Valeria’s Birthing Ordeal

[OMG this post is huge but I don’t want to break it up so I totally understand if you don’t read it or save it for a potty break…because…I guess statistically that’s were a lot of blog reading takes place?]

I was on the fence about doing a post on the tough time Valeria had after delivering but a few people had interest and it might help someone avoid having the same issues.

I guess it really started the day before when I put down straw to prep her stall for foaling. She ate several bites before she seemed to lose interest but would continue to take a bite of straw here and there. Not really typical behaviour but I haven’t owned V very long so maybe straw was just her thing. The next morning (Saturday) I went out to feed and check on her. Some bales of straw had been moved around and there were some good chunks taken out of the sides. I knew straw could upset her stomach but V is a big drinker and she only picked at a stem or two once in a while so I thought that might cancel out any irritation.

Imminent doom.

At 10:00am I tested her milk, because she actually HAD milk finally! Her readings were indicating that she was very close to ready. I consulted with the breeder who said she still had plenty of time. I decided to bite the bullet and make the 2 hour drive north to see Aria worked by my trainer. After all she wasn’t bagged up that much. More than likely we thought she would deliver the next evening.

At dinner time V had a huge appetite. Not indicative of going into labor. I didn’t bother getting anything ready for an overnight stall campout. I had the camera up in the kitchen while we were playing a boardgame and I noticed around 7:00pm that she was tossing her head and had pulled a bale of straw towards the center of her stall to rub her belly on. By 7:30pm she was pacing around her stall, throwing her head around, and backing up. Typical irritated behavior for V. I knew she was in labor.

Rubbing her belly on a bale of straw.

I took my comfy folding chair out to the stall and got a few other items together. I was taking my time because I knew it could take a couple hours for the baby to show up. Then, around 8:13pm her water broke. And broke. And broke. My sister had decided to run to the store for drinks and snacks. I sent her a message to hurry back. At 8:15pm Valeria went down and gave one strong push. Suddenly legs were sticking out. She looked like she was panicking a bit because she immediately got up and started walking around (I don’t know how they do it. If I had a foal stuck in my hoo-ha I’d lay there until it was over). At 8:17pm she went back down again, gave a very human like groan and out popped a whole foal. That was it.

I didn’t want to interfere but after a couple minutes I could see the baby’s nose pushing against the sack without much luck. Her hooves hadn’t pierced the sack either, so I went in and broke it and pulled it away from her face and then left them alone. V had gotten up and broken the umbilical cord at this point. All was good and she was tending to her baby. I did go in after a while to remove the sack entirely and check the gender of the foal. We watched Catalina take her first steps, hit her stump with betadine, and then waited for the placenta to come out.

First time standing on those LEGS.

After 3 hours of waiting I put in an emergency call to my vet. I’m not one to panic. I wait the recommended time and when she called back to advise me over the phone how to remove the placenta, I figured it would be easy-peasy. We took a beach towel, soaked it in water and tied it to the cord and sack that was hanging from V. The weight of all this should have encouraged the placenta to deliver. I have my opinions as to why this didn’t work. Mostly I believe V did not produce enough hormones to encourage contractions after the foal was born because her delivery took all of 5 minutes.

Catalina is not impressed with the cool weather.

Something worth noting, it is completely normal for the placenta to take an hour to come out even with help. I wasn’t sure about that but after a while it was obvious nothing was happening. We were advised to assist by putting light downward pressure on the placenta. Eventually we did get it out. V was pretty tight and to avoid ripping the placenta we made progress by centimeters over the course of about an hour. Everything seemed good, the baby was lively and V was alert so we went to bed.

My vet came the next morning for a mare and foal exam. The placenta seemed to be fully intact, both mare and foal were alert, we dipped the umbilical stump in betadine again, wormed V, and sent the vet on her way. Everyone ate breakfast fine and everyone ate dinner fine.

First morning. You can see that Valeria is beat.

