Our foal crop 2023 is unfortunately very small. Actually, two foals were planned, or even two and a half if you count Cosi in France. She had been bred to Country Boy, just like the year before. In late summer last year she was confirmed in foal by ultrasound, but must have resorbed. In late winter/spring there was no sign of a foal. Meanwhile she is in foal again to Country Boy for a foal in 2024.
Our little Princesa Roja was in France for training and some shows last year. But it became more and more obvious that she did not enjoy the shows at all (and probably even more so the associated diet), I took her out of training sooner than planned. Instead she was sent to Holland to be bred. We had three beautiful fillies by “Jace” (EBF John’s Extasy), so another one would have been great. But unfortunately the plan didn’t work out. Since it was already relatively late in the year, Princesa didn’t even get in season and I had her brought home.
Number three to be bred was Fashion. The chosen stallion was “Walking D’s Kewpies Gaspar”, a triple registered American Shetland stallion, leased from Denmark and at stud at Gestüt Moritzberg (Bavaria). He is interesting from a breeding point of view mainly because of his color (Perlino Pinto) and his easy-going nature. Fashion did not get in foal at the first covering, came only slowly into the next heat and then the stallion was almost on his way home to the north. Time was running out and at this point I didn’t have much hope that she did get in foal and had her brought home, too.
At the photo shoot in August she looked surprisingly “roundish”maternal”, so that I thought she might be in foal after all. And great was the joy when the ultrasound in October actually showed a lively embryo! Her belly grew steadily and with it the expectation (or fear?) of a big colt. After several fillies in a row, statistically we would have been due for a colt. On June 3, the secret was revealed. In broad daylight in the afternoon, the halter alarm went off and we had barely time to bring her inside. In a quick textbook birth, a surprisingly small and refined foal was born.
The color was no great surprise – a buckskin just as ordered! And the second look – it’s a girl, yay :-). The little filly stood super fast on her own wobbly little legs. But that was it with the textbook procedure. Normally the foal should look for the udder and start nursing quite soon, but nothing happened there. She was not really looking and certainly not drinking.
Every horse breeder surely knows the 1-2-3 rule: foal stands after 1 hour, foal drinks after 2 hours, afterbirth is passed after 3 hours. Our foal stood after 10 minutes, the afterbirth was passed about 1 hour, only nursing was not happening even after several hours went by. As a breeder you become quite nervous really soon watching this and fear for your newborn foal to fade away and die before it ever took its first real steps.
We have tried pretty much everything that you can do in this situation:
- Hold the mare so that the foal can get to the udder … Foal said “Udder? I’m not interested in this!”
- Keep directing foal under belly and holding to udder … Foal said “No, I don’t want to go into that dark corner under the belly, leave me alone!”
- Milk off a little bit off colostrum and carefully put it in foal’s mouth with a disposable syringe … Foal clenched her (barely visible) teeth and said “Ew, I don’t want that and I certainly don’t want it out of the syringe!”
- Milk off some more colostrum, put it in a bottle with a nipple and hold it in foal’s mouth … Foal said, “Ugh, I don’t like that old rubber thing!”
- New plan: Madigan Squeeze (a procedure every breeder should know, sort of a reset and repeat of the birthing process) … easier said than done, but we least tried, yet real success was still missing.
- Remembering the Pavo SOS package bought some time ago exactly for this reason (contains foal milk and colostrum), mix according to package insert, fill in aforementioned bottle with rubber nipple and off with it to the foal … whereupon foal said “Are you crazy!?!! The old rubber thing again and the wrong milk on top of it, go away!”.
In the end it took several hours and human support in the form of dear Elsa, who held the foal very persistently again and again to the udder until she figured out what she was supposed to be doing. The satisfied smacking and swallowing sounds are probably among the very best things for every horse breeder :-).
After the somewhat bumpy start in life, the search for a suitable name was not so difficult. This year it’s R’s turn and after the little lady knows only rest or full throttle, she will be registered as “DelSastre Gaspar’s Razzmatazz”, barn name Resi … or also Rasi ;-). For now she can grow and prosper and in autumn she will be available to a new home.
What I learned from this:
- You should use a long soft rope ready for the Madigan Squeeze with only a loop at the end, no carabiner or other hook or snap. The carabiner is too rigid and guaranteed to hurt the foal somewhere.
- Provide a small bottle with a small nipple. The bottle included in the Pavo SOS package is large and certainly suitable for a large warmblood foal. It is way too big for a mini foal and the nipple is also much too large.