Abandoned but not as you think
**Caution this story contains descriptions and photos that some people may be upset by**
One cold and rainy morning, Laura decided to make an extra check of the ponies before heading to work, Sue was due there in an hour so the visit wasn’t needed but sometimes it’s nice to say hello to the horses before a long work day.
When Laura arrived at the field, there was a dark mound half way down the field and her initial thoughts were some rubbish had blown in. On closer inspection she found it was a tiny new born foal, only hour’s old but no other ponies near it. The two mares who would normally be in the paddock were at the far end of the field not showing any interest in this tiny little thing.
One of the mares – Kenco, was showing signs of recent foaling but would not be drawn or lead back to the foal, she had only been in the rescue a short time so this delivery was a surprise. A few phone calls later, work was cancelled then Sue and Sarah arrived to find the foal now wrapped in a blanket and spare clothes from the back of the car. Working together we separated the herd to lock Kenco in with the foal alone, hoping without a distraction she would return to her foal but still she would not come near.
We were now on a timer, new-born foals desperately need to have their first feed full of colostrum to give them energy and immunity to the outside world but Kenco wasn’t going to help. We phoned around the veterinary centres and luckily the horse hospital at Ripple had some frozen colostrum we could collect. Having no other choice at the time, we took the foal home to get her warm, dry and fed once the colostrum was heated. We tried several times over the next few days to reconnect Kenco and the foal but to no avail. We started searching for a foster mare, this would be the best chance for the foal to live a normal life.
(We later found out that some dog walkers had seen the foal being born and gone into the field to take photos. The barking of their dog was what scared Kenco into running away from her foal and refusing to return, they never came forward and we can only assume they thought Kenco would return in her own time).
The foal who we had now called Coffee was doing well on her bottle feeds but we knew the best thing would be to find an actual horse mother to raise her. The National Foaling Bank let us know about a Mare in Ceredigion that had just lost her own foal.
This started the first of Coffee’s searches for a Mum.
Coffee after a blood transfusion in the first foster home
Sue and Laura made the drive across Wales to take Coffee to meet the new mare. The foal had passed away but had been kept with the mum. Upon Coffee’s arrival, the vet on hand was preparing to help the mare accept Coffee as her own. This is done by covering the new foal with the skin of the old foal, this is to try and trick the mare into believing Coffee was her own by making her smell like her own foal. We spent a few hours connecting the mare and foal. Coffee very much wanted her new mum and the mare was cautiously allowing Coffee to nurse.
It was going great!
Coffee in disguise, learning to nurse her new foster Mum
Coffee was left at the new home to be raised by the foster mare. We kept in touch with the mare’s owner and things continued to go well for the first few days. Unfortunately not long after, the foster mare also rejected Coffee. Coffee’s condition went downhill and she became very ill. Being so young the stress of her first few weeks had taken it’s toll. The vet who had helped connect the horses advised the only treatment that could help Coffee was a blood transfusion – she ended up having two! With all of the vet treatment, the foster mare’s owner no longer wanted Coffee and could not pay the vet’s bill either (this bill combined with the Springs feed bill for the other horses meant Sue had to re-mortgage her house to cover the costs)
Sarah and Laura travelled back to Ceredigion to pick up Coffee and bring her back to Malvern. Coffee was taken to the stable yard where she could be kept warm and dry as well as be fed from the bottle every four hours, until she got stronger.
Once Coffee was feeling better and able to get about with confidence she was introduced to another of the rescue’s horses – Constance, a part thoroughbred mare with a super gentle nature. Constance and Coffee took to each other straight away, Constance’s patience and guidance taught Coffee how to be a horse, how to communicate in horse language and essentially how to behave – we continued with her bottle feeds and Constance would watch over like any doting mother.
Coffee & Constance buddied up (Photo courtesy of the Malvern Gazette)
In time we were able to introduce Constance and Coffee to a bigger herd, Constance protected Coffee as if she was her own foal. In the new herd, Coffee thrived and grew, her bottle feeds ending after a few months and she would eat normally like the others.
Constance lived out her days in peace at the rescue. Coffee is still with us, she is sweet as anything and quite talkative. No one has offered her a home yet, but she is welcome to stay with us until this happens.