From the Foaling Barn

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Update: Foal Heat Breeding

We have two young mares (both five year-olds), who foaled late in the breeding season. Late foaling leaves you with only one or two attempts at breeding your mare. We really wanted to try to move up both our mares, Chicky and Icey, so we wouldn't be facing the same problem next year. Both mares had uneventful pregnancies and deliveries, and as far as we could tell by ultrasound neither had any post foaling problems. So we decided to give it a try.

The odds of a successful foal heat breeding are slim if the mare ovulates before nine days post foaling. However, the longer the mare goes beyond nine days without ovulating the better the chances of achieving a pregnancy. When we checked Chicky at day ten, she already had a CL, so that was that. But when we checked Icey at day ten, she was just coming into heat with multiple medium follicles on both ovaries. The next day she had a 35 on one ovary and a 34 on the other, so we called the breeder and ordered a FedEx delivery for the next day. We also gave Icey a shot of historelin to induce ovulation. The next morning when we checked her before breeding we found that she had already ovulated the 35, and we also found that we had a meager amount of semen to work with. Therefore, Dr. Brian thought we would be wise to do a deep horn insemination. We took a chance that the ovulation was recent (there was no CL yet) and inseminated in that horn. Brian thought there was a good chance that Icey would not ovulate the other follicle.

Fourteen days later we checked Icey for pregnancy and found that she had, indeed, ovulated the second follicle and she was infoal with twins. Fortunately they were located in both horns so Brian was able to pinch the smaller one. He gave Icey a shot of Banamine to forestall any inflamation in her uterus as a result of the remains of the now pinched twin. Pinching a twin can cause the mare to lose the other embryo in about 20% of the cases when the embryos are in both horns.

Because Icey delivered her foal six days early and we were successful with our foal heat breeding, we moved her up 25 days. So instead of a May or June foal next year, she'll have her foal in late April.

Icey and her 2012 filly Rita.  Icey is in foal for 2013 to Smart Spook.


Orphan Foals at Two Months

Colin at two months

Right after our two foals were orphaned within a week of each other, we were inundated with advice and offers of help from well-meaning folk. Some of the advice was helpful, but a great deal of it was discouraging and, frankly, incorrect. We were treated to so many nightmare stories of foals' physical developmental problems. And, even worse, many people assured us our foals would not know how to act like horses or would be spoiled by an excess of attention from humans. Some really tactless souls told us the foals were more or less doomed.

Our foals are now two months old, and I'm happy to report none of the depressing prognostications have come true. We did not find a local nurse mare and rejected the rent-a-nurse-mare organizations on ethical grounds. Instead, we worked with our great feed rep, Travis Lemke of Assurance Feed, who linked us up with a local company, Silky Coat, who specializes in making milk replacer for many different breeds. Every week, Travis would bring us fresh bags of milk replacer and milk pellets right from Silky Coat. That meant that we were always feeding the foals fresh milk. Both foals have done very well on the replacer, although Viktor had loose stools for the first six weeks, which is not an unusual problem for foals on milk replacer. At six weeks we began to wean them off of the replacer and on to the milk pellets. Since then, Viktor's stools have become more solid. At two months both foals are plump and well-muscled. Our vet has routinely drawn blood to check on the foal's protein levels, and has monitored their growth.

Because we have had to feed the foals frequently (every four hours for the first six weeks), it has not been practical to put them outside with other horses. We do get them outside together, several times a day for two to three hours at a time. If there is any upside to having two orphan foals, it is that they are company for one another, and their horse instincts kicked in right away when we put them together. To see them playing their little colt games, you would never think they were any different than any other foals. They spend their nights in large, open-grill stalls across the aisle from one another. Tomorrow, we plan to put them out in a small pasture with our twenty-three year old mare, Pappita Sunrise, for most of the day since we are now on an eight hour feeding schedule.

Viktor at two months

During this whole process, we have been mindful of the need to treat Viktor and Colin as horses, not pets. We do not coddle them, and we correct aggressive behavior immediately and firmly, just as their own mothers would have. The only time we handle them is when we take them in and out of their stalls. They are both halter broke and lead fairly well. There are other horse in the barn with them, and when they are outside they are in a pasture adjacent to other pastures holding mares and foals.

