Last summer one of my husband’s mares had a colt that suffered from something called dummy foal syndrome. Baby Titan also had severely contracted tendons which prevented him from rising on his own. That was the beginning of an extremely difficult couple of weeks. After his legs were splinted, he had to be medicated and hosted up on his feet every three hours to eat. As you probably know, this kind of duty generally falls on the maternal side of the family. So I tottered out to the barn on a painfully disturbing schedule, sometimes sleeping in the barn, sometimes leaving my outer garments in the stall because the mare had trouble distinguishing between me and her baby.
To prevent this story from becoming more macabre than necessary, I’ll just say we lost Titan after 12 days of round the clock care. It took me considerably longer than that to recover. In fact, I never quite forgave myself. He had been such a fighter, full of new-life bravado and wobbly eagerness. And I had failed him.
So a few months later, when I heard of a filly with contracted tendons, I knew it would be best if I kept my fragile little heart well out of the situation. Nevertheless, I was told that the owners, who had been nursing the filly for 2 months, were giving up the fight, and intended to shoot her on the following day. So despite much advice to the contrary, a friend and I went to meet baby.
We were extremely pragmatic about the entire situation. After traipsing through the half frozen muck on the way to the broken barn, we documented her condition.
Later we emailed pictures to an equine veterinarian who believed baby could be saved with the proper treatment and enough dedication. But in a rare show of practicality, Colleen and I decided we had neither the funds nor the emotional energy to undertake a project of this magnitude; she was probably already stunted from lack of nutrition, she dragged her left fore when she stumbled about, and her feet were malformed from her ungainly stance. But she was a chestnut like Baby Titan, and she was full of that same new-life bravado I still ached over.
So on the following day, we found ourselves back in the pickup truck, pulling the trailer north. With a Good Samaritan helping with finances, we were soon tranquilizing little Trinity, separating her from her mother, and hoisting her into the gooseneck. We laid her down on a bed of straw, where Colleen cradled her on her lap while I jostled and bounced them toward the waiting veterinarian team. Once there, she was sedated, thoroughly examined and carefully splinted.
After that came weeks of uncertainty, of removing bandages only to see her little legs curl under again. Of administering the kind of drugs that had eventually attributed to Titan’s death. Of worrying and walking and coaxing and hand feeding. Colleen and her son, Grant, came each night to clean her stall and lift our little patient’s spirits. I did morning chores, letting her limp around after me as I fed the other animals. The splints came off repeatedly, and repeatedly her legs crumbled, but eventually the doctors felt she was making progress, that now she needed to strengthen on her own. So her tiny, little misshapen hooves were trimmed and fitted with silicone shoes. She was confined once again, but was gradually allowed more and more time outside.
This is Baby Trinity after the splints were removed, the meds stopped, and the loneliness abated. Here she is, quite literally, feeling her oats. Shortly after these pictures were taken, she left my barn to explode into her new life. She now lives with Colleen, her pop-bellied pony, and her two handsome Arabians.
I still cry when I think of Titan, and the idea of ever raising another foal makes my stomach clench. But the experience taught me enough to nurture Trinity back to health. And maybe that’s what life experience is all about.
So what about you? Give us your pet stories…kittens you’ve found in the snow, ugly dogs you’ve brought home from the pound. It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m in the mood for a good cry.