Saturday night, December 20th was a very cold and windy night here in southwest Missouri. Unfortunately one of our mares decided that it would be a good time to deliver her foal and she dropped him on the ground in the midst of an icy wind and 13 degree temperatures at 7:00 PM. Fortunately my wife went to check on her and found the foal before he froze to death. We covered the baby with our coats and put him in the back of the pickup and took him to the barn for shelter and to get him warmed up. After half an hour our so, we recognized that he was freezing to death and was not going to survive. From my experience dairy farming, I remembered how we used to thaw out frozen calves, so we carried the baby to the house (my mother's house actually since it was closer) and put him in a bathtub of warm water. Within half an hour he was enlivened and began to try to stand up. We got him out of the tub and with towels and hair dryer we got him dried off. He struggled to stand but we took him back to the barn and his mother to see if we could get him to nurse. Unfortunately the cold proved too much for him and in a short while he could no longer stand up. Thankfully the mother was calm enough for me to milk out some of her first milk which the baby needed to survive. If you can picture me in a dark, cold barn, reaching under an upset and nervous 2000 pound horse to squeeze some milk into a measuring cup, I am sure that would have been a funny site, but we were on a mission to save the baby. With a wine bottle full of first milk, we loaded the baby back in the pickup and with our coats covering him and me holding him down we drove to our studio where we put him down on the carpet. We had done some preparation for such an event and we had a lamb nipple for the wine bottle and we got the little fellow to drink some milk. We fed him the milk every 10 -15 minutes and as he got warmed up and some energy from the milk he was able to stand on his own. Things were looking up but by 1:00 AM we were out of milk, and his mother was in no mood to be milked again, being very upset at having her baby taken away. Although I gave it a shot, it was unsuccessful, her snorting sounding a lot like I imagine a dragon would sound and those giant hooves didn't look to friendly as they slashed around. A quick search on the internet gave us goat's milk as an acceptable substitute for mare's milk and Apryl was quickly off to our 24 hour Wal-Mart for several cans of condensed goat's milk. The foal drank the goat's milk just fine and grew stronger through the night, as we fed him about every hour. My son had put his bed out in our studio so we had a place to nap while taking turns feeding the baby. After 2 days of round the clock feeding, we thought he was strong enough to go see his mother. Fortune was not with us in this case though because by that time she was confused and would not accept him. So we settled in to celebrating Christmas, with all our family at our house and Apryl and I sleeping with the foal and feeding him every 2 hours round the clock as well as cooking Christmas dinner and all the usual family stuff. It was tiresome but we watched him grow stronger each day, still uncertain he would survive. After we had gone through over 100 cans of condensed goat's milk, we decided to try some milk replacer. The first product we tried did not work out but we finally found a product that did work and began to transition the baby to milk replacer. As he grew stronger, we moved him out of the studio into a small pen with one of our mares that loves foals, even if they aren't hers. She has been watching over the little one and teaching him horse behavior, while Apryl and I have continued to feed him every 2 hours, day and night. Recently another internet search provided an alternative feeding method called an Igloo Mamma, which is an Igloo water cooler, spigot removed and replaced with a pipe and lamb nipple, which can hold several feedings of milk and allow the foal to nurse whenever he likes. A quick trip to our local farm supply store and we were set. It took nearly a day of us attending the feedings, guiding the baby to his new igloo mamma, but he now nurses it without prompting, is growing well and has enough energy to kick at us if he is unhappy. Last night Apryl and I only had to get up twice to make sure the milk was warm enough and verify the baby was eating. The baby is now 2 weeks old and doing very well.
It has been a trying time, but we had hope and persevered in the face of adversity and I think we can now confidently announce the arrival of The Forge's Midnight Skye.
Here are some pictures of Skye with his igloo mamma, in his little foal blanket and without and short clip of him with his adoptive mother, Raven.