A Mother's Love Continuation
Autumn 2010 we rescued two mares, Delilah and Sofia both from Almoradi. Delilah was found by the local police, wandering around the streets hardly able to see where she was going because of horrendous skin and eye infections. They had no alternative but to take her back to the police station where they called us. What a sorry sight she was. She was so thin we had no idea that at the time she was in foal. We named her Delilah because two days earlier we had taken in a deformed miniature pony we named Samson, he was so weak that we thought he should have a strong name that he would grow into, and indeed he has, but that's another story.
Sofia came to us on the 1st of October as once again we were called out by the same local police, this time to rescue 4 horses, this being two miniature ponies plus a mare in foal and her young son. All four had been tied to thorn bushes with hardly any food or water all through that summer, at the back of an industrial estate. Sadly one of the miniatures had an eye injury due to a thorn piercing it, we later had to remove the eye and we called him Nelson.
These horses were owned by local gypsies many of who live in Almoradi. We were escorted there by an armed officer, who told us to get them out quickly, as he was obviously very frightened about the gypsies returning whilst we were there.
The two horses were loaded into our horse trailer and the two miniature ponies were put into the back of a van kindly loaned to us by Yorkshire linen. The four had to be kept in hiding for four months as the gypsies were looking for them.
As time went on Delilah gained weight and her skin and eye infections all cleared up, and she was looking good. We then noticed that she was getting rather large around her belly, and yes as Dorothea confirmed she was in foal. This was at the same time Sofia, her son and the two minis came out of hiding and to the centre. We decided to put Delilah and Sofia together as Dorothea thought the babies would be born about the same time and it is very good for youngsters to have other youngsters to play with. We obviously had no way of knowing who the fathers were or what the foals would be like. Delilah we didn't think would be too much of a problem as she was young, about seven, and now in very good condition. However Sofia was an older horse about sixteen and had been kept continually in foal. Her muscles has lost all of their elasticity from her being kept continuously in foal, she also had a serious infection of her uterus, that we needed to treat for her to carry full term. But in doing so we also had to give medication to protect the baby from the antibiotics. Not only that, the fluid that the foetus was in, was also cloudy and infected and this had to be oxygenated to keep the baby alive. Due to this she had to have an ultrasound scans three times a week to monitor that the baby was still alive and in the right position. It got even worse, as we were coming to the end of her pregnancy; she had a huge risk that her uterus would start to detach because her muscles simply weren't strong enough to support all the weight and the fluid inside her. She was absolutely huge and could hardly carry the extra weight. It took all of Dorothea's expertise to save the mother and her foal.
As we got nearer towards the end of the waiting game, both mares were brought in every night and had stables next to each other, so we could check on them both together, and if there was a problem we had light and facilities at hand.
Delilah gave birth on the 17th of May at 1.30a.m, what we thought would be an easy birth turned into a nightmare for us, as this was at the time only our second birth here at the centre, we were obviously still novices at this. Normally a foal will get themselves up within ten to fifteen minutes of being born, with the help of the mother who will lick and nudge them and then encourage them to find their way to the teat so they can suckle, the very first of the mother's milk is all important as this has the life-saving colostrum that the young horse needs to give them an immunity against infections and viruses etc. Without colostrum the youngster has no immunity, and can die. Young Harry, as he was later named, simply couldn't get up and his mother was getting more and more distressed, we thought he was at risk of her standing on him, as she was becoming so distraught trying to help him get up. Even with us trying to aid him to stand Delilah was by now so distraught that she wouldn't stand still enough to enable us to get him to her teat. Dorothea came out three times that night, and it took all three of us to hold Harry and Delilah still for him to suckle for him to have that all-important colostrum. We continued like this for two days, so he could suckle, it certainly wasn't a joyous arrangement for any of us. Dorothea said that if after three days we were still doing this that we would have to take him away from his mother so he didn't get hurt and feed him by bottle. But obviously this would be the last resort. Miraculously, on the third day Harry finally managed to get himself up alone, Delilah calmed down and he suckled naturally.
In comparison to all of this, the birth that we were most worried about happened quickly and calmly on Saturday 16th of July at 6.30p.m, Sofia finally gave birth to Katy-Rose, outside in the corner of the field that she shared with Delilah and young Harry, and Bronson watching in the field next door to them. Young Katy-Rose as she was named was standing up within ten minutes and found her way to suckle almost straight away. It was the perfect birth and amazingly Katy is a mirror image of her mother. On the other hand, Harry looked nothing like Delilah, his father must have been a much larger horse than her, and that was all part of the problem with him trying to suckle as he was too tall to get his head easily under her to reach the teat. As his legs were also exceptionally long at birth, this probably was the reason he could not stand up easily at first.
When breeding horses they should be compatible with each other, (selective breeding), otherwise it can be very dangerous when it comes round to the birth, for both mother and foal, due to this, sadly many bad genetic defects can then carried on and spread, as we have found with several of the younger horses that have come into our care. All male horses that come to the centre are automatically castrated as well as all of our youngsters as soon as they are of age. Because of indiscriminate breeding there are now hundreds of thousands of unwanted horses throughout Spain.
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