About an hour after dinner I noticed V pacing, backing up, throwing her head, and laying down. This was weird behavior. I know there can be residual cramping but I decided to park it outside her stall to see if she would relax after a while. Some time passed with no improvement. Catalina was not as spunky as she had been that morning. V wasn’t standing to let her eat. We took temperatures. They were normal. I hesitantly put a colic call in to the emergency line. I had a brief chat with the vet and was instructed to administer banamine and wait an hour to see how V did.

While I was waiting V, for lack of better terms, had a manic episode. She began biting and violently pawing at C. I intervened and she settled once C got up. I suppose looking back she was concerned that her new baby wasn’t very active.

She was so small!!!

An hour later I was putting in another call. I don’t remember what time it was, maybe after 10:00pm. I know it was dark. I know I was alone with no help (people had left hours ago). I know V was getting worse and I was starting to freak out. Like, really freak out. Ugly crying kind of freaking out.

My vet, who is awesome btw, calmed me down. We intubated V and pumped water and oil into her stomach, a typical colic procedure. The straw she had been eating was making pooping very difficult and uncomfortable for V and it was building into an impaction. The vet pulled out as much as she could, dosed V with more pain meds. I was also given some Torbutol in case V had another manic episode with instructions to stick it anywhere if she was going crazy.

Looking good but really hiding colic behavior.

Oh, at some point after I realized V was colicing from eating all that stupid straw I muscled every bale out of her stall (there were 15 of them) and raked all the loose straw out of her stall. God bless physical therapy because that was the only reason my hurt back was able to handle all of that alone.
Anyway, back to the timeline of events…The next morning (Monday) my vet gave me a call to see how V and C were doing. I had called in sick at work and planned to be a fixture in the stall all day. I asked my vet to come out again. Something just didn’t feel right even though V and C seemed to be doing better.

Always—ALWAYS listen to your gut.

My vet came out that afternoon and discovered that the discharge coming from V’s vulva was not a good color and she wasn’t producing milk. We did a uterine lavage (which is kind of a really gross process). Two flushes with sterile fluid and one with betadine added. We also hooked V up to an IV because she was dehydrated from not drinking and pushed fluids. While we had her knocked out with drugs Ben, in his divine wisdom, decided to beckon C over to say hello. I guess momma bear hormones beat drugs because V popped out of her stupor, muscled through me and my vet, busted the IV line, and charged Ben. The creepy old gelding next door isn’t going to go anywhere near V’s baby girl…

More uncomfortable colic behavior. Catalina has limited energy & sleeps a lot.

We drugged V even more (seriously, I don’t even know how she was standing), hooked up a new IV, and gave her a shot of antibiotics. C was not pooping, so we gave her an enema. We also started a treatment of oxytocin to encourage milk production because V was not producing milk and C was starving. Oxytocin is also used to help contract/close the uterus after birth, which V needed. It took 5 hours to do everything but we finished with only the IV casualty.

I look like this after a rough night at the bar. Just kidding. I drink alone at home.

I’m going to briefly go into a tangent that actually has to do with this whole story. Earlier that week we met a mother and daughter that was walking their horse down our road. They had been following V’s belly progress on their walks and we exchanged numbers. Sunday night my sister was driving down the road and saw a cat get hit by a car. She pulled over and so did another car. The woman we met walking her horse got out of that other car. While they were caring for the poor kitty, my sister relayed the issues I was having with V and C (because it’s a small town and everyone talks about everything). So I got a text from the woman on Monday saying if I needed help to let her know. Which was a blessing because we were feeding C goat milk every 4 hours and feeding V small portions of soaked food every 2 hours.

I recently had some “issues” with my workplace and couldn’t afford to miss work. That woman and her daughter diligently came over and fed V and C for the next 2 days for me while I was stuck at work. Word spread quickly and the whole block ended up coming over to help care for my sick mare and foal. It was one of the coolest things that I am eternally grateful for because I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my sickies without taking them to an equine hospital.

