Could I save this foal's life? Please help... - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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Could I save this foal's life? Please help...

I can't stop thinking I could...

Just a note: I know absolutely NOTHING about foaling, I have never foaled a horse before, never even watched anyone else doing it, I was absolutely unprepared, I have never even read about how to foal a horse, which is something I will terribly regret forever...

Well... Today I came to the stable (huge sport horse stable with around 100 horses), it was a warm sunny day so I was surprised I was there alone. Suddenly a little girl (who was visiting the stable just to see horses) came running to me that a pony was giving birth. I went to have a look and I saw the mare in distress. I called several numbers but nobody was responding, until I finally got someone on the phone and he said he will tell the owner to come. I was glad someone will be coming soon but then I realised it might not be soon enough. I was just standing and watching, I had no idea whether I should be doing something or not but I thought if I'll just let things happen on their own I'd probably do less damage than if I tried to interfere. Then I saw the legs being out completely (I have no idea whether they were the front legs or hinds legs though) and I freaked out, I knew someone who knows what to do has to come NOW so I ran out of the stable into the main building with an office where someone usually is but not today as it was Sunday... I ran through the building calling for the owner, stablemen, other horse riders but nobody was there, it was empty so I ran back to the stable while calling several numbers again and luckily got another person on the phone who said he will come right away. When I arrived back in the stable (I was out for maybe 1 or 2 minutes maximum) I found the foal being outside completely, covered in what I now learned is an amniotic sac. I had no idea what to do, all the videos and images of a foal being born that I've seen so far didn't show this, I didn't know whether to rapture it, whether the mother should bite through it... Then it hit me, he needs to BREATHE so I jumped in and tore it, freed his head and started to clean his nose and mouth so he could take in his first breath. But he didn't... He seemed to be gasping for air (he choked approximately every 10 seconds - but no air was coming in or out of his mouth which was wide open, it seemed as if he wanted to cough but couldn't), he was lying absolutely lifeless, just his chest was moving and heart beating. He was still connected with the mare by the umbilical cord. At that point I knew something was terribly wrong and something had to be done but I really had no idea what to do! The other person I got on the phone (another rider) came and started to clean the foal (his mother was licking him by now) but didn't know what else to do either... He called the owner who said was on his way and all he told us was to clear the horse's nose and mouth, which I already did but we did it again anyway, it wasn't obstructed so we just sat there and waited and protected the foal from the mother who was trying to get her baby to move and accidentally kicked it (not too hard though) a few times. Then more people started to come, after 10 minutes there were about 10 people watching and "trying to help" but nobody knew what to do and at that point it was probably pointless to do anything anymore anyway... The foal stopped gasping, though his heart kept on beating for another 5 - 10 minutes rather strongly so people kept on cleaning him, trying to squeeze water out of his lungs, somebody lifted him up in the air by his hind legs hoping water would flow out of his mouth and nose, another person tried to breathe air into his mouth... But by the time the owner arrived, some 15 - 20 minutes after he was born, his heart wasn't beating anymore. I remember he was still warm but not so much as he was a while ago... The owner thanked people for their efforts, took the body away and everyone got back to whathever they were doing before... It seems as if everyone took it as it is - a foal died and we couldn't do anything - but I couldn't accept that and cried and asked myself thousand times if there was something that I actually could have done. Maybe it's because I was there first but I have a strong feeling that if I did something I that didn't know to do the foal may have been running around right now... I know he didn't die because of me because if I wasn't there he would die absolutely certainly, I didn't harm him in any way or do something to prevent him from breathing, I just feel like I could help much more than I did... I've been sitting here by the PC and googling for over two hours but I can't find answers to any of my questions. That's why I decided to reveal the whole story here and hope for "truthful" advices and ideas of people who do have expriences with foaling and who know about the complications that may occur. I hope I won't be yelled at that I didn't do the right thing to save him... Because trust me, had I known what to do - I would have done anything in my powers to keep him alive. If anyone would tell me on the phone - do this and that - I would do that without hesitation, but nobody else knew what to do either.