At three months, we plan to wean Viktor and Colin from their milk replacer, and by then they should be able to be in pasture twenty-four hours a day, At that point we will introduce them to other foals.


Raising Orphan Foals

Colin and Viktor

After the death of our two mares in less than a week, we were left with the difficult task of raising two beautiful orphans, Colin (Jerry Lees Surprise X Jodies Jac Tari) and Viktor (Colonels Smoking Gun X BH Song and Dance). Colin lost his mother at three days, and Viktor lost his at less than 24 hours. Fortunately, both foals nursed long enough to get adequate levels of passive antibodies through their dams' colostrum.

But once we got them home we were left with many decisions about the best way to proceed. We certainly didn't have a shortage of advice. Many people urged us to use nurse mares, but that was easier said than done. There's no doubt that what is best for a foal is receiving nutrition from its dam or another lactating mare. That means we needed to find a mare that has recently lost its foal. We were given many leads, but most of these mares were too far away to make it practical. Or if I got a tip about a local mare, invariably when I called the mare owners they were reluctant to turn their mares over to me, and I completely understand their feelings.

I was also given the names of several people who provide nurse mares on demand. However, once I read about these services, I had ethical qualms about what happens to the foals of these mares. Also, many of these mares are draft horses, and my vet warned me that draft mares provide too much milk for a little quarter or arab foal, with the result that the foals grow too fast and may have issues with bone development. Similarly, I was contacted by people who told me how I could cause any mare who had foaled within the last year to begin lactating. Actually, sometimes if a mare will accept a foal, she will begin to lactate on her own. However, in these cases, the quality and richness of the milk usually does not match the needs of a growing foal.

While I was considering all these factors, I contacted Travis Lempke, who is my Assurance feed rep. He was invaluable in advising me and locating a good source of milk replacement. He had dealt with an orphan foal two years before, so he new from experience what we were facing.
Eventually, I decided to forget the idea of nurse mares and use milk replacement exclusively.

This meant that we would be slave to a rigid feeding schedule for the next three months. Fortunately the vets at Stillwater Equine had trained both foals to the bucket before we brought them home, so I didn't have to worry about hourly bottle feeding. Instead, we started with a four hour feeding schedule. We made three quarts of formula every four hours, poured it into two gallon buckets and hung them in each foal's stall. Within a week or two the foals were drinking four gallons of milk a day. After a month, we began to feed the foals a gallon of milk replacer every six hours, which gave us quite a bit more freedom.

Both foals are now healthy and growing rapidly. But how to feed them has been only one of the many factors we are dealing with. The most difficult part of feeding foals with milk replacement formula is how to socialize them as horses. I'll take this issue up in future posts.


In Memory of BH Song and Dance

Four days after Jodie's death, her stablemate, BH Song And Dance gave birth to a beautiful Gunner colt, her sixteenth foal, at 10:15 PM. The labor was quick and the delivery easy. BH rested for a few minutes, then stood, dropping her placenta easily. Like an old pro, she coaxed her foal to stand and had him nursing vigorously within an hour. She looked wonderful and so did the foal. So after watching to make sure the colt was nursing consistently, around one we went back to the house and went to bed. At five that morning I got up and as I walked toward the kitchen, I glanced at the TV screen which was tuned to our foaling channel. The foal was asleep and all looked peaceful, until I saw BH's leg. She was down and something was obviously wrong. Still in my pajamas I raced down to the barn and found BH, standing now, but sopping wet, and trembling. I grabbed some Banamine, gave it to her, then began walking her, with foal following up and down the aisle of the barn, while I called the vet on call. Dr. Megan said she'd. be there as soon as possible. I also called our regular vet, Brian, who was due at the barn at seven to ultrasound another mare. When Megan arrived, she checked BH's vital signs, which were normal except for an elevated heartbeat. But when she palpated BH, she found a sizeable mass in her abdomen. Brian arrived and he, too, palpated BH, but was unable to determine the cause of the mass. He said it was impossible to know what the cause of her distress was without exploratory surgery. I thought a 23 year-old mare who had just given birth, and who had been in distress for an unknown amount of time, was a poor candidate for surgery. When I rejected surgery, Brian suggested we move her to the clinic for observation and supportive care. He said occasionally, after foaling internal organs can get displaced and with time and rest they can right themselves.

