Terps Fundraise, Unite to Provide Quality Care for Foal
Image Credit: Stephanie S. Cordle
“Is there supposed to be a foal?”
That seemingly simple text from a student handling chores at the University of Maryland’s Campus Farm grabbed Assistant Manager Rose Cardinal’s attention on an ugly December morning.
“I was like, ‘What are you asking me right now? It’s 7 a.m.!’” Cardinal said. “Then he finally sent a picture of this little foal in the sand, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’”
The fuzzy filly that had appeared alongside UMD’s mare, Noble, was a gangly, four-legged surprise. Unbeknownst to the members of the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences who work at the farm, Noble had been pregnant when she came to campus as a lesson horse in March, and she’d given birth overnight.
Luckily for both mom and baby, four students from last spring’s equine reproductive management class hopped back in the proverbial saddle to make sure the horses were healthy, and now, a LaunchUMD campaign is raising funds to cover the unexpected vet bills and feed costs.
“We would’ve been in much worse shape if we didn’t have students to help out,” said Megan McLean, Campus Farm manager. “It would’ve been Rose and I sleeping here, pretty much, for a couple weeks.”
While the hullabaloo might sound like an equine version of the former TLC series “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” not realizing a mare is expecting isn’t uncommon, Cardinal said. Horses, which have 11-month gestation periods, don’t typically give birth in the winter, and the Campus Farm crew attributed Noble’s weight gain and bulging midsection to “hay belly,” a condition where the animal eats too much and doesn’t develop muscles.
“She didn’t have any milk production, so we couldn’t tell by her teats,” Cardinal said. “There were really no warning signs other than her getting a little grumpy when people would try and touch her belly.”
News of the foal quickly spread, and Niraj Suresh ’23 borrowed a bike to race through cold, rainy weather to the barn as soon as he heard. He and a few classmates from animal and avian sciences Professor Amy Burk’s equine reproduction class, where students help two mares give birth, put that experience to use. They immediately warmed the foal with a towel, dipped the umbilical cord in disinfectant, weighed the placenta and performed biosecurity procedures before a vet arrived to do a plasma infusion to boost immunity.
The horses needed round-the-clock supervision for a few days, and students later signed up for two-hour shifts as early as 2 a.m. to give medication and help the foal stand, lie down and nurse.
“That class is definitely very effective—I don’t think any of us really needed much of a refresher on anything,” said Emma Ball ’23, another former equine reproductive management student.
The costs of their care added up, but the LaunchUMD fundraiser, which runs through the end of this month. Early donors earned the opportunity to vote for the foal’s name, with Out of the Blue (just Blue for short) winning as the overwhelming favorite.
Blue needs to stay with Noble for at least six months, whether that’s at UMD or another fitting home. The important thing is that she’s becoming healthy and strong, Suresh said, trotting right up to her student caretakers and doing “zoomies” around the barn.
“From that first morning, her hip bones were popping out, and she was shivering cold,” he said. “Now to see her have all this spunk is very rewarding.”
This story was originally published by Maryland Today.