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Kim's Foal Watch Diary 2008 Season

We had such a lot of nice feedback last season about Kim's Foal Watch Diary that we decided to carry on this season. So here you can read about some of the goings on at Aurum over the current season.

View Part 2 here...

Wednesday 1st October 2008

So foaling season is about to start at Aurum. We have a collection of mares all due about now, none of whom look imminent.

Expenses (Penny) who was actually 340 days on September the 28th is up with an alarm on but we are hoping that she hangs on for a few more days. On Monday the 29th she injured herself in an unusual way. At about 8 in the morning she was lying flat out having a sleep. As I was watching her she got up a little awkwardly. I thought that she was dripping milk but on closer inspection it was fresh blood. On even closer inspection she appeared to have 3 teats! She had somehow torn the skin from the inside of one nipple back in a triangle.

This required veterinary attention for suturing. It was a very difficult position for poor Des who had to get right in underneath to make the repair. We are unsure if it will all take but it is looking good at the moment. I would not like to be her right now though if a foal were feeding there! Last year Penny went 346 days but the year before it was 335 and even a few more days will make a difference to her healing.

The photo at right shows Penny with her sensational last season's colt, Simply Brilliant. He was snapped up very quickly.

Because we were so pleased with her last year's foal, Aurum Simply Brilliant, we duplicated the mating and she was put back to Aurum Brilliant Cut. I know that we are not the only ones waiting to see this foal as there are a couple of people who were sorry that they only saw Simply Brilliant after he was sold!

Also on the waiting list is Aurum Belle who is in foal to Weltmeyer. We have two super colts by Regardez Moi (one of whom is for sale) from this mare and are keen to see the results of this breeding.

However perhaps the most anticipated is the foal from Money Miss Spent (aka Orange Penny) as it should be the first by Aurum Remarquable otherwise known as Hewey. Penny was actually due on the 30th but looks in no hurry to oblige. Better Pine, also in foal to Aurum Remarquable, is due on the 6th of October but she also does not look close. It looks like the first Hewey baby may be born elsewhere as Stylish Odds, although the 3rd mare to be covered by Hewey, looks as though she may go a few days early.

That's 'Orange' Penny on the right. A real sweetie!

Our mare who had stringhalt last year (she's almost 100% better this year), Lucy (Rosewood Duelluta) is also in foal to Hewey but she is not due until the 23rd of October. She bagged up early at 300 days and so is on treatment (which appears to be working) to keep her hanging on.

The other two who are close for us, BP Montana and Cheval de Pas, will also create excitement as they will deliver the first foals by our other young stallion Aurum Rivière d’Or. He is going beautifully under saddle and will hopefully have his first competition start in the next few weeks (foals permitting).

We have a break until mid December and expect foals by Aurum Remarquable, Aurum Rivière d’Or, Weltmeyer, Jazz and Chacco Blue to take us through to February yet again!

BP Montana at right. She told us she was pretty tired of carting the big belly around!

Wednesday evening at feed time Lucy was very agitated so she joined her friend Penny (Expenses) by the house with an alarm on. I kept an eye on her but she does not look any closer than she has for the past few weeks. She does enjoy lying flat and getting me out to check her though!

Thursday 2nd October

This morning brought the news that the first foal by Aurum Remarquable (aka Hewey) had arrived at half past midnight! A big beautiful bay colt with a star very similar to his father's. I visited him during the day and measured a heart girth at 35” and length of 34”. I did not take our measuring stick but got a rough height of 42”. There was no doubt now that Hewey would father normal (if not large) sized foals.

On Thursday morning Penny had a small pinhead of wax, and her vulva was slack but not looking like ‘the foal was about to fall out’. By evening though she had a small drop of wax and she did look as though the foal could fall out! We had early tea ourselves to be ready for the nights events. Penny spent most of the evening walking around with her tail in the air, with the crew who had moved up to the ‘waiting area’ in tow. Tat, Montana and Belle have all moved up today with some changes or a due date passed. Orange Penny who was 340 days on the 30th still looks weeks away and went 352 days last year so she is still out in the ‘herd’.

At about 10 pm I was sitting watching as Penny walked over to the gate and stood there with her tail up yawning. I would love to know why they yawn but it is a pretty good indication to pick up the foaling kit and stand by, which I duly did!

