A Shire colt whose mother died within minutes of his birth has been taken on by another Shire mare alongside her own foal.
Mandy Worthington, who owns the farm on which Shire horses and cattle are kept, with her husband Jonathan, told H&H the two as-yet unnamed colts and 17-year-old mare Acle May Queen have settled into a “nice little threesome”.
“It’s possible May favours her own foal slightly but she’s lovely with the other one and they all go wandering round the field together; it’s so nice,” she said.
Mandy said she and Jonathan had been up on foal watch for a couple of nights before 14 May, when their eight-year-old mare Penbryn Perfect Harmony (Mo) showed signs of going into labour.
“With Shires, it’s very quick, almost blink and you miss it,” she said, adding that the birth was straightforward but “we could see Mo wasn’t quite right” afterwards.
“I couldn’t put my finger on it but she kept trying to lie down again,” she said. “We always give the mares a warm bran mash straight after foaling, to give everyone a chance to get their breath back and give them energy but she just wasn’t interested.”
Within 10 minutes, the mare had died, which the vet thinks may have been owing to a burst artery.
“The foal was sitting up and very alert,” Mandy said. “Jonathan drew three jugs of colostrum from Mo and within 20 minutes of foaling, he took a bottle. It was almost like he knew he had to make the most of the opportunity, and he never looked back.”
The Worthingtons fed the colt every two hours overnight, and he was thriving, then the couple thought of May, who had given birth to a colt the previous week.
“She’s an old pro at being a mum and we wondered if she’d take to this foal,” Mandy said.
“We brought her in and she had a little bit of sedation, which the vet suggested, and she just stood there. It took a few of us to guide the colt to where he needed to be but within a few hours, we had the three of them together in the stable and him drinking from her as and when.”
The two colts palled up straight away and the three are now a family. Mandy said she is keeping a close watch to ensure May has enough milk for both colts, and has bought milk pellets and milk replacer if needed.
“But at the moment, they’re doing well, a nice threesome,” she said. “It’s so unusual; with sheep you can do it quite easily but I think it’s rarer with foals, especially like this when May’s was a week old, so it’s lovely to see the three of them.”
Mandy added that she posted on social media soon after Mo died to ask if there were any foster mares available and her post was shared some 32,000 times.
“I know there are lots of bad things about social media but there are also lots of good things, and this is one of them,” she said. “People seem so interested; someone’s asked if he can come and paint the foals, and I think as heartbreaking as this was, people like a happy ending after something so awful.”
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