Thursday, January 25, 2007

Reflections of Foaling Season 2006 - The Twins Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

I pushed past Dave into the stall to find the mare still down as I had left her except with a second foal beginning to make its entrance into the world. Thankfully this foal was in the correct position but even with only the front feet and the nose showing, it was clear this foal was in distress. Through the thick sack I could hear gasping sounds as it struggled to get air. To complicate matters, the exhausted mare was no longer pushing.

I hollered for Dave and instructed him to get the sack from its face as I carefully pulled the foal from the mare making sure I applied pressure with the contractions. Even with my assist, it took a couple of contractions to free the foal and Dave struggled getting the sack from its face. The foal was still gasping for air as I moved it clear from the mare and ripped the remainder of the sack from it nostrils and checked its airways.

Gulping for air the foal moved jerkily as I gave it a once over. Everything seemed to be ok to me. The foal was a small black filly just a little bit smaller than the colt but not much more than what you’d expect between a colt and a filly. She appeared to be breathing now so I checked back to the mare again only to find the same odd looking bulge of matter emerging from her vagina. Again, I feared the mare’s uterus was prolapsing and off I raced to flag down the vet.

I arrived at our driveway just in time to see the Dr Jack Gillette drive by but, thankfully, he saw my frantic flagging and stopped not far down the road backing up to met me. He followed me around to the shed row and was able to park right out front of Vee’s stall. I had already explained on his way in that the mare had given birth to twins. From his vehicle he looked into the stall, said something about a “dummy foal” and bolted past us grabbing the filly by a hind leg and shaking her violently, performing CPR on the lifeless foal.

Dave and I both watched dumbfounded as Dr Gillette shook the life back into the filly restarting her heart and expelling from her lungs the fluid that was drowning her. The foal looked like a limp dishrag suspended in the air. He shook her with the same kind of motion you’d use to crack a towel at someone instead of being a horizontal flick it was vertical. He repeated the flicking two or three times then stopped with the filly still suspended in the air, watching for fluid draining from her lungs.

It took several repetitions until all of the fluid was gone. Then he laid the filly down gently in the straw, listened to her lungs and the raced to his vehicle to get her drugs to help her breathe. Only one lung was functioning so she was given a steroid to increase her respiration rate. This would give her body the oxygen it needed to survive.

While he was off getting the drug, I began toweling her off. She snaked her neck, flattened her ears and tried to bite me, showing her disapproval at my intrusion into her space. I laughed at her and breathed a sigh of relief. I felt with her kind of spunk we would be ok. The filly wanted to not only live but do it on her terms. Whatever it took, we would get through it with a will to live like that.

Once the filly was administered the injection of steroids, the vet checked the mare and both foals thoroughly. The bunched up tissue I had been worried about turned out to be nothing more than the placenta. It came out differently than normal because each twin had had its own half of it and then there had been a common wall that had separated the two foals. When the first foal was born that common wall tore apart and his portion of the placenta presented right behind him and the filly’s portion came behind her.

Since twins are like premature or dysmature foals (even though these were full term), they are more susceptible to the issues that face newborns. Extra precautions to insure their safety were called for so he stitched their umbilical stumps closed

It was obvious that neither foal would be nursing on its own anytime soon even though both had good sucking reflex. Dave was sent off to the house to get a receptacle for the mare’s milk and warm water etc to wash the mare’s utter as we prepared to milk the mare and tube feed the foals.

Through all of this activity around her babies, the maiden Arabian mare responded like a trooper. Even though she was exhausted and somewhat confused about what had just happened to her, she watched our activity intently but did nothing to interfere. Dave put a halter on Vee and held her. She remained quiet throughout as Dr Gillette proceeded to wash her utter and then to milk her collecting the valuable colostrum..

Once the two cup measure was full to the top, Jack took a tiny tube that’s normally used for tubing goats and attached a funnel to the end, then threading the tube down the filly’s tiny throat and into her stomach. When it was in place, he instructed Dave to pour the mixture rapidly so that the colustrum didn’t have time to separate from the milk and each foal would get they amount of the precious liquid they needed.

As they worked on project, I held the mare. As I stood there I realized that she was licking my hands pretty intently. It dawned on me she was doing it because I was covered in amniotic fluid. I headed over toward the colt using my hand as a lure I brought the mare to him. I placed my hand on his body with her licking all the while and gradually removed my hand. That left the mare licking and bonding with the newborn colt.

Once Dave and Jack were done tubing the first foal, we traded babies. They repeated the tubing procedure with the colt as I went to introducing the filly to her mother. I used the same technique with my hand to get the mare’s head down to the foal and before you know it she was bonding with that one too. There was still a lot to do.

To Be continued...
Part 4


  1. Mikael this is really making intriguing and emotional reading, you really write well.

    My bottle baby didnt get the colostrum, we were never sure because we did not know if the mare had a small amount of milk or none at all in the beginning because it was over 24 hours before we realised what was happening it was too late by then because they need it within the first 12 hours 24 at the most. I ended up getting Plasma and having to give her a transfusion at about 5 weeks because she was slowly dying, legs swelling and it looked as if I was going to lose her. My husband found some info online and spoke to a company that supplied it and told them that our vet had said it would not help at that stage, they actually flew the plasma to me overnight all free of charge and told me that they would send a second lot if we needed it just to prove to the vet that it does work even that late in the foals life. He is now a believer and I will forever be indebted to them for their help because I would never have been able to afford to do it. The plasma probably costs in the region of $300 or $400 and the shipping costs probably another $75 or thereabouts. If you ever need the name of someone who supplies that sort of product I have one, keep that in mind.

    Looking forward to the next issue and hope you are well and the hand is healing nicely.


  2. Thanks, Lori, I really do enjoy writing. I'm hoping to get some free lance work published here soon. It would be nice to turn my horse experiences into some funds to support this herd. I'm sick of selling on ebay to pay my bills.

    I have had to transfuse a couple of foals. Actually, Vee, the twins' mom was one of them. She's also the foal that was upside down that I turned. Odd co-incidence don't you think.

    Friends of mine here had a pinto filly this year that didn't get transfused until late like your foal, she's doing great now too.

    I can't believe that company was so helpful. That is just awesome!!! Give me their name and I'll find a way to plug put up a link for them. They deserve it.

  3. Thanks so much I will dig out their file and give you their details, I really need to let them have updated pictures of her. I told them that if they ever needed stock photos for their brochures or whatever, I would do my best to supply them free of charge, my only way of thanking them. They havent taken me up on it yet but maybe I need to give them a gentle reminder that the offer still stands.

  4. Here are the details of the people who helped us with the foal. I have sent them an e-mail updating them on her progress and sent a picture of her and confirmed the offer still stands for photos.

    Mg Biologics

    2366 270th St.
    Ames, Iowa 50014

    Phone: 515-769-2340
    Fax: 515-769-2390