10:30 and the floodgates opened although only with a dribble (yes I know, Richard already asked how the 'floodgates' could open with a 'dribble'!) so I brought Penny out. Sadly with the continued drought our foaling paddocks are in poor shape and the best grass cover is on our front ‘lawn’ so this is to be one of our foaling patches. The disadvantage of course is that the mum-to-be is instantly distracted by the desire to consume the aforementioned grass! Penny therefore was consumed by eating (sorry, couldn't resist) while walking around with ‘waters breaking’. Eventually she lay down and I was able to ascertain that there were in fact 2 legs and a head. However they were not exactly in a good position as the head was actually between the legs. The only time we have had a presentation like this before, the foal actually had a leg over its head and birth could not proceed until I had worked this out and corrected it.

Penny was doing the right thing and getting up and down in an attempt to correct things herself and making it difficult for us to work out the exact nature of the problem. However she stayed down long enough for me to determine that the legs were in the right place, just that the head and neck were between them. A quick wiggle of the legs to bring them together below the head and things moved along fairly well. At 10:50pm our first for the season had arrived. A chestnut colt with a big blaze and two hind stockings, our first chestnut by Aurum Brilliant Cut (also a first for Expenses) with granddad's (Brilliant Invader) blaze.

He was pretty strong and keen to get on with things while Penny had a rest. She knows there is nothing to do until junior is on his feet, and any way isn’t that what the slaves are for! So at 11:15 the colt was on his somewhat unstable feet and by midnight had his first drink.

We like to go into the stable once the afterbirth has been delivered but last year Penny retained her placenta for quite some time so at 12:50am when it did not look like shifting soon we headed in. The weigh and measure revealed that the colt was 57 kg and 39 3/8” high with a heart girth of 33” and a length of 32.25”.

At 1:15 he passed a good amount of meconium and had worked out how to lie down and get up on his own as well as helping himself to a feed. We did not collect colostrum from Penny due to her damaged udder but she did not seem to mind the foal drinking from that side when he eventually did.

At 1:40 the placenta was apparently still firmly attached so I gave Penny 1ml oxytocin by slow im. Nothing happened but mum and foal were happy so we left them for a while. By the third check at 3:48 the placenta had clearly detached somewhat but was still hanging in there, so a further oxy was given with pleasing results. The placenta weighed in at 5.5kg and although a little darker than normal was all present and looked pretty good given it had been ‘hanging around a while’.

So after all this excitement bed called the attendents and won!

Saturday 4th October

Tonight Montana was looking a real possibility for parturition.

She followed a similar pattern of walking around the paddock with ‘midwives’ in tow interspersed with the three standing together at the hay or in one corner. I say 3 as poor Lucy is not part of this gang, she was Penny's friend and now is a bit left out.

Once again the yawning started so I alerted Richard and prepared to bring Montana out. At 12:15 her membranes ruptured and so I brought her out with the same predictable result as Penny! However she had a bit more of a sense of urgency and lay down relatively quickly. We always like to ascertain the foals presentation as soon as possible as it gives you the best chance of correcting any problems or calling for professional help if required, or better still standing back and relaxing for a moment.

So as soon as Montana lay down I checked for the foal. One very large foot was all that I could feel for a moment and I instantly thought ‘Patch produces big foals too!’. I actually had a little difficulty finding the next part and to my dismay it was a nose not another hoof. The easiest correction to try first is too get the mare up so the foal slips back in a bit and then hope that the next attempt has a better presentation. Reluctantly Montana responded to Richard urging her to get to her feet and then when she next lay down I could feel a hoof and a nose and then another hoof. That was better but still not quite right but with a bit more encouragement (and I must say this was a pretty tight fit to be working with) the order was corrected so that the two feet were ahead of the nose. Poor Montana was straining pretty hard so we applied some traction and also helped ease the foals head out. With a bit of effort a large liver chestnut filly arrived at 12:30am.

