New life is a beautiful thing to behold. The birth of a foal in a dew covered pasture, the sun slowly rises as it shed first light on a mother and her child. Yes, the entrance of new life is a wondrous occasion… but sometimes birth can be marred by sadness and complications. This is how the story went last month when a newborn foal was rushed to the Equine Reproduction Laboratory
at Colorado State University. The neonate was found wandering alone in a pasture, orphaned when her mother succumb to trauma during the birth.
Once at the ERL, the expert staff worked vigilantly to provide the foal with nutrition – combatting dehydration and low blood sugar – and providing meals every two hours throughout both day and night. It wasn’t until the next morning that another tragedy helped to turn the situation around. Just as this unfortunate foal had lost its mother, a local mare had birthed a still-born foal. It was the fateful timing of these two grievous events that provided opportunity for the ERL to provide a second chance at a new beginning.
In times like these, there is always concern about failure of passive transfer. The circumstances have to be just so – for the mourning mare to accept the foal, and for the foal to latch on to a new mother. After a 2-hour visual bonding period, the level of interest this mare had for the foal signaled they were ready to be physically introduced. Under careful supervision by the ERL staff, the mare and foal were brought together, and in short order, the newborn was nursing, the mother looking on with instinctual maternal satisfaction. They have since been inseparable – both able to experience the mother-offspring bond they would have otherwise lost.
While this story doesn’t follow the conventional beginning of a mare and her foal, it is a great example of the role the dedicated faculty and staff at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory can play in supporting equine reproductive health in the community. Serving as the nexus to bring together two mournful families and turning it into the best possible outcome (given the circumstances) is just another way the ERL creates new life.