Petunia, A Stressful Delivery

At 11:26 pm on February 26, 2010, Danielle (Clay’s assistant at J. Drummond Farms in Regina) sent Clay and I a text stating that Rosey’s water had broke. With a due date of March 2, Rosey wasn’t far off the mark. Unfortunately, Clay and I were still in Arizona, so it was up to Danielle and her husband Wade LaForge, to ensure things went smoothly.

Petunia, shortly after delivery. Yes, those are Wade’s boots in the background. Pic by Danielle LaForge.

Shortly after the text message, I called D (Danielle’s nickname) to get a play-by-play on the events. She told me that one tiny hoof – through a healthy, blueish-white sac – had appeared. It was followed by a second hoof, set slightly back from the first one. All of these were very good signs of proper parturition.

However, at 11:54 pm, D and I both began to get very worried. The delivery hadn’t yet progressed beyond 2 tiny hooves and we were fast approaching the 30-minute mark from the time Rosey’s water had broke. Since most horses usually complete stage 2 labour in under 30 minutes, action was required.

We placed an after-hours call to our vet in Regina but since it would take a little time for the vet to get to the farm, we also placed another call to Dr. Tammi Roalstad in Scottsdale, AZ. Tammi has been an invaluable source for us, especially regarding mares and foals and was the vet who inseminated Rosey to Meradas Money Talks (Petunia’s sire). I ended my call temporarily with Danielle so Tammi could coach her and Wade through the next few stages over the phone, since it was obvious a malpresentation was occurring.

This is how Wade described the events:

“Basically you could see with every contraction that something was pushing Rosey’s anus outwards. With both of the foal’s feet out (and positioned properly), there was only one logical reason why the delivery couldn’t progress. Danielle and I figured the head and neck had to be stuck somehow.”

Wade had to reach inside Rosey – taking great care to insert his sterile-gloved arm inside of the amniotic sac, as opposed to outside of it and into the mare’s vulnerable uterus. Then he followed the foal’s legs up and tried to identify a reference point on the baby’s head, such an ear or the mouth. When he couldn’t find one, both Wade and Danielle realized the baby’s head and neck were stretched upwards, almost pointing towards the mare’s anus. In this position, there was no way the newborn could come through the birth canal without damage to either the fetus or to the mare.

“I could tell the head was tilted up slightly, not drastically, but just enough to be a problem. Plus, the mare could have been more fully dilated than she was,” Wade said.

“Once I could feel the nose, I put my hand on top of it and during the next contraction began to pull down gently on the foal’s legs and push down gently on its nose. I had to use the back of my hand to stretch the mare open slightly at the top until the foal’s nose popped out. At this point, the mare had been trying to deliver for quite some time and as a result was pretty tired, so I kept assisting her until the foal was completely out “

D and Wade had to remove the sac from the foal’s face and nostrils and finally, the baby began to take her first breaths of oxygen. Considering all this little baby had been through since 5 months of gestation, she was nothing short of a miracle! And Wade and Danielle were my ultimate heroes.

Little Petunia is camera shy. In the back, you can see her dam (a maiden mare) is still trying to process what just happened... Photo by Danielle LaForge.

Danielle and Wade allowed the mare and foal a bonding period. Then, just before it appeared as though the filly would try to stand up, they entered the stall again to disinfect the baby’s naval stump, discern it’s gender (which you already know is a filly) and tie up the placenta that was still partially inside Rosey’s uterus. The weight of a knot sometimes helps the placenta to expel, but mostly, it keeps it from being stepped on by the mare and expelling before it’s ready. (Ask your vet about tying a knot in a placenta before you try this at home – this is just what we have found to work best for us.)

Petunia tries to take her first, albeit wobbly, steps. But she won’t open her eyes! Photo by Danielle LaForge.

After that, the waiting period began for the filly (who Danielle named “Petunia”) to find the mare’s teat and latch on for some colostrum. Which takes us to Part 3 of Petunia’s dramatic little life so far… Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry!

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