She was in a hurry to get up unlike mum who needed a rest. The foal climbed around mum and kept getting in and around Montana’s legs which always worries us however Montana was happy not to move. We always steady them when they are ready to get up. We find if they get too tired when trying to stand, getting that first drink is that much harder. Usually I am the one that does this but I could see from the size of this girl that I would struggle so handed the task to Richard.
By 1am she was on her feet and in another 15minutes had her first feed. Montana is one of the few mares who has a well designed udder. The teats are very prominent and both stick well out to the sides. Mother and daughter both decided that it was time for a quick nap and then at 1:30 Montana hopped up leaving the afterbirth behind, so we headed in to the stable.

At 2am the first of the meconium appeared but it was in large hard stones so we needed to keep an eye on its progress (this can cause serious problems fairly quickly). This girl is pretty big and was having trouble organizing herself to lie down. As she was practically asleep on her feet Richard lay her down whereupon she was instantly out like a light. I also had to do this at a later check but by morning she had mastered the legs and the drink machine completely. The meconium was still causing an issue so at about 9:30am we gave her an enema which shortly after produced the desired result.

This young lady weighed in at 62kg and is 42.5” tall with a length of 33” and girth of 35.5”. She is a very big girl!

Sunday 12th October

Well it is now 10:20 pm Sunday the 12th of October and I am watching Aurum Belle closely. I was going to head for bed about 1/2 an hour ago to get some sleep while things were quite but at the last check Belle was walking around with her tail in the air and yawning. So I am stuck with watching now so I better catch up on this!

I must apologise for the gap since our last installment. We had a very busy few days. Both Major (out of Expenses and full brother to last years Mega) and Polly(-ana, out of Montana) are doing well and had their IgG done at 24 hours of age. The one for Major was as expected at >8mg/ml but we were surprised when the one for Polly did not clot until 17 minutes and so was between 4 & 8 mg/ml. As she appears pretty healthy and is in a clean environment we are not too worried but it is unusual for one of Montana's foals to have a low IgG.

Polly is exactly like her dad except for her liver chestnut colour, and like dad when he was born is down on her bumpers so she will need to stay in the stable until she strengthens up behind. We think that this is an indication of good movement conferred by a very good spring system through the pastern and fetlock. Every foal that we have had like this has moved very well.

Major in action!

Moving on through the week on Tuesday evening at feed up Cheval de Pas (aka Tatiana) had started to wax up. Last year she only did this on the night of foaling so we figured that the event was imminent.

(Jump to the present... as I'm writing this, I am going out to check Belle every 10 minutes as she is in a spot that I just cannot see from inside. It was, until about 20 minutes ago, a lovely balmy night, perfect for foaling. The wind has just come up to nearly gale force changing the complexion of the night somewhat! And she is now just standing with her tail to the wind.)

Now back to Tuesday. I watched Tat well into the early hours of Wednesday and as she was doing nothing and I was fading I decided that I could sneak a few of minutes sleep on the couch. You know what they say about the watched pot!

The alarm went off at 4am and I quickly was back out to her. She was lying down in the roll of hay and had 2 feet already presented. I checked that the nose was following and called Richard on the phone. I did not want Tat to foal where she was so was glad that she got to her feet. I moved her out onto the clean grassy area and at 4:08 a very dark brown filly arrived. This filly had a tiny star very similar to Polly. This marking appears to have come down the line through one of our foundation mares Begum Belle, the granddam of Rivière d’Or.

Even though Begum Belle actually had a large diamond shaped star at least 4 of her offspring have had this very characteristic small, almost half moon shaped star.

Once again this was a very big foal and both mother and daughter rested for a time. Tat was happy to wait for the filly, Patty, to get up before she bothered to do so herself. As the filly started to organize her legs, the chord was still firmly attached. In the foaling kit I have some short lengths of string ready in the event that we need to tie off a chord and scissors in case we need to cut one. We have never needed either but it was looking like this was the time. I had the string organized and was just feeling if the chord was thinning prior to breaking when the filly gave an extra lurch and at 4:24 broke the chord. So I still have the string and scissors ready for next time! Not long after that with Richard's help to stabilize her Patty was on her feet, somewhat like a rather large spider with legs everywhere.

Tat has the some of the smallest teats that you have ever seen on a horse so I always dread the next part however this young girl was pretty on the ball and by 5am had her first drink. This was rapidly followed by the arrival of the afterbirth which was all present and correct and weighed 6.5kg. So at 5:30 we had arrived in the stable after a bit of a shakey, legs everywhere, walk in. This foal is a dead ringer for her dad as a foal except that she has the star and only one white sock (without a patch). She is also down on her bumpers although perhaps less than Polly.

