What ended up being the hardest part of the trip was something we never expected, but touched us all deeply. Thursday morning I woke up early and went to feed Roscoe. Then Mom and I turned him out to run off his excess energy. By that time, Lisa had breakfast ready.
Afterwards we all headed back to the barn. As we neared, Lisa said "Uh oh, we have a baby in the field." Sure enough laying by the hay feeder was a foal with a big blaze. Lisa wanted to move the other horses into the stalls before moving the baby. Peggy had an emotional reaction to one of the mares with dapples like Addie did. Amazing how something so simple can bring back such strong memories. I told her to focus on the new baby.
Little did I know how focused we would be. As we approached the foal, we all were a bit apprehensive. We looked to see if it was a boy or a girl. And I can say I am two for two at getting the gender... wrong. I really must remember to look under the tail. The more we examined him, the more we worried. It looked like he had not stood at all and was very lethargic. As Lisa got a stall ready, the three of us rubbed him all over. When Lisa carried him to the barn, he was dead weight. The worst part was when Fflame, the mare turned around and went back to the hay feeder. Fflame is normally a very good mother so that was unusual. I led her into the stall.
The colt was very cold and still not active. I volunteered to hold him. At times I felt like I was holding him so he would not die alone. We also put a lead line around his chest and neck like they do with dummy foals. At that point anything was worth a try. Lisa called the vet when things did not improve. As I rubbed his head, he would move his legs and grunt. He was trying more as he warmed up. Just before the vet arrived, he even made suckling movements though his mouth was so cold. Lisa and Peggy worked to milk Fflame and the two other mares with foals. When the vet came, he told us the colt was premature despite coming only days before his due date. His slightly curled ears and sunken eyes were the premature signs. When he looked at the placenta, he believed Fflame had eaten fescue which thickens the walls decreasing the nutrients the foal receives. Such a hard situation.
The vet tubed the colt, so that the colostrum and milk would go directly to his stomach. Let me tell you it was hard to see a baby tubed, but great to see him fight the process. After he was fed, he had to get a catheter to be able to receive fluids with glucose. Every hour he should be fed, every four hours his catheter had to be flushed with heparin to prevent clotting and four times a day he would get half a bag of fluids. Fflame was still not showing a lot of attention toward the foal which worried us, but at least there was a plan.
In light of everything, we decided to delay our departure until Saturday. Good or bad there would be some change. Luckily my sister and Peggy's husband could handle the horses for another day and hold horses for the farrier. We all helped Lisa watch and feed the colt. He barely had a suckle reflex so the process was difficult. A high point was when Peggy was sitting with him and Roscoe called. Surprisingly the colt answered. That little vocalization was so heartwarming. The colt also tried to get up occasionally, but was never successful. By that evening he started to open his eyes. Lisa had a long night ahead of her.
|The fierce little Ffhoenix resting after attempting to rise.|
The three of us talked and wondered why this happened. Why now? Why us? Watching that colt fight for his life was an experience. Hard as it was, we were invested. His strength had us naming him Ffhoenix. He touched us all.
The next morning Lisa's tears told us everything. He was failing, going septic. Mom and I went to feed Roscoe and put him out. We looked in on Ffhoenix and knew the end was near. I told him it was okay to go. When I went into the barn next, he was gone. Ffhoenix had risen to the highest place he could. And as Peggy said when I told her, he was playing with Barry now.
He had a short life, but he was loved. Ffhoenix showed us that we are so lucky to know these animals and to appreciate the time we have with them. Every horse gives us something, even if they are only there for a day. We were glad we could support Lisa during this time and share the emotional load.