Foal finally stands on her own four feet

WE seem to have had more than our fair share of foaling problems over the past couple of weeks, most of them being minor concerns and worries, but we have had more involved cases.

One such case is that of a mare that earlier in the year had to undergo colic surgery with part of her bowel being removed.The fact that she recovered from this was amazing given the length of bowel removed and the time the surgery took but the fact that she was in the early stages of pregnancy and didn’t lose the foal was nothing short of a miracle.

The mare eventually foaled, with clearly anxious owners considering that she’d had abdominal surgery and the operation site was a potential weakness to herniate. However, other than some mild swelling along the operation site, she foaled easily and a much-awaited filly foal was born. The foal however failed to stand and therefore to suckle the mare. It is vital that all mammalian young take the colostrum (first milk) from their mothers within the first six to eight hours of birth.

This colostrum contains antibodies against diseases but can only be absorbed across the gut wall in the first eight hours, after this the gut lining becomes impermeable.

These antibodies protect the young against any diseases the mother has met and also against infectious such as e.coli and other environmental pathogens.

It was thought the foal was what is termed a ‘dummy’ foal; these have an inability to suck and often are slow or unable to stand. The mare was milked and the vital colostrum given to the foal via a stomach tube, passing up its nasal passage, along its oesophagus and into its stomach. The tube was left in place to aid nursing and the foal was encouraged to suck from a bottle although at this stage there was little success.

Plasma was given to boost the foal’s immune system and after 12 hours of intensive nursing it finally stood unaided and later that day started to suckle on its own. The foal continued to get stronger over the next 24 hours, although it was what is termed ‘windswept’. This is where the hind legs look exactly like the term implies, with both legs pointing the same way. Although these often look awkward with both hocks pointing in the same direction, they gradually straighten up as the foal starts to become stronger and more active.

Mare and foal were finally discharged after four days in the surgery and both have continued to do well. The foal is fit, strong and her legs have straightened to normal.

Piccolo Pete, after bashing his head off the stable door, can still not be ridden but we took him to the Cumberland County Show where he won the ex-racehorse in hand class and then took the reserve championship.


Director and Senior Vet