Our 15 year old Morgan mare R’surene
Xena was given a 50% chance of carrying a foal to term. The last foal Xena had successfully carried was the Caduceus Denver
son R’surene Dante in 2007. We wanted to get a final foal from her so we crossed her to our stallion Ken-Mar Winston.
After an unsettling pregnancy, Xena delivered a black filly ten days after her due date. R’surene Kassandra was born
very large and lively but did not know how to nurse or suck. I had seen this phenomenon before; we old timers call it a “dummy”
foal. “Dummy” foals generally die after a few days. Lucky for us we lived only 35 miles from the new Neo-Natal
unit at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Equine Center.
A staff of three doctors and eight
veterinary students began in earnest to save the black filly. They informed me that although the filly had been born at term
she was actually two weeks premature. I was told Kassie had only a 20% chance to live; the cost to try to save her was in
the upper $3000 range. As in life, there are no guarantees. Looking at the dying filly and Xena’s anxious glances at
me wanting me to do SOMETHING, I felt I had no choice and agreed to let UT try to save the foal.
Through the noise of machines and seeing her baby on a gurney, Xena remained uncharacteristically calm and steadfast
with her eyes never leaving the foal. After working two hours injecting plasma, antibiotics, and glucose intravenously into
her neck and placing a feeding tube down her esophagus Kassie was allowed to be with her mother. I showed the students how
to milk Xena so Kassie could have her mother’s milk. We had done all we could to give this filly a chance at life. The
rest was up to Kassie and the doctors.
Xena and Kassie were in the ICU for nine days. During
that time the students taught Kassie how to nurse so all I had to do when we took her home was get her to take antibiotic
pills. I managed that by crushing the pills in Karo syrup, placing it in a syringe and letting the mixture slowly dribble
into her mouth. After three days Kassie came to the stall door when I asked if she wanted her “medicine”. Chris
took a video of Kassie happily slurping her medicine; it is posted on my facebook page.
was two weeks old and doing well when I delivered another pregnant mare to UT. R’surene Carasu had broken her knee three
years before and we were afraid that she would have problems foaling. While Carasu was being placed in the ICU so she would
be monitored at all times, Chris noticed a cute black quarter horse foal and its mother. He was told that the mother had inoperable
colic and was about to be euthanized thereby leaving the four day old foal an orphan. I was asked if I had experience in nurse
mares. Fortunately I had experience transferring orphan foals to other mares and thought I could give it a try. Despite the
concerns we still had with Kassie and her future, it seemed fated that Xena was the exact mare needed most at that time.
High Flying Firewater aka BamBam was delivered to our farm late on a Saturday night. Scared and hungry, BamBam stumbled
over to the large bay mare in the darkened stall and immediately thrust his nose into her flank, trusting she would accept
him. We all held our breath. Despite her alarm at the people and the strange foal in her stall Xena seemed to know that the
baby was in trouble and would die without her help. Miraculously Xena accepted the orphan with only one
slight lift of a hoof issued more in puzzlement than as a threat. There was more than one tear shed in that stall as the sounds
of a contentedly nursing foal were heard. This was the last mare we would ever expect to calmly accept
a new situation. Xena had been rarely handled in her life due to her untamable nature. We conditioned Xena and the foals to
each other by putting up small pens in the large stall to hold the babies. They were first allowed to nurse alternatively;
Xena was content to have any foal relieve the milk pressure and the fact that both foals were black may have been a factor;
BUT maybe a bit of a miracle was there as well. It took several days to cement the bond but Xena now had two foals and she
accepted little BamBam as her own.
BamBam was a month old on July 1; Kassie was six
weeks old on July 3. They are truly brother and sister. They play together, they eat together and they nurse from Xena at
the same time. This past month the “family” has become celebrities on facebook. There is talk about them having
their own facebook page. It is enough to know that they are healthy and happy running in the pasture.
|BamBam on left; Kassie on right