‘This tiny scrap of life blinked at me’: 15kg foal who beat the odds is thriving three years on

  • A premature foal who was “smaller than a Labrador” and weighed only 15kg on arrival is spreading happiness three years after defying the odds to live.

    Tiny, an embryo transfer out of Loretta Live by Floriscount, was born from a recipient mare at Scottish stud Caledonia Dressage Horses at 306 days gestation – around five weeks early – on 6 May 2017.

    Stud owner Reay Campbell told H&H the mare had developed placentitis and delivered the foal standing up.

    “I pulled this little thing out of her thinking she had aborted the foal and the placenta that followed was rotten,” she said. “Then all of a sudden this tiny scrap of life blinked at me.

    “She was smaller than a Labrador – just absolutely minute.”

    Reay said Tiny was unable to stand and received round-the-clock care, being fed hourly night and day.

    “We really didn’t know if she was going to live or die. She had received very poor nutrition so the vets gave her plasma and the mare was super at letting us take milk from her,” she said.

    “The thing we noticed from the beginning was Tiny’s character. She couldn’t stand but you’d go to feed her and it was like she was yelling at you saying ‘come on feed me now’.”

    After a week Tiny was able to stand and drink from the mare with assistance from Reay and stud manager Rachel Murray.

    “She couldn’t balance herself but one day while holding her up she started bucking and I thought she might just live,” said Reay. “She was as bright as a button and with time it got to the point she could stand by herself.

    “But her first time out of the stable my heart sank. Her feet were like balls and her joints were so soft, her legs were all over the place and I just thought how are we ever going to sort this?”

    Vets X-rayed Tiny’s knees and hocks but it was thought the filly “didn’t have a chance” and Reay was advised to put her down.

    “I couldn’t stop crying,” said Reay. “She wanted to live, at no point did I ever get the feeling she had had enough so I made the decision to go on the journey and see where we ended up, taking one day at a time.

    “Nobody really knew what to do so Rachel and I got human braces and made splints for her legs and over time, once her feet got harder, our brilliant farrier Keith Hedley fitted plastic extensions to her hooves to help.”

    Reay said after six weeks Tiny was X-rayed again and the vets “couldn’t believe the difference” with the filly’s bones and joints making significant improvements. Following continued remedial farriery and splints, now three-year-old Tiny has straight legs and acts “very pleased with herself”.

    “It was a rollercoaster ride until she was around six months old, but Tiny never knew anything was wrong with her – she’d march around in her splints with her huge character,” said Reay.

    “Her cannon bones are shorter than what they should be so she doesn’t have a future as a riding horse, but she is beautifully bred and genetically everything is fine, so the hope is to take embryos from her in the future. She is smaller than she should be so I will never ask her to carry a foal. It would be a lovely end to the story to get an embryo, but if we can’t get embryos she will have a happy life being a companion.”

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    Reay added Tiny developed a large following on social media with many people keen to hear about her journey.

    “When she was first born we didn’t announce anything until she was six weeks old as we really didn’t know if we’d lose her, but then she became a bit of an internet sensation. People loved hearing how she was getting on,” she said.

    “During my time breeding we’ve very occasionally had a mare abort a foal, but I’ve never experienced something like this – it was just incredible she lived.”

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