So once again, we made a sad pilgrimage to the vet clinic, to leave a beloved mare and foal in the hands of the vets. I was not hopeful, and within in hours BH began to decline precipitously. Finally, Brian called and said that she had crashed, her heartrate was skyrocketing. I wanted to come down to be with her, but he said there wasn't time, and they were worried about her falling on the foal. So, I said, yes, and I never saw my little mare again, to my great regret.

BH was a wonder--a small, little mare with great heart and grit. Her sire was Be Aech Enterprise and her dam was Melody Jac. Scott McCutcheon bought her from the late, great horseman Bill Horn when she was three. He claims she was so high-strung, he couldn't catch her in her stall til she was five. Nevertheless, Scott and BH had great success together, culminating in winning the Open Championship at the NRHA Derby. When BH retired from the showring, she was just as successful as a broodmare. Of her sixteen foals, all but one of perfomance age were money earners. Her offspring's earnings are over $110,000 and still counting. Her foals have gone on to be finalists at the NRHA Futurity, Derby and the NRBC.
I'm fortunate to still own four of her foals, a four year-old stallion by Gunner, a three year-old mare by Einstein, and yearling and weanling colts by Gunner.

At 23, BH looked her age. She was small, and fine-boned, and when she was pregnant, her belly was enormous. But she held her own in the pasture full of much bigger and mobile mares, and she was a tough disciplinarian with her foals, keeping close watch on them. In one sense, though I regret the pain she suffered in her last hours, her death was in keeping with her life. She died giving birth, and until the very end she nursed and watched over her foal.


Losing Jodie

This is a very hard post to write. Tuesday, May 9th, we had to euthanize our beautiful palomino mare, Jodies Jac Tari. I had written previously about several problems we had had with Jodie prior to her foaling. She leaked milk for several weeks, so I layed in a supply of mare colostrum to give the foal as soon as it was born. Also, Jodie had experienced periods of bleeding from a vaginal varicose vein. I had her on sulfa for the ten days prior to foaling to guard against infection that could affect the foal. I thought I was prepared for all eventuallities. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could have changed what happened.

Jodie went into labor late Sunday night. We were expecting it because her calcium milk level had reach 250 pts per ml. We were watching her on our foal cam, and as soon as we knew she was in labor, we went down to the barn. When we arrived the sack was out and we could see one hoof. However, for the next fifteen minutes, though she pushed mightily, we saw no more progress. I went in the stall to check the sack, and realized that the foot we were seeing was pointing upward not downward. I called the on-call vet, Ava, immediately and she contacted my regular vet, Brian. Both of them were coming but would not arrive for thirty minutes. I asked Ava if there was anything I could do. She said, no, because we did not want to take any chance of the sack rupturing. However, within a short time, the sack ruptured on its own and I called Ava once again. And she told me to put gloves on and see if I could feel the other foot or the nose. When I went into the stall, I realize something was very wrong--Jodies rectum had prolapsed and part of her colon was coming out. I called Ava again quickly and she told me to push the colon back in and to hold it in, until she got there. Brian arrived shortly thereafter and examined Jodie. He tried to pull the foal, but when he pulled, Jodie would push and the colon would pop out again. Once Ava arrived and Brian conferred with another vet at Stillwater, he decided we had to get Jodie to the clinic to try to sedate her so the foal could be pulled out without the risk of the colon being further damaged. He warned me that I might have to choose between saving Jodie or the foal. But he also warned me that there was little chance of Jodie surviving, and he wasn't sure the foal could be pulled out alive.

I was't sure Jodie could make the twenty minute trip to the clinic. But Brian said it was our only chance. He sutured her rectum closed so that she wouldn't push the colon out again in transit, my husband hooked up the trailer, and we loaded Jodie. Ava had already left to get the operating room ready. Brian followed the trailer and I went back to the house to get my husband's wallet and my purse and then I headed toward the clinic. It was 12:30 Monday morning by now, and as I drove to clinic, I was sure I would find that both Jodie and the foal had died.

