit's community clung anxiously to updates from a Navy hospital corpsman who saved four orphaned rabbits and nursed them back to health. The nests of various birds of prey have drawn avid audiences to watch eggs hatch and chicks grow up.

Stormy's baby, Pixie, was born early Tuesday to much fanfare.

"So glad I have this iPad mini, I keep checking during the night," Wendy Puthuff anxiously wrote on Facebook on Monday evening.

Sadly, after all the watching and waiting, Puthuff missed the big moment.

"Fell asleep with my iPad after midnight, woke up just now and I missed it," Puthuff posted around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. "Anyone record it?"

CNN's Henry Hanks and Daphne Sashin contributed to this story.

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