I was called to an Amish farm to treat a large draft horse mare with colic- abdominal pain. She was in the lower area of the bank barn and had a foal with her. My exam included inspecting the horse from head to hoof and then listening to the horse’s abdomen and rectally palpating to determine if there was an impaction, twisted intestines, or gas filled intestines. After examining her, I decided to pass a tube into her nose that extended to her stomach so I could give her mineral oil. When I realized I forgot to put the pump I used to pump oil and water through the tube, I told the farmer I needed to go to my farm to retrieve the pump.
I was only away a short time since my farm was close, but when I arrived back at the Amish farm, the mare was not alive. I was stunned. She never gave me any indication she was that ill. Since she was too large for men to remove, the Amish man had the mare hooked up to team of draft horses to take her out of the cramped lower barn area. He never seemed upset. Amish are accustomed to loss.
As we discussed the foal, suddenly, without being asked, the team began dragging the mare’s body around the corner and out the back door of the barn. The Amish man ran after them, calling for them to stop. It was a sad scene on one hand, but, on the other hand, a little funny – one sad funny site.
He successfully stopped the team and we continued discussing the foal. I offered my foal milk replacer to help the orphan foal. I was certain she would drink from a bowl. When I returned with the replacer, the Amish man had introduced the orphan foal with another mare nursing a foal of her own. The mare graciously accepted the orphan, allowing her to nurse. Her own foal, however, was not as accepting.
The orphan foal nursed on the mare’s one side and the mare’s baby on the other. I watched the mare’s baby move around the back of the mare and, when he spotted the orphan, he pinned his ears, bucked a little, and moved back to his side of the mare. It seemed if the orphan was ‘out of sight, out of mind’ all was ok. The orphan seemed oblivious and continued to nurse. It must be difficult to share your mother, but it must also be difficult to lose your mother. The mare raised both foals and all ended well.
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