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When things do go wrong during the foaling process, quick and sometimes difficult decisions must be made.

This was the case at Greenacres Stud in Derbyshire in May, when much-loved broodmare Coco couldn’t deliver her filly foal.

“The owners saw Coco start to foal on CCTV and I arrived soon after,” says Emilie Van Haesebrouck MRCVS of Pool House Veterinary Group. “Instead of normal presentation through the vagina, the foal was lodged out through Coco’s anus and the mare had suffered a deep rent in her rectum.

“There was no way we could save her, so we decided to perform an emergency caesarean in the stable in an attempt to rescue the foal.”

Coco was milked for colostrum and then induced and anaesthetised so that her foal could be cut free. The mare was then euthanased and the orphan foal resuscitated.

“The situation was very stressful for everyone,” says Emilie, who accidentally cut herself during the operation and had to go to A&E for stitches. “It’s such a sad story, but by working together we were lucky to end up with a foal.”

By the time Emilie returned to the yard from the hospital later that night, another filly had been delivered safely. The mare, Sissy (pictured top), had once reared twins, which gave the team an idea.

“We rubbed Cloudy, the orphan foal, with the other filly’s placenta,” explained Emilie. “Sissy never questioned it, accepting the orphan alongside her own foal.

“Sissy was producing a lot of milk but was given domperidone to enhance production,” adds Emilie.

“The fillies were supplemented with milk every hour and then every two. When we ran tests after 12-18 hours to check their immune systems, their antibody levels were well above the minimum. Both were healthy and suckling happily.”

Their progress has been followed by Pool House clients. The story was “liked” more than 11,000 times on
the practice’s Facebook page.