Anyway... I wanted to know about this white thing covering the foal, I found out it is called amniotic sac and many websites say it should not be raptured, or that it doesn't matter whether it is or not. On the other hand another website says it absolutely HAS to be raptured the second the foal's head comes out of the mare (or even while he's inside) to prevent him from breathing in water which only seems logical to me. HOWEVER another website says the foal won't take its first breath as long as it is still fully "packed" in the sac, claiming the foal will only try to breathe when exposed to air. So by this "googling" I'm really getting nowhere... I feel like had I been in the stable at the second he came out and had I broken the sac at that very moment he would breathe fine. I feel like he swallowed water because I tore it one minute too late and he couldn't breathe anymore... I remember seeing the umbilical cord still leading into the mother's uterus, which means the foal should still be getting oxygen from the mother at that point but then the placenta came out too. Anyway, I don't even know if it matters... I just want to know - what went wrong? Is it possible he swallowed water? Would that cause him to be unable to breathe? What should have been done to get the water out and help him breathe? Should the amniotic sac have been raptured or not? Did I make a mistake by not rapturing it the second I found the foal enclosed in it? I did tear it within less than a minute since I first saw him out but... I can't stop thinking that's where I messed up. I know he would have died if I wasn't there anyway. But... Could I save this foal's life?
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post #2 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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I just found this:
In regard to care of the newborn foal, the first thing to do is make sure the foal is breathing. If struggling by the foal does not tear the fetal sac, the foaling attendant should rip it and expose the foal's nose.
I have to say he was never struggling. He was lying there lifeless since the second I saw him which must have been seconds after he was born. This makes me so sad...
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post #3 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:39 PM
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I am sure a lot of people who are not involved in breeding programms would not have done much better than you.. might be it was not a foal to live though... sometimes happens.
What worries me more is why was nobody around the farm, when at least one mare is due to foal, and why there was no Vets? Nobody had a phone number?
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post #4 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:44 PM
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First of all, I am so sorry that you had to witness something as traumatic as this. In life these types of things can happen, and being born on a dairy farm I got to see similar things happen plenty with cows, resulting in both death and life. Without knowing what was wrong with it, it's hard to say what you could have done. Usually the amniotic sac with rupture, or the mare will tear it once the foal is out. In certain situations it needs to be removed immediately, but generally nature will take action and the mother will remove it.

Generally speaking, it is in the animal's best interest to rupture it and begin to dry it off if the mother is not already doing so. When a mother is licking their foal, it actually aids in not only drying the foal, but getting it to breath and move. With calves that are not responding, I've seen people dump a bucket of chilled water on them to shock their system and get them to take a breath, and it has worked. (Of course only advisable if it is not already cold outside.) Also there is hanging them upside down and swinging the calf, or taking a towel and rubbing on it. It sounds like most of these things you did for the foal, and sometimes even this will not be enough. Sometimes even full veterinary care is not enough to save a foal that is just not strong enough to live.

Could that foal have been saved? Perhaps, but it is something you will never know, and have to accept. I would not be too burdened by this, as with nature death is just as much apart of it is life. Now you might be better off than you were prior to this experience, and have more knowledge to help other people understand. The responsibility for this foal's life fell into the hands of the owner, who should have been more vigilant in watching his or her mare. It was very responsible of you to try and call someone, and try and help, but you can't let it burden you. As others might have said, maybe this foal was just not meant to live. And with animals you'll have that. With a large facility there should have been someone experienced near. When we had our dairy, with 300+ cattle, we always had eyes on the cows who were near to calving. There was always someone out there if a cow was struggling, and could help them deliver or call a vet. Horses may be a different game, and yes, we've lost cattle, but it was the stable's fault, certainly not your's.
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post #5 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:50 PM
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you're so awesome for jumpin in and tryin to save that foal!! Totally not your fault at all-- you tried to get the foal breathing.. don't beat yourself up about it--you did the right thing when no one else even cared.

What cherrij said though-- where was every one when they knew the mare was about to drop? Crazy!
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post #6 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by toto View Post
Youre so awesome for jumpin in and tryin to save that foal!! Totally not your fault at all-- you tried to get the foal breathing.. don't beat yourself up about it--you did the right thing when no one else even cared.

What cherrij said though-- where was every one when they knew the mare was about to drop? Crazy!
If everyone knew when a foal was going to be dropped there wouldn't be thousands of posts in the foaling threads asking 'when'........this could've happened at midnight with the same result. Fact is, not all barns can be supervised 24/7.........
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post #7 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 03:11 PM
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The best addition to any foaling a kit, a crystal ball!

Sometimes there is nothing you can do, foaling is not all cute fluffy foals, it is also little dead bodies, very very sad, but they are so fragile, and not all make it through the birth process.

Sounds like everyone did all they could, sorry the little one died.
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post #8 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Golden Horse View Post
The best addition to any foaling a kit, a crystal ball!

