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The Story of Hewey - part 3 - at last!

...but there's still more to come...

Most of the challenges with Hewey were due to his small size and general fragility. He was actually pretty strong and healthy and obviously our aim was to keep him that way. None of the foal clothing that we had fitted him and even things like needles were all in ‘normal’ size. I had to get in 23g x 3/4 inch needles as the 1 1/2 inch ones I had felt like they would come out the other side! Even though Hewey had penicillin every 8 hours for 3 1/2 weeks I cannot ever remember him complaining. I think that he actually liked the ulcerguard (it smelt like apricot jam) which was lucky as that was every 8 hours for a month.
The first splints which were made on Friday the 14th were plastic storm water pipe which was moulded using a heat gun. He had to have a large amount of padding under these to guard against rubbing and they had to be removed and checked frequently. The front legs were perhaps the easiest as they just had to be kept basically straight. The back legs on the other hand had to include the bend of the hock and to a lesser extent the fetlock. The part of the cast above the hock had to kind of support the gaskin on the canon without the hock joint taking any weight. hewey premature foal

On Sunday we weighed Hewey again and he was 24 kg, an increase of 2 kgs in 4 days! But we did cheat a little as he had his legs splints on. Still he had put on some real weight, and his milk intake was up to 3300ml/24 hours.

On Monday the 17th the back splints were replaced with plaster, which again was a major operation as they had to be fitted dry, then soaked and shaped wet, and then held still and in place while they dried and hardened. All with a bouncy young foal attached. Again there was a lot of padding used as all his skin had to be protected not just the boney projections which had special foam strips. One of the difficulties was getting the splints the correct size and shape and (as his legs were so tiny) keeping the orientation correct as they would easily rotate. Sadly the plaster lasted basically only one day before it cracked through the hock.

Fortunately for Hewey we were able to obtain the services of an expert in the fracture management and splint making field. Up to this point the majority of his patients had only two legs but he was up for the challenge. There are an amazing number of specialist products available to humans and Hewey was able to make use of many of these. So on Wednesday the 19th version 3 of the leg splints were made. These were a much more modern fibreglass type and although it still took hours to construct them and more than one attempt in some cases, by the early hours of Thursday morning Hewey had 4 new legs! And he was a week old! Under the splints he had gel padding but we still had not found the perfect solution as these tended to sweat a little and his skin would basically fall off. We still had the problem of the toilet training also as Hewey was happy to fill the back splint if I was not watching. The splints had to be removed and checked daily as the skin underneath had to be monitored carefully. We left them off for very short periods to ‘air’ his legs but of course had to make sure that he stayed lying down during these times. We went through an enormous supply of undersplint padding, talcum powder, elastoplast and coflex or vetwrap. I am sure Hewey should own a fair part of these companies not to mention the vets! We also had to be very careful to use only baby safe creams on any abrasions.

With his legs splinted it was very hard for Hewey to actually get to his feet. He would of course try but as he could not bend his knees or hocks he had to be assisted. Also we had to keep the splints clean and dry if possible so when feeding him he generally had a ‘bib’ as he did dribble a bit. The worst thing was trying to catch all the urine as being a boy and spending most of his time lying down, he was inclined to dribble down the inside of his back legs if I was not on the ball. Sometimes it was impossible to catch and this of course meant regular full bed changes. We experimented with different forms of nappy but could not find any that worked. Changing his bed also meant enormous amounts of washing as he had at least 4 double sheets 3 or 4 pillowcases, numerous towels, sheepskin underlays and foam ‘mattresses’. Our friend Deb did many trips to the Laundromat as it was otherwise impossible to keep up with the washing and drying.

Hewey had to be propped up on pillows (or me) most of the time but needed to be turned every 2 hours to avoid pressure sores. This would seem pretty simple but you try remembering which side he was last on when you are sleep deprived and he has been up for a moment. I devised an ingenious system using one of the hanging ‘toys’ already in the stable. We hang an empty fruit juice bottle from the wall for the horses to play with and the one in this stable was conveniently square. I labeled one side ‘near’ and the other ‘off’, then turned it every time I turned him. That worked!

hewey premature foalNancy, Kim's aunt, filled in on many occasions!

Changing the bed was at the very best a 2-man operation but usually 3 people were involved. I would have to lift Hewey out and hold him while the bed was striped and rebuilt. This was often a good time to involve him with Gloria although he was not too keen on the idea. We were adamant that they were going to have regular contact. I constantly reminded her that she was actually Hewey’s mother and tried to convince him that he was in fact a horse. We even had a couple to visits out side to show him where the milk came from. He thought that I must be joking because he knew damned well that it came from a plastic bottle controlled by me!

We had previous experience of hand rearing a foal when we lost a mare 24 hours after foaling. The system that had worked the best for us was a fast flow toddler teat on a plastic water bottle. This allowed you to squeeze the bottle if necessary to encourage the drinking. It also fitted neatly in a plastic jug of warm water to warm the milk, and in a stubby holder to keep it warm. The baby food warmer which we now have for thawing the colostrum would be ideal for this. On the other hand it fitted into a small esky (Aussie for cooler) if you had to keep the milk cool. We put a strip of masking tape down the side marked in ml's so that we could monitor food intake.

hewey premature foalNot impressed!

hewey premature foalReally! Out of there!

I had to milk Gloria ahead of feeds as when Hewey woke up he wanted food now and although he could not stand up and do anything about it, he could swing a mean cast or four trying. Gloria actually turned into a very good ‘milk bar’, Her fairly quiet basic nature showed through as I did not need to even hold her for milking after the first couple of days. Also she was pretty obedient and so if she wanted to leave I could tell her to stand and she would.

hewey premature foal

Kim's sister Anne got roped in too!

Note the nappy over Hewey to keep the flies off.

Through this whole saga I often mused over the contrast in the behavior of Gloria compared to what most outsiders knew of her as a very ‘bold’ cross country machine. I had to wear a glove for milking to keep my skin on, but actually still ended up with calluses on my palm.

As I said earlier, in the first 24 hours Hewey had 1000ml of colostrum and 375ml of milk. On Friday Hewey consumed 2150ml of milk. Compare these figures to Hayley, the filly Gloria had in 2007, who had 580ml of colostrum in the first 1 1/2hour, and a total of 910ml in the first 3 hours of life. Who knows what her total consumption was in the first 24 hours but it was definitely more than Hewey’s! We kept a record of all Heweys feeds, as it was a good guide to how well he was doing, and also helped me manage the milking as I could sort of predict how much I needed to get from Gloria each time.

hewey premature foalYes Gloria, it really is yours!

So Hewey was now a week old. He was on his 3rd set of ‘legs’, weighed 25.5kg (including splints) and was consuming just over 3.5litres of milk from Gloria per day.

  hewey premature foal
Hewey sporting his new legs!


Click here for part 4...