Petunia – Milk in Short Supply

Continued from April 19 & 20, My Stable Life Blog entries…

In the wee hours of February 27, 2010, and within only a few hours of her birth, Petunia finally found Rosey’s udder and appeared to drink. This was a huge relief as colostrum intake in the first 12 hours of life was crucial to Petunia’s survival. However, Danielle had noticed early on that Rosey didn’t appear to be as “bagged up” as a normal mare who has just given birth should look. She became concerned about the mare’s milk supply almost immediately, but in an effort not to interfere with nature, she allowed Petunia a few hours to try and suckle – hoping this would stimulate milk letdown.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

In the morning (several hours after birth), one of our wonderful vets at Sherwood Clinic performed a SNAP test, to ensure Petunia consumed enough colostrum. With Rosey’s milk supply in question, we were all very worried about the amount of time ticking by – in the event that our filly didn’t get enough.

Rosey and Petunia in their king-size foaling stall. Photo by Danielle LaForge.

Dr. Bree Hamblin confirmed that Petunia’s antibody levels were indeed, good. Thank-goodness!!

At this point, Danielle tried manually to “milk” Rosey and her worst fears were realized. Rosey had little, to no milk. Although we weren’t positive as the cause of the mare’s agalactia, it was likely we could chalk it up to the fact that Rosey was unable to consume alfalfa hay during her pregnancy. But feeding it to her now was not an option.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

So Danielle put together some milk replacer and began feeding the filly by bottle. It has put a huge demand on her schedule (not to mention sleep patterns), since Petunia needs to be fed every 2-4 hours. Meanwhile, we have begun the search for a solution. Options we have include a nurse mare, a nurse goat, foal pellets and a special oral paste called “Domperidone.” I’ll keep you posted…

Danielle and Petunia. Photo by Wade LaForge.

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!

Petunia – Against All Odds

Meet little Petunia. This sweet filly was born to J. Drummond Farms, February 26, 2010 just before midnight. She is sired by Meradas Money Talks and out of our mare, Smart Rosey Chic also known as “Rosey.” This little darling has had to overcome many odds to get where she is today. At birth, Petunia was a healthy, sorrel filly but her story doesn’t begin there.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

This is the dam, Rosey at the Okanagan Summer Slide in early August, 2009.

Photo by Tracey Eide - EquineSportPhotography.com

On August 18, 2009, Rosey was bedded down for the evening in her regular spacious, indoor stall at J.Drummond farms in Regina, SK. She had eaten the same regular hay portion she was accustomed to for dinner and spent her normal amount of time out in her turnout for the day. However, during our evening barn check at 11:00 pm, Clay and I found Rosey rolling in her stall. Not a good sign – the mare was experiencing abdominal pains. At that point, Rosey was 5 months pregnant. As a maiden mare, this was her first foal.

Clay and I spent a sleepless night, traveling with the mare first; to see one of our regular veterinarians at Sherwood Animal Clinic in Regina, SK, and; secondly to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, SK. Our clinic in Regina is equipped to handle many things, but not surgery. This was hard for Clay and I – in our entire professional career in the horse industry, we’ve never had to drive more than 30 minutes to get to an equine surgery facility. But it needed to be done. Following a mineral flush, sedation and pain killers, Rosey’s heart rate wasn’t returning to a normal level. Therefore, at 1:00 am on August 19, we set off on a 3-hour drive to Saskatoon with Rosey in tow.

During this drive several questions ran through our minds, the most significant of which being, “Why isn’t there a cure for colic?” I would like an answer more than anyone. But like everyone, that night I was at a total loss. Was it the feed? Was it a change in barometric pressure? Maybe it’s the pregnancy? All these questions ran through my mind…

An ultrasound done on Rosey in the wee hours of August 19, showed a tiny little spinal cord (as indicated to the right of the red arrow).

Clay and I were hoping the colic would have subsided from Rosey’s long trailer ride. But we had no such luck. After several tests and exams, Rosey was prepped for surgery at approximately 5:00 am. Tired and scared, Clay and I got back into our truck and started the long drive back home. All we could do was wait.


Several hours later, we got a call from our wonderful vet, Dr. Stacy Anderson at WCVM. She told us that Rosey had a 180-degree twist in her intestine which had to be righted. She had waited until our mare had recovered from the anesthesia, to call us with the good news.

Two weeks after we first took Rosey into WCVM, we brought her home sporting a large incision, a clipped belly and a cleared IV area in her neck. She had lost a lot of weight but she seemed happy and healthy, nonetheless. And amazingly, she had hung on to her pregnancy!

We changed Rosey’s feed intake to strict diet of grass hay and as she healed, added small amounts of Frisky Foal to supplement for the pregnancy. We had her vaccinated and a dewormed as a healthy, pregnant mare. Many months later, Rosey approached her due date without any further complications.

Best Babies Batch #1

ENTRIES FROM WHR’S BEST BABIES PHOTO CONTEST

Because it’s a beautiful spring day. Because we await our own new arrival here at the log house. Because it’s difficult to think of any subject which can loosen the words “grab the camera” from any horseperson’s lips more readily. Because I can’t wait to show you the first set of submissions to our Best Babies Photos Contest. Because I fell in love with photographing foals when we had our first two years ago, pictured above with my daughter. Because I want to encourage you to capture those short-lived days of foalhood.

Here then, without further ado, is a selection of the first set of entries we’ve received for our Best Babies Photo Contest.

It’s a predicament. Guns Poco Sun out of Suns Affair by Ima Sun Ofa Gun. Photo by John Regier, Pitchfork Ranching Quarter Horses, Lethbridge, AB

Invitation to play? Two foals by El Peppys Hurt. Photo by Karla Reimer, Beaverlodge, AB

A field of green grass, dandelions and new babies signal spring. Tito, a Cattin colt on the right, and Splash, a Pepto Taz colt on the left. Photo by Kevin Genz, KG Performance Horses, Duffield, AB

Sharing a kiss. Stud colt, Custom Made Surprize by Hangten Surprize. Photo by Stacey Huska, Drayton Valley, AB

Baby with a barn background. Star is a Standardbred foal. Photo by Lindsay Macneil, Cape Breton, NS

The Drop Zone doesn’t miss a beat, by Peptozone out of Sea Breeze Please. Photo by Lori Turk, Wyoming, ON

And finally, we love the warmth of this mood shot of a Quarter Horse foal taken in northern B.C. Photo by Nicky Hemingson, Grande Prairie, AB

Now it’s your turn, you still have plenty of time to submit your foal photos and enter our Best Babies Photo Contest. You might win our fantastic foaling package, sponsored by Greenhawk (value: $130). Please send your photo, a brief description of foal’s pedigree if applicable, photographer’s name and hometown to dknews@telus.net.

Contest ends June 30.