Sometimes there is nothing you can do, foaling is not all cute fluffy foals, it is also little dead bodies, very very sad, but they are so fragile, and not all make it through the birth process.

Sounds like everyone did all they could, sorry the little one died.
Exactly -- how many experienced breeders have told the tale of the foal that appeared in the five minutes they were away from the monitor or was standing in the stall next to mom who showed NO sign of foaling at the last check, in fact looked so unready to foal that the experienced breeder decided this was not the night/day and had left the farm only to come back hours later and find a foal? It can happen to anyone.
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post #9 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 03:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all... I was afraid people would be mad at me for not doing more... Nobody in the stable was, they thanked me for calling others and being there when no one else was, but still I feel a bit of a guilt - I should have stayed there when I saw the legs coming out and break the sac as soon as the head was out. Indeed in most cases it breaks itself (as I've now learned) but it didn't this time - and I was there and could have broken it. That still wouldn't guarantee the foal would live, I know that but I would definitely understand if anyone wanted to be angry at me for not doing that and giving the foal a bigger chance... We have this saying "the lack of knowledge is no excuse" - it basically means you can't excuse yourself by saying "but I didn't know", cause "you simlpy SHOULD HAVE KNOWN"... Anyway I will know for future, I have watched maybe 30 foaling videos and read several articles about foaling now and given there won't be any serious complications that a vet would need to be called for I think I know what to expect now. I know what it looks like, what should and shouldn't be done, I know the sac MUST be broken and I know not to leave the mare alone. Not even for 30 seconds...

Regarding the empty stable - it is a very big stable and usually full of people, as I said before I was very surprised nobody was around. But as I wrote in my previous post - within 10 minutes many people gathered around, a lot of them my friends that I meet there every day - so I think it was just a very rare moment of everyone needing to leave for a while to do something at the same time - I know a few people were in the manege, a few people were in the upper stable (it would take me much longer to get there, I was only running around the stable where the mare was), the stablemen MUST have been somewhere around too - probably in the hay storage, where I didn't remember to go, I did go to their room in the main building where they hang out, shower, have a coffee etc., where they usually are when not working around the horses, but it was empty... The poor foal was born exactly in those 5 minutes when I was the only one around. As for the owner - I know he is a very good person, he takes care of all of his horses very well, he was very sad and upset after this happened but he was still kind to everyone around - he didn't blame anyone for not taking care of the foal while he was gone, I'm sure he blames only himself for his death. Generally from 6 am till 10 pm the place looks like an ant hill - there are 7 trainers, 4 stablemen, many experienced riders and students, over a hundred horse owners - there's always someone around when you need extra hay, to fix the water bowl, to have your horse's legs checked after training cause he knocked a bar down hard and you're not sure if he injured himself or not... By that I'm not saying there weren't things they could have and probably should have done... I'm just saying they're not ignorant and careless people as it may have come out like that. They could have installed a camera into the stall or have a stableman come and check on the mare regularly... Though the latter wouldn't help anyway unless he would happen to come the second the baby came out. The camera on the other hand neither, unless someone would watch it 24/7. This is just a tragedy and a very sad case where unfortunate things happened together and were left for unknowledgable people to fix them...

I know things happen, s... happens, I have seen dead animals and have animals I loved and was attached to die in front of me - the thing that took me so hard was that so much responsibility was on me and that I (maybe) could have saved him. Which I have never had a chance to do before with any other dying animal, so I was able to accept the fact they were leaving "better". When you feel like they don't need to go, like there still is something to do - but you can't do it, it feels much worse...

Anyway, thank you once more for all the insight, I definitely don't feel like I'd be able to foal a horse easily now but I think if this happens again I will be able to act faster, calmer and will know certain things I should do and watch out for. Thank you...
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post #10 of 18 Old 04-14-2013, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Muppetgirl View Post
If everyone knew when a foal was going to be dropped there wouldn't be thousands of posts in the foaling threads asking 'when'........this could've happened at midnight with the same result. Fact is, not all barns can be supervised 24/7.........
This is what's going through my head. There really wasn't much possibility for everyone to stand around for hours and days and just wait for the moment... I was thinking, what if this happened at night? The foal would have ZERO chance of survival. Poor little thing. Even poorer his mom who kept on calling him for over an hour until she went silent and seemed to accept the fact he's not coming back again. She's such a little sweetheart, children love her to bits.
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