When I pulled into the clinic parking lot, it was 1 AM, and the bay door was open and all the lights were on. I could see into the operating room, where a foal was sprawled on the floor, and three vets stood over him. I thought the foal was dead, but then Brian nudged him with his foot and the foal struggle up onto his sternum. Jodie was standing quietly. We carried the foal to one of the clinic stalls and led Jodie in behind him. He was standing in a matter of minutes and trying to nurse. The vets gave Jodie Banamine and antibiotics. They thought the foal was going to be fine, but warned me that Jodie's prognosis was poor.

When I got home at two that night, I went to the computer and Googled "rectal prolapse in mares." What I found was not reassuring. There are four levels of rectal prolapses in horses, depending on how much of the colon is extruded. Horses usually survive Levels 1 and 2. But Levels 3 nd 4 are almost always ultimately fatal. Dystopias are one of the main risk factors for rectal prolapse.

The next morning, I was at the clinic early to check on Jodie and her foal, a buckskin colt by Jerry Lees Surprise. They looked wonderful. All Jodie's vital signs were good, but I knew that there were many risks ahead. The first problem showed up later that day. Jodie was not passing manure, which meant that her colon was not able to push feces through. The danger was that the longer she went without passing manure, the greater the danger of impaction.
The next morning, Jodie was still doing reasonably well, but her heart rate was slightly elevated and there was still no manure. By the afternoon, when I came back to see her again, she was refusing food, and she was obviously depressed. All my hopes for a miracle evaporated. I knew she was not going to make it.

Early Wednesday morning, Brian called me and before he said anything, I knew it was bad news. Jodie had an extremely high heart rate, her red blood count was going down, and she had a temperature of 104. She was now septic and had no chance to survive. It was time to put her down. I rushed to the clinic so I could be with her when she was euthanized. When I arrived the foal was nursing. I scratched Jodie'sr withers and offered her one of her favorite treats. When we took her away from her foal to walk her back to the arena where Brian would euthanize her, she called to her foal during the entire walk.

Jodie was a beautiful mare. I bought her when she was ten and she had five gorgeous foals, with her pretty head and big, soft eyes. She was only seventeen when she died. I am so thankful that her foal survives.





Foal Heat Breeding

I'm considering breeding two of my younger mares on their foal heats this year. As I see it, there are two reasons to breed on the foal heat. First, with a mare who foals in mid to late May, you generally have only one or two chances to get her back in foal. Breeding on the foal heat gives you one more. But more importantly, unless you breed on a foal heat every two or three years, you are inevitably going to end up with an open mare every four to six years.
Even if you successfully catch your mare every year on the 30 day heat (which is highly unlikely), your mare will not ovulate until 35 days, which means every year your mare moves up. Eventually, her thirty-day heat will fall in June.

About eight years ago, I took the week-long Equine Reproduction course at Colorada State University. The staff who taught the class were very positive about foal heat breeding. Dr. McCue, in particular, thought it was important in any breeding program. He recommended ultrasounding your mare at nine days. If she has not ovulated yet, then proceed as you would with any breeding. Ovulations after nine days, have almost the same pregnancy chance as a 30-day heat ovulation. For a mare who ovulates before nine days, Dr. McCue recommends administering Prostanglandin which will short cycle your mare.

There are some caveats about foal heat breeding however. It is not recommended for older mares, or mares who suffered any sort of trauma at foaling, or who failed to deliver their placentas in a timely manner. Most older mares usually have some problems, poor confirmation, uterine cysts, chronic inflamation, etc, that make it difficult for these mares to rid themselves of the detritus of the recent birth. Foaling trauma and retained placentas also compromise the mare's uterus, making it unlikely that foal heat breeding will be successful.

With an easy breeder, foal heat breeding works great. My mare Smart Sugar Pop, was bred successfully on the foal heat for three straight years. Her string of foal heat breedings was broken when she had a retained placent which she eventually expelled, but not until four hours after foaling. We checked her for ovluation at nine days. She was not in heat so we checked her three days late, and still nothing. Finally, when she showed no sign or a foal heat at eighteen days, we drew a small volume lavage, cultured it and found that she was infected.

