Foal lucky to be alive after troubled birth

Summertime is prime time for mares giving birth, but, as with any species of animal, things can go wrong during this process.

Once a mare goes into the second stage of labour, the uterine contractions really start, and the birth of the foal is usually complete within 20 minutes.

This is a more forceful and explosive process than the births of sheep, cows or dogs.

One of our equine vets, Keesjan Cornelisse, recently attended a relatively rare post-foaling complication.

A cob mare had a prolapsed uterus after foaling.

Her uterus had turned inside out and come out of the mare.

As the uterus was replaced, the mare suffered an associated fatal complication of birth and ruptured a uterine artery.

The foal, however, was alive and well but without a mother, and the owners were not in a position to rear the foal.

Keesjan brought the colt foal, now named Lucky, back to Fairmoor Equine Clinic.

The rearing of an orphan foal is challenging.

First, it needs mare’s colostrum to ensure it has enough antibodies to protect against disease, provide energy and act as a laxative to get the bowel moving and pass the first faeces, called meconium.

Keesjan was able to give the foal colostrum from the mare.

The foal’s antibody (IgG) levels were tested after 16 hours and the result came back at the highest level, proving the foal had received plentiful good-quality colostrum.

The nurses at the clinic and Keesjan worked around the clock, feeding Lucky every two hours.

He was fed powdered milk specifically made for horses, which was mixed with warm water.

The milk must be mixed well or else it can lead to diarrhoea.

He learned to drink from a bucket early on and, as he grew, we gradually increased the volume.

Lucky has now returned home and will hopefully find an equine companion in an older gelding.

It is vital that orphan foals learn to socialise with other horses and learn how to interact.

It can be a dangerous time when the foal is first introduced as they are still quite vulnerable, so they must be watched closely.

It is important that orphan foals see horses as their peers and not humans or they may become very boisterous.

We wish Lucky all the best with his new friends!