Sadness at loss of champion mare tempered by her foal’s remarkable survival

  • Sadness at the sudden death of prolific Exmoor mare Stowbrook Jenny Wren — arguably the most successful of her breed under saddle, partnered by Katy Marriott-Payne — has been somewhat tempered by the remarkable survival of her filly foal.

    Jenny, 23, still the only Exmoor ever to have taken the Olympia ridden title and also a Hickstead worker champion, was on loan to breeders Sandy Wooderson and her daughter Madeline Haynes, and heavily in foal.

    But what looked at first like “labour pains” turned out not to be so and she was rushed to Rossdales Veterinary Hospital.

    “Sadly, she was diagnosed with multiple pedunculated lipoma, causing twists in her gut,” said Sandy. “Despite valiant efforts by the vets, it was inoperable and she could not be saved.”

    The team performed an emergency Caesarean operation to deliver Jenny’s foal and the newly named Badleybridge Penny Wagtail (Penny) was put straight into an oxygen tent in intensive care.

    “Although she was slightly premature, the vets thought she was well developed and stood a chance of recovering, assuming she could pull through the week,” said Sandy.

    Jenny’s “cousin,” Blackthorn Blush Rose (Blossom) —  an Olympia best of breed and double Horse of the Year Show winner —  had lost her own foal a few days earlier due to a severe malpresentation, so the decision was made to see if she would adopt the orphan. Blossom, like Jenny, is by Siskin and out of a full sister to Jenny’s dam, making her Penny’s “aunt.”

    “We knew finding a foster mother was a priority, so we went back the next day with Blossom,” said Sandy. “Amazingly, she took to Penny within a matter of hours and the team at Rossdales got her milk running again. Blossom has proved to be an amazing mum.”

    It was not all plain sailing, though. “On the Wednesday after Blossom arrived, Penny had a neurological seizure,” added Sandy. “This isn’t uncommon in premature foals but it was a real worry in these circumstances. Her slightly under-developed lungs were also a concern, but with the help of an oxygen tube, she built up the strength to breathe on her own after about nine days of being in intensive care.

    “Because of the Covid restrictions, we weren’t allowed to visit them and it was awful waiting for our updates. Not only did we want so much for Penny to come through, but we didn’t want Blossom to experience losing two foals.”

    Finally, Penny and Blossom arrived home this week [Monday 26th April].

    “Penny has fought for her life every step of the way,” said Sandy. “We just didn’t want to tempt providence by saying anything while her life hung in the balance.

    “She remains under the care of Rossdales and will be having regular check-ups. I am so very grateful to the team there, led by Charlotte Easton-Jones, for everything they have done to save little Penny and look after Blossom.”

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    Charlotte said that as a premature foal, Penny had multiple issues, and needed a long period in intensive care.

    “We are all thrilled that she has recovered fully and bonded so well with her new mum,” she said.

    “Jenny was an absolute legend,” added Sandy. “But she was also the kindest, most beautiful mare, inside and out. We feel privileged to have had her in our lives and can’t thank Jackie Webb and Ann Nicholls enough for allowing us to have her in her later years. We honestly adored her and we will miss her happy face on the yard terribly.”

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