I have three mares having May foals this year. One is Jodie, the seventeen year-old mare who is leaking milk and bleeding from a vaginal varicose vein--not a good choice for a foal heat breeding. The next one due is BH who is 23 years-old--enough said. But the last one, Icy, due May 28, is a five year-old maiden mare. If all goes well with the foaling, she should be a good candidate for a foal heat breeding.

I'll report on the result.

 

Icy (Ice Cold Dunnit) in Foal To Magnum Chic Dream


The Older Mare: Redux

Darrell Hanson commented on my last blog post, wondering if it makes economic sense to spend the extra time and money it takes to breed older mares. He raises an issue that I grapple with often. I took a long time to put together my broodmare band. I tried to get representatives of the great reining lines. I also tried to buy mares that had earnings or offspring earnings. I think I have a good bunch of mares. However, they aren't all created equal. With a few of my mares I would consider pulling an embryo, most I would not. And for some I'll go to much greater lengths to get a foal, i.e.,if they've been especially good producers.

Right now, I am trying to decide whether to keep trying on one of my oldest mares, 23 year-old Pappita Sunrise, who was the very first mare I bought. She is a daughter of the great Hollywood Jac, and out of the great mare Paps Glo, two legends in reining history. One of Pappita's foals, Whale of a Whiz, has earnings in excess of $90,000 and was the alternate on the US Gold Medal team at last year's WEG championship. Several years ago, Pappy had colic surgery and developed a hernia which made it unwise for her to carry her own foals. At first, I had good luck pulling embryos from her, but last year I struck out. On our first try this year,we did not get an embryo. Since then, I've been reading up on problems of older mares, and I'm really ambivalent about trying to breed her again. Pappita looks fantastic for her age. She's in good weight, well-muscled and completely sound. But what pushes me toward trying one more time, is Pappy's two-year old filly, who looks to be one of the most promising prospects we've ever produced. I'm still thinking about it and talking to my vet. I'll have to decide in the next few weeks one way or another.

But, back to Darrell's original question. I do think that good regular maintenance saves breeding expenses in the long run and helps keep older mares breeding sound. Last year of my fourteen mares, 10 took on the first breeding, three on the second and one took three breedings (coincidentally, this was my youngest mare). For mares younger than 15, the chance of a successful pregnancy resulting from a single breeding is 60%. For older mares, the percentages may fall to 40%. I say "may" because, once again, all mares are not created equal.
Some young mares may be tricky to breed, while some like BH are baby-making machines.

I, also, think it saves on expenses to keep really good records, so that you know what each mare requires without having to cast about blindly for the answer to a breeding problem. For example,I can look back several years at my records and see that we've been successful breeding a given mare when we do a post-breeding lavage. I'm willing to spend $100 on a lavage or a Casslick to ensure the money I've put into the breeding will produce a foal.

I consider an open mare to be the greatest expense of all.

Juiced in Hollywood (Smart LIke JuiceX Pappita Sunrise)

 

 


The Older Broodmare

Ice Cold Dunnit and BH Song and Dance

The last two Chatsberry mares to foal this year happen to be my youngest and oldest mares. They are both duns and if you didn't know better, you'd think they were mother and daughter, or grandmother and granddaughter. I've recently written about the problems of maiden mares, and right after I wrote that post, one of my two maiden mares demonstrated one of the problems admirably, by refusing to feed her foal. So I think you can understand, why I'm a bit worried about writing about my old girl. Like almost all serious horse people, I'm superstitious. But in the interest of education, I'll give it a try.

BH Song and Dance is twenty-three years old and is due to deliver her sixteenth foal April 13, although since I've owned her, she has been three to twelve days early each year. BH, by Be Aech Enterprise and out of Melody Jac (Hollywood Jac), is one of only a handful of mares to have won the NRHA Open Derby. Her LTE is $29,000 and her offspring earnings are in excess of $110,000. But if you saw her, you'd never believe these statistics. BH is a small, fine-boned mare, and ever since I've known her she as been significantly navicular. She shuffles along in the pasture, and she definitely looks her age. Last year, she had a foal in mid-May. We bred her once to Gunner with shipped semen and got her in foal.

