Gelding's & Foals
Today was about as awful as awful comes.
Like I said before, I've been mare-sitting for two different people the past few weeks off and on because of business related travel. Yesterday we had a temperature drop from about 70 degrees in the morning, to 21 degrees by nightfall. Needless to say all the automatic water buckets were frozen in the barn stalls.
Well, the 338 day pregnant mare is in a wonderful paddock with a super nice shelter filled with straw and plenty of alfalfa. This foaling pen has a gate that separates it from the arena and a surrounding pasture. So due to the the inside automatic water buckets being frozen, the owner and I made an executive decision to turn the 4 geldings and a young mare out in the pasture/arena adjacent to the foaling pen so they could have access to a big tank to drink from. This morning at around 8am the mare had made some changes overnight in terms of milk, but her tail head was still pretty resistant. So I thought she would wait to foal until her owners got home tonight and then I would no longer half to worry and fret over her :)
I get a panicked call from the owners at 11:30am saying that the neighbor called with news that the mare had just foaled and that the 5 horses had broken through the gate into the foaling pen. The even more horrifying news was that one of the geldings was viciously attacking the barely born foal. I'm talking grabbing the baby by the neck and throat and throwing it into the air, stomping and kneeling on it in a complete frenzy trying to kill it. The poor mare didn't even have time to stand up and bond with her first foal, and she was screaming helplessly trying to keep the gelding off her baby. Absolutely the most awful situation. By the time I got there the neighbor had managed to get the gelding (who had also turned on him) and all the horses out of the foaling pen.
Baby was laying in the mud shivering and shaking violently. By that time the vet was already pulling in, so we grabbed the foal and rushed it inside the house into the warmth. It's body temperature was 94 degrees (if you don't know, normal temp for a baby is 99.9-101ish) and it was laying pretty listless with it's eyes closed. A beautiful sorrel colt with a unique blaze, what a horrible way to come into this world.
We frantically grabbed heating pads, warm water bottles, towels, anything to to try to stabilize this poor baby that was not looking good at all. Fluids and antibiotics were administered and a catheter was placed. It took 1.5 hours to get his temp up enough where we could transport him to the university teaching hospital. Once there, initial findings were muscle damage and three broken ribs, and a laceration on his sternum. Surprisingly, no broken bones or brain damage...and no internal bleeding or organ damage was found on ultrasound as of yet. They are tubing him with colostrum and have penned him next to his sweet mama (who retained her placenta, just wonderful) and started him again on fluids and supportive therapy. He's having a hard time standing, but bless his heart...I don't blame him. The next 12 hours are crucial, so please be praying.
Moral of the story, and the reason I'm sharing....PLEASE. If you don't know if your geldings are newborn foal friendly, SEPARATE them as far away as possible and take all precautions to ensure that they cannot get to the mare and baby. The outcome could have been MUCH worse, and we could have had a dead foal. I know stallions in the wild will kill off foals that are not their own so they don't compete with their genetics. I guess the gelding still had that instinct. This is the sweetest and most kid friendly gelding, who gets along well with all their other horses. But something clicked today, and he was not his normal sweet docile gelding self. Regardless, it is the most horrific and helpless thing you can watch. Please be praying this little guy will pull through. And please please please let your mare foal where there is not a chance of a freak gelding getting to it.