Two weeks early
As you probably know Willa Rose was due to have her foal 7th July. Well, on the morning of 27th June during the normal morning stock checks a small, weak little bundle was found by Willa Roses feet. Taking us all by surprise, with 2 weeks to go and having shown no signs of being ready to foal. The GWFU stopped for a second, in shock, trying to process what she was seeing. When she realised she had left her phone in the office she turned and ran as fast as her legs would carry her back to the yard, not a single human was in sight. She phoned the MWPB (Man Who Pays the Bills), straight to voicemail with a message that went something like this…
“Where the ** are you? There’s a ** foal in the field and there’s nobody ** here what the ** do I do!?”
I’ve had to put in ** because I didn’t understand the words she used.
Then she very quickly called the vet, who thankfully picked up after a single ring. They promised to be there within 30 mins and to try getting both the mare and foal into the barn out of the heat. This is when the GWFU discovered that Willa Rose had a Beautiful filly (girl) foal.
Just the beginning
The next 24hrs were critical, the foal must drink the colostrum (first milk) produced by the mare, as this contains all the antibodies the foal needs for the first few months of life. They should be able to stand within half an hour of being born too. But this baby was particularly weak, so the GWFU tried to express the colostrum from Willa Rose and bottle fed it to the foal as she laid on the ground. The vets arrived and they said she’s had the colostrum so we now need to just wait, help her feed every hour or so. Help the foal stand and make sure she gets enough milk. By the next morning the emergency vets had been called. Things went downhill very quickly. Willa Rose had mastitis (infected milk ducts) and Metritis (toxic shock from retained placenta)
Plus, the foal had not received enough colostrum and was not going to pull through to the end of the day.
Prepared for the worst
By this point everyone had accepted that we have everything to lose, both the Mare and foal may not survive. But, with the vets support team and a huge lack of sleep on the yard staff side, we would not give up the fight.
On day three the foal was given fluids, glucose and a plasma infusion (very scientific and very expensive) without this she would have had less than 5% survival rate. After about 30-60 minutes she was bouncing off the walls. It really is a miracle cure. The next problem was finding one for Willa. She was having her uterus cleaned out twice daily, she was having all her milk stripped out to get rid of mastitis infection and with all the antibiotics she was starting to feel a little better. But, the next problem was, she hated the foal. She now associated baby with pain in her udders. Willa was starting to resent baby and was kicking out at her and generally not bonding.
The slow upward crawl
This is where we thought it would be a good idea to find a ‘foster mare’ to provide milk for baby. So, the word was put out that we needed help. We still had vets coming in daily to make sure both were still getting better, when we had an idea. Chances of it working are quite slim, but we would try anything to have mum and baby healthy AND together. So, Willa Rose was injected with Oxytocin and a hormone which helps stimulate the Mares ‘mothering’ hormones. After 2 days with an injection once per day, the mare and foal had bonded enough that the foal was finally suckling without the help of a bottle or formula milk.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Now, at 12 days old. Willa Rose and baby are allowed to live out in the paddock. Antibiotics are almost finished and they both seem to be doing great.