The picture I sent to explain where to give a shot.

Okay, so back to the timeline! On Tuesday…we’re on Tuesday right? Okay, on Tuesday the vet came out again. We did another round of IV fluids. We did another uterine lavage. This time the color that came out was not so gross. Antibiotics were inserted into V’s uterus to help battle infection. She still had a lot of hard, dry poop that the vet helped remove. We started her on domperidone which was a much stronger drug to produce milk. Apparently so strong that I didn’t want to touch it or I could start lactating. FUN. V’s prognosis was better. She still had a uterine infection though and she was borderline clinically dehydrated. She was still not drinking water. C still wasn’t pooping well, so another enema for baby and we were finally done.

On Wednesday the weather finally cooled down. It’s not so fun to sit out in the heat for 3-4 hours every afternoon after both my vet and myself have had a full day of work. We decided on Wednesday to stop soaking V’s food in hopes that she would start drinking water again. A ballsy move for a horse that is well known to drink over 20 gallon a day but she had started turning her nose up to soaked orchard grass (the nerve. Does she even know how expensive that stuff is??). She seemed to be producing a bit more milk and she wasn’t quite as dehydrated. Her uterine lavage was not bad (this one drained chunk free. TMI? Sorry). Her poop had improved. C was finally pooping that gross processed cheese poop that baby horses have. Things were looking up and we could now officially say that both would probably be fine.

Stalking them from work. It was all I did for days.

Thursday was the last day my vet came. I guess she didn’t need me to pay off more of her truck payments. V was drinking, eating, and pooping really well. C was eating and pooping well. V’s uterine lavage looked as clear as it was going to get. I was left with instructions to continue V on oxytocin for another 3 days and domperidone until the second tube ran out. She was to continue on banamine (did I mention she was on banamine this whole time? I don’t think I did. She was on banamine the whole time) until the oxytocin ran out because it could be uncomfortable smashing your uterus back into its proper size when you’re also going into foal heat. She was put on a round of antibiotics and I was told to look for any signs that V or C was doing poorly.

Still not feeling 100%.

I didn’t sleep the whole time. Partly because I had to get up to give shots in the middle of the night and partly because I was so stressed about their wellbeing that I would watch them on the camera all night. I managed to stab myself twice with the needles for V’s oxytocin shots. I don’t know how I didn’t pass out in the stall. I swear one of the times hit bone. It turns out that getting some oxytocin in your system (and not much, maybe a drop or two. Whatever fits in the needle head) will make you feel really shitty.

I hope I never have to go through anything like this again and I hope no one else ever has to deal with something like this. It’s hard enough to care for one sick horse let alone two sick horses. Even if the second sick horse is a very small horse that feels pretty good about life and just wants to eat everything. Especially the vet because the vet tastes good.

Feeling good on Friday & checking out the cat.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a thing or two but this post is mega huge so I’ll just leave the rest to any questions anyone has.

16 thoughts on “Valeria’s Birthing Ordeal

  1. O.M.G. I’m surprised that you are sane and still breathing after all of that! And that you managed to wait before calling the vet. I’m normally levelheaded but when it comes to my horse, most of that goes out the window. So glad that things are looking up for you though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always a little nervous to call the vet out for everything and get a reputation for crying wolf. And my vet is really good about not making an emergency visit if she thinks it can be handled by a competent owner (which is why I always have a supply of banamine on hand).
      But I agree. I don’t know how I managed. Really, it was the support of all my neighbors. That really relieved a lot of stress.
      I’m really glad things are better too! Thank you!
      p.s. Congrats on Scarlet making the trek to SD. 🙂


    • It was bad but what you’re going through with Presto is way worse. I hope everyday that he turns a corner and shows drastic improvement. I don’t know much about his infection, but I hope his little tummy starts feeling better.


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