Giant teddy helps orphaned foal recover after traumatic loss of dam

An orphaned foal found alone and terrified has been receiving round-the-clock care as her rescuers hope she has turned the corner.

Ava, a Dartmoor hill pony, was discovered by residents at the beginning of July near the village of Lee Moor after her dam died on Dartmoor.

Charity Hill Pony Resources brought Ava, thought to be a few weeks old, off the moor and monitored her overnight before she was transferred to the Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s specialist veterinary and welfare centre, Beech Trees in Newton Abbot, on 3 July.

A spokesman for the Mare and Foal Sanctuary said Ava, who was given a giant teddy bear for comfort, is “not out of the woods yet” having had breathing problems and suffered a mild bout of colic. The filly is being kept in quarantine and has undergone chest X-rays.

The sanctuary’s head of equine Sally Burton said: “We are doing everything we can to keep Ava comfortable. Losing her mother at such a young age would have caused her to deteriorate both physically and mentally.

“At just a few weeks old foals are reliant on their mothers’ milk so we are feeding her every two hours around the clock. We’re all glad she was found and rescued. Now she just needs time and a lot of care.”

The spokesman said Ava has been receiving 24-hour care from the sanctuary’s grooms but added that “boundaries are being set” to make sure she has a chance of finding a loving home in the future.

Nicola Weall, quarantine manager, said: “She is being bottle-fed as we don’t hand-rear. The bottles are attached to a feeder so she can help herself – it’s important she doesn’t associate us with her milk. We don’t want her to think it’s ok to try to climb all over us. Being overly affectionate to a foal can cause behavioural issues and when they get a lot bigger it can prove dangerous.”

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Ava is undergoing tests but the spokesman said with antibiotics and nutrient-rich formula it is hoped she will “soon turn a corner”.

“When she first arrived she was very nervous. She hadn’t had much to do with humans and she kept turning her back and didn’t like being handled,” said Nicola.

“But now she’s enjoying the occasional good scratch. She’s also nibbling hay and grass and getting used to her surroundings. She’s a really bright little thing, which is great to see after what she’s been through. Now all we can do is support her as best we can and hope she gets stronger.”

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