BH is an exceptional broodmare, but I have a number of older mares, and while it is challenging to keep them going, with good maintenance practices and a little medical detective work, I've been able to get most of my mares in foal every year. A mare's peak fertility is reached at ages six or seven, and fertility begins to decline significantly after age fifteen.

Keeping a regular maintenance schedule, is crucial to keeping older mares in good breeding condition. All of my mares are seen by our excellent farrier, Dave Jacobson, every eight weeks. Navicular mares like BH especially need frequent trimmings. I also have three mares that require special shoeing to stay sound. Dr. Brian keeps dental records on the mares and we usually float their teeth every two year. However, I keep special watch on the old girls, because I don't want them to drop weight because of dental problems. Speaking of weight, I probably like my mares just a bit heavier than Dr. Brian likes, but with our extreme cold, I like a bit of extra padding on my girls. I feed free choice hay (a grass/alfalfa mix), Assurance Alfalfa Balancer, and oats. I adjust the latter two depending on where the mares are in their gestation, upping amounts substantially for the last two months of pregnancy and the first three of lactation.

Even when you do everything right, breeding issues become more numerous as mares age, including, cervical tears, uterine scarring and cysts, urine pooling, inflamation and difficulty clearing fluids after breeding, etc. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate many of these issues, including post-breeding lavage, Casslicks, hormone therapy. And if all else fails, there is always embryo transfer. A good vet like our Dr. Brian will be up-to-date on all the latest breeding technology. I also learn a lot from the internet--it's amazing what you can find on-line.

One of the best ways to make sure an older mare gets in foal, is to try to make sure she stays in foal every year. The more years an older mare goes without having a foal the more difficult it becomes to get her in foal. Mares are meant to have foals, and their reproductive tracts are healthier when they are being used as nature meant them to be. My little, navicular mare BH miraculously seems to become much sounder right before she foals and during the months she has a foal at her side.


It's Always Something

It was gorgeous day today, and I was so happy we had solved the problem of our high strung new mother and her hesitant foal. When I entered the foaling barn, this morning. I greeted all the mares and foals, grabbed the grain cart and began feeding. When I got to Jodie's stall I noticed something red in the bedding. On close inspection, I realized it was blood, and that there was another spot of blood on the other side of the stall, and then I saw Jodie's tail. It was streaked and matted with blood, and congealed blood was smeared across her butt. This was not what I wanted to see in a mare who was ten days from her due date. I finished feeding and then called my vet, Dr. Brian Dahms. He wanted to know if Jodie was off her feed or otherwise acting oddly (she wasn't) and whether I could tell if she was still bleeding (again, she wasn't). He said he'd be at the farm by mid morning to ultrasound Jodie to check the foal, and told me not to worry because the vast majority of late term bleeding was caused by rupture of vaginal varicose veins.
Because Jodie seemed perfectly fine, I went ahead and put her out in a small paddock where I could keep an eye on her.

When Brian arrived, we put Jodie in the stocks and Brian checked her vulva. He had opened her Casslick the week before and he checked to see if that had been the source of the bleeding. Then he ultrasounded her, first checking the foal, who was active and seemed fine. He then looked at the placenta to make sure there was no sign of placentitis, infection of the placenta. Again, it appeared normal. Next, he did a speculum exam of her vagina, where he found that she did, indeed, have a number of varicose veins, and when he withdrew the speculum there was a small amount of blood on the end. He assured me that this was quite common in late term mares and should not be a problem.

Although Jodie had no fever, Brian thought we should put her on sulfa until she foals. After our experience with Shiney and her reaction to Sulfa, Brian also thought we should give Jodie probiotics to make sure her gut stays healthy.

Remember, Jodie is the mare who has been dripping milk for the last two weeks. So after Brian left, I checked Jodie's milk to see if she might possibly be close to foaling. The calcium level was at 60 parts per ml, which, when I checked my records on her, was exactly where she was last year at two weeks from foaling.

I'm not too worried about either problem. We know she may drip out all her colostrum, so we have secured replacement colostrum. We know she has some bleeding vaginal varicose veins, and we are giving her sulfa to forestall infection. I think we're taking appropriate precautions, but you never know.