As we arrived in the stable the first of the meconium appeared and by 5:40 Patty was sound asleep. We always stay with them for at least an hour, not leaving until we know that the foal can get up and down and feed on their own. I then check them every hour or so through the night.

Patty weighed in at 60.5 kg and is 40 1/8th inches tall with a girth of 33 inches and length of 34 inches. I know we are odd mixing our units here but our measuring stick is in hands and inches, and the scales in kgs!

One of the things that always worries me is the possibility of being occupied with one birth while missing another. You guessed it, orange Penny (aka Money Miss Spent) decided that this would be a good time to go it alone! This was not the best choice as it would seem that she had a difficult time of it and when we discovered mother and son, he was not doing so well. He had already passed meconium and this so soon could well indicate a stressful birth. He was very tired and did not seem to have managed to suckle on his own. This needed addressing before we moved further or we feared that he would give up and not easily make it into the stable. He was apparently grateful for the assistance and had quite a big drink much to our relief, but it was clear that he needed a rest before walking into the stables, and he was too big to carry! He had not worked out how to lie down yet but was just about dead on his feet so I lay him down, but with a bit of difficulty due to his size! This is our first foal by Aurum Remarquable (aka Hewey) and it is clear that he has passed on his genetic size rather than his actual size! I stayed with the foal and Richard went to prepare the next stable as we had really only expected one foal for the night. It was pretty cold so I gradually covered him with a rug, being careful that mum did not object.

Penny is a very sensible mare and just stood quietly eating the feed we had provided. I know that the shiver response is an important one but I was much happier to see the little fellow warm and not shivering. He was of course chestnut with a lovely even blaze and one, maybe two small socks.

Once Richard had prepared the stable we encouraged the foal up and helped him to another feed before heading in. It was fortunate that Penny had delivered the placenta and managed not to trample it to death so I was able to check it. I did not however bring it in to weigh as we had our hands full with this youngster.

Once in the stable he had another feed but still could not lie down so once again I lay him down. It was lucky he was tired as if he had struggled as they sometimes do I could not have managed. This little guy weighed 63.5kg. If you have read the story of his dad, Hewey, you may remember that I carried him into the stable from quite a distance, but he weighed all of 22kg!

Once in the stable we also noticed that this fellow had had a bilateral nose bleed and had a small cut on his head. This was of course more reason to be concerned so we watched him very closely. Every hour we got him up for a feed and then lay him back down again. He was drinking OK and by early afternoon had progressed from us virtually lifting him up to him being able to get up and feed himself. He still had not mastered the lying down though and as he was getting stronger was getting harder for me to do it. Still every time I put him down he would be asleep ‘before his head hit the pillow’!

(It is now midnight and Belle has gone back to eating hay. Clearly I should have gone with my original plan and had a sleep!)

Back to Pennys foal who was now named Hardy as we hoped that he was! By late afternoon, I was still not happy with his progress so felt that it was time for our vet Des James to come and see him. We had consulted via the phone during the day but with evening approaching and only very slow progress being made we needed more help. He was not like a dummy or sleepy foal. Apart from his breathing being rapid and the infrequent trickle of blood from his nose there was nothing else that you could put your finger on but he was still not right.

We discovered the cause of his problems to be broken ribs. Once Des had worked this out, we could not believe that we had missed them (although Des did not instantly spot the problem either). He actually had a flail section and so breathing was difficult and obviously painful. The blood was apparently coming from trauma to his lungs. Clearly none of this was good. I already had him on Penicillin but with the congestion and damage to his lungs we added Gentamicin. We had not given him this earlier as it is a nephrotoxic drug and we wanted to make sure that he was well hydrated and drinking well before administering this. Fortunately I had been laying him down each time on the damaged side so this had helped stabilize the fractures and assist the breathing. This had only been due to me finding it easier to lay him onto his near side.

