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A wonder foal has astounded vets as his unexpected arrival while the “beast from the east” gripped Britain left him fighting for his life.

The foal, Spirit, has defied the odds and survived thanks to quick-thinking owner Elaine McGowan and generous yard owner Carolyn Steel.

Spirit made a surprise arrival in Aberdeenshire at 8.10pm on Tuesday 27 February. Following the birth, his dam suffered a retained placenta and needed emergency veterinary treatment.

When the placenta was extracted, it was found to be infected, so both mare and foal were at risk of septicaemia. Unable to nurse Spirit, the mare then turned on him, leaving the foal weak and desperately in need of help.

With snow heavily falling making transportation impossible and temperatures dropping to -10C, Spirit began displaying signs of hypothermia and dehydration. Elaine and Carolyn worked together to give the foal much-needed colostrum but were faced with the fact he was unlikely to survive.

“I was going to have him put to sleep. I didn’t want to leave him to succumb to the cold.” Elaine told H&H.

“We were advised by the vet on the Wednesday he wasn’t going to make it. He was freezing and weak.  The vet said his only hope was if we could keep him warm and try to feed him but she didn’t expect to see him the next day” said Carolyn.

“Before I knew it Carolyn was shouting ‘Come on, let’s get him into the house’, and Carolyn’s stepson picked him up and took him inside!” Elaine added.

The utility room was cleared and a makeshift stable created with blankets and towels, Spirit was carried inside and given a teddy bear. With round the clock attention from a team of helpers, he was fed colostrum by the hour and was still going strong when the vet returned the next day.

“The vet was amazed! She was on the phone to the clinic telling them the foal was alive!” said Carolyn.

Spirit, who had gained strength and found his feet as he navigated the utility room, started showing a particular interest in the washing machine, so was moved into a stable with heat lamps, with his teddy bear, while a suitable foster mare was sought.

“Joyce Robertson offered her mare Ela to see if she would at least take Spirit under her wing and teach him how to be a horse and we collected her on Saturday. To our delight she has accepted him as her foal and on Mother’s Day [11 March] the foal suckled from Ela for the very first time” said Elaine.



Two weeks on Spirit and Ela have now been given the go-ahead to spend time together unsupervised as Spirit goes from strength to strength.

“We are so proud of him. I’m so grateful to Carolyn and her family and all of the helpers — they saved his life!” said Elaine.

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