I'll update you when she foals.

This is Jodie. She's by Jodies Doc Tari out of Jacs Savage Princess (Hollywood Jac).


Maiden Mare Update: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Well, as you can probably guess, things didn't go swimmingly with our first maiden mare foaling.
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The Good: Chicky foaled at 3:30 AM, April 22 without incidence, a healthy bay colt. She really liked her little guy. As soon as she recovered from the shock of the birth, she went right over to him and began to nicker and lick him. He stood up in a timely manner and seemed to know where to find the milk spigot. Chicky didn't seem to mind at all when I entered the stall to remove the placenta. Okay, that's all of the good news for now.

The Bad: Chicky was a little crampy and wobbly after the foaling. In his efforts to get up, the foal had worked himself into the center of the stall. Chicky walked over to him with her head down nickering, but just as she got to him, she must have experienced a cramp, and fell to her knees, right on top of the foal. He shrieked, and my husband I ran into the stall. Chicky righted herself and we examined the foal, who seemed to be unhurt. But we were worried that he might have a broken rib or worse.

The Ugly: After the foal stood for the first time and got his bearings, he began to search for Chicky's udder, but everytime he would approach her flank, she would scoot to the other side of the stall. We did not want to interfere too soon, hoping that on their own, mother and foal would eventually figure things out. But after an hour and half of watching her walk away from the foal, we finally decided to step in to hold Chicky in order to let the foal have a chance to find her teat. However, in spite of not wanting to feed her foal, Chicky had grown excessively attached to him in the past two hours. And so when we entered the stall to clip the lead rope on her halter, she was a little unhinged, and we decided to beat a retreat and call the vet and some reinforcements.

By the time the on-call vet got to the farm it was 7:30, four hours after the foaling. The minute the vet walked into the stall, she decided reluctantly we were going to have to give Chicky a sedative. Once Chicky was calm, the vet examined her udder and gave her a shot of oxytocin to help her to let down her milk and ease some of her discomfort. We then tried to get the foal in place so he could grab one of the teats. That's when we realized another problem. Although Chicky had a large, engorged udder, she had very small teats, a fairly common problem with maiden mares. The foal, who was quite tall, just could not seem to find the teats and latch on. It was now five hours from foaling and we were desperate to get some colostrum into the foal. On to Plan B, milking the mare and bottle feeding the foal.

Before foaling, Chicky had not waxed or leaked milk. Like some maidens, her milk only came in with the foaling: consequently, the first milk we were able to get from her, was thick and yellow and did not flow all that easily. It was hard work getting a third of a cup. We had a little assembly line set up, someone held Chicky while someone else knelt and milked her. Then when they had about a third of a cup, someone else poured it into a bottle and handed it off to the person who would hold the bottle for the foal while someone else held him.

Finally, after the foal had gotten several cups of milk, and we were satisfied he had enough colostrum, we turned him loose and let him try nursing on his own. At first we held the bottle underneath the udder and fed him so that he would figure out where to go. Eventually, with a little help he began to find the teats on his own. At first it was hit or miss, but pretty soon he latched on and began nursing vigorously.

Chicky by now had come out from under the drugs and seemed quite relieved to have the foal nursing, although we still had her tied. Finally, we let her go and everyone left the stall and we went up to the house to watch how things were going on our foal cam feed. Unfortunately, things didn't go very well. So we all trooped back down to the barn and once again put Chicky on a lead rope to hold her in place so the foal could feed. When the foal finished and laid down, we'd let Chicky off the rope and she would stand guard over him. After several hours of this, the vet returned and performed the foal check. We had done good work--his SNAP test was well over 800. Also, she found no damage from Chicky's fall.

Finally, we decided to let the foal and Chicky have time to themselves to try to work things out. The foal by now was stronger and more coordinated, and so when Chicky bounded across the stall, he followed right behind. After a few circuits of the stall, Chicky finally gave in, stopped and invited the foal to nurse.

The next morning, Chicky looked like an old pro feeding her foal. She is a very loving and attentive mother and the foal is thriving. All is well.






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