It was going to be a long night but as Des said if he was half as tough as Hewey... however the prognosis was not good. We worked out his treatment regime to cover him against infection, try to keep him comfortable, keep him quiet and protect him from gastric ulcers. Quite a big ask in one so young. Des had mentioned that there were surgical procedures available to stablise the lung but this was a costly and unpredictable exercise with a foal so young.

I consulted with Angus McKinnon at Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital as that would be one of the choices for surgery even though we felt that this was probably not a realistic option. Angus said that it was not uncommon for foals to sustain broken ribs at birth and that we probably could not have prevented it even if we were in attendance at the birth. I tried to let this make me feel better but I don’t know that it worked.

Anyway Angus said that we had 3 options. Do nothing other than what we were already doing and hope, do the expensive surgery and hope, or strap his ribs with elastoplast and hope. He was unsure whether the strapping really helped and as it needed to stay in place for at least 3 weeks also had the problems associated with growth of the foal. The biggest problem we faced was that the floating ribs could puncture lung, heart or diaphragm with catastrophic results. Angus suggested that sadly in reality we may be looking at a free return, not a live foal by 48 hours.

By about 9pm that evening we were pretty convinced that Hardy was not going to make it through the night but we were not about to give up without a fight. By now Hardy could lie down by himself but frequently ended up on his good side so we would carefully turn him over whenever we could. He was very flat and disinterested and had basically stopped feeding. It was tricky as we had to be very careful with any handling as we did not want to cause a puncture. This meant that even tube feeding would be a risk. So we milked Penny and tried to bottle feed Hardy. This was not really successful, so we tried syringing milk into him again with very limited success. We decided that we would strap his ribs as we were now at the point where we didn’t think that we could make things any worse. He had also had another small dose of pain relief which we had hoped would kick in soon.

We very carefully trussed him up in elastoplast (lucky I buy it by the box!) trying to make a firm band around his ribs at the same time as being careful not to push or pull too tight. Once we had done this he actually went to Penny for a small feed but it was only very small so we were still not very hopeful. There was not much more that we could do right now and as we had been up for nearly 2 days now decided we needed to have a sleep, particularly as there are still 3 girls in waiting.

After 2 hours, in fear and trepidation I went to check Hardy. Unbelievably he was up having a drink! He was like a different foal. Every time I checked him through the night he was up having a drink. This was of course a major improvement although we were a long way from being out of the woods. We had made it through the first 24 hours, much to the surprise of all concerned.

Hardy still had an intermittent bleed from the nose but his hydration and energy level had increased dramatically although he was way behind the bouncing Patty in the stable next door.

We monitored Hardy very closely though the next 24 hours and he continued to feed and sleep. As we medicated him we could feel him gaining in strength. The poor fellow is on 7 doses of oral medication and 3 injections per 24 hours, and he still doesn’t seem to hate us! Through Friday he became brighter and in the evening even attempted a small play. We knew that things could change at any time but were feeling pretty positive by that stage. The blood nose now looked more like serum than blood and he was clearly much happier. We had not yet taken a blood for his IgG as we had initially not thought that he would survive and also did not want to add to the handling with the extra needle, but now it was worth doing.

I had not run the blood from Patty as I had been pretty tied up with Hardy so did them both at the same time. To my relief Hardy had an IgG of >8mg/ml, but the one from Patty came up completely negative. As this was quite unexpected I ran the test again and the second time the result was >8. This caused me to repeat the one from Polly which I was pleased to say also came out at >8mg/ml. That was a relief but I was a little surprised as I have been using the same test method for a number of years now and never encountered such a problem.

Hardy has steadily improved over the weekend and has not had any blood from his nostrils since Friday. He even cantered a lap around Penny tonight. As I said things can still change quickly and I don’t actually know when he will be safe but things are certainly looking positive right now.

(It is now 1am Monday, and Hardy is due for medication. Belle is still looking imminent but the diary writing is up to date!

2:30 has come and gone and Belle having spent the past 2 hours walking around with her tail in the air is now eating hay! I am tired and she looks fed up! Fortunately the wind has dropped and it is a beautiful night again.

The eating only lasted minutes and then it was off walking again. Periodically Belle pushes Lucy along in front of her and at one stage I thought that Lucy was about to start foaling! I think Belle wants her to go first!!! Dawn arrives and the only change is that I am exhausted!)

Continued on Page Two...