Dora’s Tummyache

Dora is one of the three broodmares at work. She was quite a good racehorse in her day, but she’s an even better mother. She has a very odd, Jekyll and Hyde personality. When she has a foal, she is calm, amiable, and gentle. She loves and trusts the humans to handle her foal, but keeps a watchful eye. She is really the perfect broodmare.

As a racehorse, and also when she does not have a foal at side… Dora is a nasty witch. She used to bite everyone within range when she was at the track. And I definitely would not put it past her to take a chunk of my arm even now whenever she doesn’t have a baby around to turn her into Adorable Dora. She certainly takes chunks out of the other mares if they don’t move out of her way fast enough. She was a tough, scrappy racehorse. Just like her personality.

I hear that, years ago, the boss would stay out very late once in a while. When he finally did turn up and was questioned about his whereabouts, his answer was always “choir practice”. So that’s where Dora’s racing name came from. Choir Practice.

Yesterday Dora ate her dinner at around 4, and was fine when the boss called Ana to check on everything. Two hours later, Ana called me. “Is it normal for the mares to lie down?” Well sure. “and get up and lie down again?” Whoops. Alarm bells now. “I’m on my way”. I ran out the door and called Linda as I went. “Find the boss”.

When I arrived, Dora was lying down in her stall. Gabriella, her foal, was pawing at her. “Get UP Mom! I am hungry!” Dora got up and let the foal nurse for a minute or two but was obviously uncomfortable and lay down again. Then up, then down several more times. Snapped at the foal, then bit the wall a few times. I grabbed my stethoscope and listened for gut sounds. She had lots, but they were not normal. Heart rate was within normal range but probably slightly elevated at 44. She looked very unhappy. I called Linda back. No sign of the boss. She told me to call the vet.

Our regular vet was not available, so I spoke to the on-call vet. Very nice guy. He was quite concerned even though it didn’t look like a bad colic. The first week after a mare foals is a very high risk time period. So he came right away. He listened to her gut sounds for a long time while Gabriella wedged herself between Dora and the vet so she could more thoroughly investigate him. (She’s a bold little thing!). He told us the gut sounds were actually hypermotile (too much activity). He also did a rectal exam on her and found that her manure was kind of hard and dry. So he gave her a shot of banamine and gave her some medication by naso-gastric tube (that’s when they slide a hose through the nose and down into their stomach to pump in liquid medication and/or mineral oil).

Shortly after that, Dora perked right back up and started eating her hay. I drove back down to check on her at 11 pm and she was her normal self again. Lo and behold, the boss had turned up in the meantime and was fast asleep with no idea about any of the goings-on. And since I couldn’t wake him up banging on the door, I just left him and his bad hearing to sleep. Not as though he could do anything at that point anyway. I suspect he’d left his cellphone (with its 17 messages) at the track (a regular occurrence). He was very surprised to hear the saga this morning though!

Dora is just fine today. Lots of normal manure in her stall. So all is well. Most colics do end up fine. But it’s always a relief when they end well.

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A Bit More on Delilah’s Death

Just to make it a bit more clear… Bernice, Delilah’s mother, did not cause her death. The trampling was awful. But Delilah died of a GI tract infection that was progressing too fast for the antibiotics to stop it. The vet warned that it could take her very fast when he saw her yesterday. He didn’t find any injuries from the incident. It probably didn’t help Delilah much to have the extra stress. But it’s just as much my fault as it is Bernice’s that she got trampled. I knew she was sort of slow and lethargic going out, but thought it must be because she’d just woken up. She probably already had a high fever by then and I never checked. And having a high fever and being weak and lethargic gave her a whole lot less chance of staying out of the way of mare politics.

Bernice was considerably better this year with Delilah than she was with either William or Albert. Less crazily protective. We could get in the stall with them and handle the baby without the mare bowling us over. And we’d all commented on how much she’d improved.

She is very sad and depressed today. She’s been in the stall with Delilah all morning, standing vigil. About an hour ago, she seemed to have started accepting that her baby was dead, and called to the other horses once or twice. During the night, the boss tells me that Bernice was helping him care for Delilah. Hanging over them both, nuzzling and licking her while he took Delilah’s heart rate and massaged her a bit to soothe her. She got additional banamine and omeprazole, and she looks as if she’s peacefully sleeping. It doesn’t look like she struggled or suffered greatly. Just faded away.

Delilah Has Had a Bad Day

Delilah, despite her rampant wickedness, is kind of my favorite of the foals this year. She is just so gleefully bad that she makes me laugh. But last night when she came in from the arena, she seemed a little subdued. I figured maybe she was just tired from a long day of rampaging. But this morning she was even quieter going out.

She went out in the pasture for the first time with her mom, Bernice. Now Bernice has a bit of a “history” with her kids. She loves them to the point of craziness. Her first was William. We saw her kick him in the head in one of her protective mother frenzies. The second was Albert. She kicked him in the shoulder, and that time I actually caught it on video.

When we put Dora out, Bernice got totally panicked and ran around the field a few times, then went to the far back corner of the pasture. Which was good. It’s a big pasture, and there’s plenty of room for the mares to stake out their own territory until they get relaxed with each other. We watched Dora and her foal Diva for a while (and I took a whole lot of photos of Diva).

Then a train came along. The tracks go along the back of the pasture. The horses are all very used to it. But of course Delilah had never seen it before and she got a little startled. Which got Bernice going again. And she came galloping up to the front. Somehow the two mares and the two foals got a bit tangled up. And Bernice, the big rotten cow, ran right over her own foal. Poor Delilah was cartwheeling under the mare as she spun around and around, and kicked at Dora. Dora, unsurprisingly, was having none of that and kicked back which worked Bernice up even more. Delilah eventually got herself out of the mess and back on her feet. And then Bernice… of course… ran her over AGAIN. And did the same thing all over again. That poor baby was trampled and tumbled repeatedly.

We managed to catch Bernice eventually and checked Delilah over. She seemed essentially unhurt, though she looked very shell-shocked and shaky. So we took them both back to the barn.

I initially thought it was just all the running around and the shock of the incident that made Delilah look so subdued. But I watched her carefully for a while. Eventually I started to feel a bit concerned. She really didn’t look right. Called the boss at work and told him. He said he’d get there as quick as he could. I finally realized that although she was going to her mother to nurse, she wasn’t actually nursing. She was grinding her teeth. Then she drank some water from the bucket. Then she lay down. Got up. Lay down. Called the boss again. Got the stethoscope out and listened to her heart rate. It was 136. Yikes. Called one of our other people down at the track and told her to shove the boss out the door NOW. And have him call a vet too.

That got the boss there in a hurry. Vet arrived shortly thereafter. He checked her temperature. It was 104. The vet thinks she has some sort of GI tract thing going on. Bacterial overgrowth maybe. And likely some ulceration, given the teeth grinding. So she got banamine, antibiotics, and omeprazole. Within about 20 minutes she was up nursing, and last I saw she was finally lying down and sleeping comfortably.

She’s not out of the woods yet, but she looks a whole lot better anyway.

Here are a couple of photos of Bernice and Delilah before the incident…