Monday, January 29, 2007

Reflections of Foaling Season 2006 - The Twins Part 7

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Unfortunately, when I reached Dr Gillette he was on his way to the emergency room with his 90+ year old father who had nearly cut his hand off with a table saw. Even though Jack couldn’t come then to see the filly, he made arrangements for one of his techs to come by and get her started on antibiotics immediately.

It was late that evening when Jack arrived to check out the filly. By this time, the stump of her umbilicus was enlarged to about the size of my first digit on my thumb and her temperature was rising though still not alarming. She was also dehydrated. Even though I had continued to wake her and keep her nursing, she had evidently not nursed with enough vigor to get the milk she required. Jack milked the mare and tube feed the filly and gave her another injection of the antibiotic.

He, then, called Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital to consult. The veterinarians there recommended a resection of the foal’s navel. Since they couldn’t put a surgical team together until the next day, I had until morning to make a decision.

The estimated cost of the surgery was $3,000 and then there were the additional charges for hospitalization. Those charges were $1,500 for the first day and $1,000 a day after that. They required half paid up front and the rest upon discharge.

I spent a good portion of the night making phone calls, borrowing money to give the filly a chance. The rest of the time, I spent force feeding the filly with a dose syringe, making sure that she was getting her three ounces of milk every two hours so she didn’t become dehydrated again.

Over that night I realized that mare’s behavior toward the twins had changed. One of the characteristics of Arabian horses is their extreme sensitivity. Evidently Vee knew the filly was in trouble and she became more protective of her. If the filly was laying down and the colt was standing, she would force the colt to the off side from the filly, always keeping herself in between the colt and the resting filly. If the filly was on her feet, it was ok for him to be with her. If the colt was down and the filly was standing, the mare wasn’t concerned with them being on the same side of her. They could be together and the filly would drop down and immediately the mare would chase the colt to the off side.

Another thing that began to happen with the mar during this time was she wouldn’t let the colt nurse until the filly had nursed. She seemed to sense that the filly was having trouble getting all the milk she needed. So if both foals rose to nurse at the same time, the mare would drive the colt off, not allowing him to nurse until the filly was finished.

This angered the colt and when the mare did allow him to nurse, if the milk was slow in coming, he kicked the mare ferociously. She corrected him with a push on his croup but he continued kicking her. Finally, the mare had had enough and she dove at him and kicked him back. While she looked like she was being vicious (ears flattened and teeth bared), she really only kicked him with enough force to make her point. The kick startled him. It set him a little off balance but was not hard enough to send him flying or knock him down. After that, if she warned him, he listened.

In the morning, Jack came back over to give Surprise another injection and check her vital signs. She was already responding to the antibiotic and acting more normal. The swelling in her umbilical stump was no longer growing.

Between my emergency fund, show fund and the money I borrowed, I had enough money together for the surgery but not for a few days of treatment but I figured I would work that out somehow. So Jack contacted the hospital and made arrangements for our arrival and the filly’s surgery.

My friend, Lilli Fletcher, hauled us in her rig. She arrived her planning on talking me out of trying to save the filly. But once she saw the condition the filly was in, she could understand why I was not ready to euthanize her.

Before we left we installed a barrier to the front partition of the slant load trailer. The barrier was made of a 2x4 with thick carpet attached to it. It hung down to the floor so the foals couldn’t get underneath the mare’s legs.

We loaded the mare in facing backwards so she could see her babies. Then closed the partition to keep her in place. I stayed on the other side with both foals. Not soon after we started on our journey both foals laid down. I move them up close to mom and sat there between them on the floor. The two-hour trip was relatively uneventful except for the bumping around. We all did ok but I was sure glad when we arrived at the hospital.

When we arrived at Pilchuck, Lilli went inside to get help unloading knowing that the twins would be leaping out wanting to investigate. I think the docs thought she was nuts. These were sick newborn twins after all – they had a preconceived notion of what kind of shape these babies were in..

It was a good thing we had help. Surprise tried to make a run for it to check out the mare and foal turned out in a nearby paddock. Trouble was going wherever his sister was and of course, Vee wasn’t letting her babies out of her sight. It took five of us to get them into the hospital.

Before they began treating the filly, they weighed the mare and her foals and did all of their vital signs. The mare weighed 750 lbs which was no too bad for an Arabian mare that had just given birth to twins. Trouble was 53 pounds and Surprise was 48. I had estimated her weight to be about five pounds less than his and I was right on the money. They were all in much better condition than the doctors or vet assistants had expected.

The filly was sedated and laid out on a towel in a corner of the stall. The vets were amazed to see Vee keeping the colt behind her and away from the filly.

They shaved Surprise’s neck and inserted a catheter for meds and fluids. An ultrasound was done on Surprise’s umbilicus and they found an artery and a vein on the inside larger than normal. Part of the problem was the norm was established using normal full term thoroughbred foals so our baseline was skewed since these were twin Arabian foals. While we knew the measurement should be smaller for this individual, we had not idea how much smaller was appropriate. Every indication, however, suggested that the umbilicus had not formed properly and was leaking toxins into the filly. This was the source of the navel ill also know as septicemia . A re-section of the umbilicus was in order.

The problem was the surgery would probably kill her. The vets were not willing to do the surgery on the filly in her present condition. They would have gladly performed it had she been in such deplorable condition she was going to die anyway, but this filly was far too healthy to be subjected to the trauma of surgery. Their best recommendation was to keep her hospitalized, ramp up the antibiotics and get her stabilized buying time for her to grow large enough to be able to withstand the surgery at some later date.

To be continued...
Part 8


  1. As riveting as ever Mikael. I will wait with bated breath for the next installment. Boy you sure had a time of it with her but I know how you feel, I would have done anything for my baby if it meant a chance of not losing her.

    Hope that hand is giving you less discomfort and healing nicely.

    Will check in tomorrow


  2. Wow. An amazing story. I'm not a breeder so I have no experience with any of this. I do have a friend who bred Arabians for years and had her mare die eight hours after delivering a filly. She ended up hand feeding the filly every two hours. She says she was exhausted, but had a very special bond with the filly for the rest of her years.