Volunteers, Modern Medicine Offer Orphaned Foal Another Mother - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Volunteers, Modern Medicine Offer Orphaned Foal Another Mother

A foal that isn't able to nurse from its mother, whether because of lack of milk production or because of rejection, is in a perilous health situation. If he isn't fed soon, and regularly thereafter, his health will rapidly decline. 

Oftentimes nurse mares are called in to stand as surrogate mothers to these foals. 

A day-old Mustang foal living in the Ochoco National Forest in Prineville, Or., found herself abandoned by her mother and in just such a dire predicament.

After observing the filly alone for a few hours, a concerned citizen flagged down motorists who alerted the U.S. Forest Service to the filly's situation. They then contacted Mustangs To The Rescue, a nonprofit, all-volunteer group that tried to find the filly's mother. Having no luck, volunteers brought the baby to Bend Equine Medical Center in Oregon, reports The Horse.

Though dehydrated, the filly was in good shape; she had clearly nursed at some point. Once stable, the filly, named Quest, was transferred to the Mustangs To The Rescue facility. 

A local mare was available to mother the orphan, but she had to be induced to lactate as she had not had a foal of her own. Veterinarians were able to accomplish that goal using a combination of hormones domperidone and estradiol. 

Until the mare was lactating, volunteers fed the orphaned foal every two hours. 

Once the mare had milk, she was given a high dose of cloprostenol, a drug often used to cause a mare to cycle so she can be bred. At higher doses, the drug induces birth-like cramping, often tricking the mare into thinking she has given birth and thus accepting a foal that is not her own. Once dosed, the drug – and its effects – last for about one hour.

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In a traditional surrogacy, once the mare is experiencing the effects of cloprostenol, the baby is then brought to the mare's head, where she will often start licking and nickering to the baby. Once the pair has bonded, the foal is encouraged to nurse. The foal is then taken out of the mare's sight to see if she becomes anxious or upset; if she does act concerned for the foal, the match is considered a success and the duo are allowed unfettered access to one another. They are watched closely for the next few hours.

“Honey,” the surrogate mare at Mustangs To The Rescue, took to Quest immediately and seems to believe she gave birth to the filly. A month after the two were “grafted,” the filly is thriving. Once weaned, she will be taught basic groundwork by volunteers at Mustangs To The Rescue before she finds her new home.  

Read more at The Horse. 

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