January 2017 | Paso Fino Foal, Born Six Weeks Premature, Is a Fighter Who Refuses to Quit
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Paso Fino Foal, Born Six Weeks Premature, Is a Fighter Who Refuses to Quit

Suzanne Bush - January 2017

Dr. Michelle Linton and Tamara RoseDr. Michelle Linton and Tamara Rose at New Bolton Center. Credit: Suzanne Bush

Tamara Rose came into the world early. At 28 pounds, she was a flyweight in the world of foals.

Born six weeks prematurely, the little Paso Fino would need an extraordinary combination of luck, love and veterinary magic to survive. In the parlance of Pennsylvania’s casino culture, Tamara Rose hit the jackpot.  The combination of a devoted and conscientious owner and proximity to one of the world’s most respected veterinary hospitals proved to be a winning hand—or hoof—for the youngster.

She’s a Fighter

Beverlea Roye-Manderbach is the owner of Laota Spring Farm in Sinking Spring, PA, where Tamara Rose was born. She says that the first signs of trouble began in the sixth month of the mare’s pregnancy. “She (Chaperona) started to have some problems and we weren’t sure exactly what was going on. She showed signs she was going to abort.”

She consulted with veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center. They put Chaperona on antibiotics and hormones. “She was okay for a while and then about maybe eight months into it she showed again.”

Roye-Manderbach says that they still could not figure out what was going on with Chaperona, but they put her back on the antibiotics. The treatment worked, but then the mare started having problems again. They started antibiotics again and “then she had the baby.”

Workers at the farm found the foal early on the morning of October 17. Roye-Manderbach said the baby was cold and motionless, and “the mom was quite interested in trying to get her baby up, but the baby couldn’t do anything.” They wrapped the foal in blankets and put her in the back of the car, loaded Chaperona on the trailer and they took both to New Bolton Center, where Dr. Michelle Linton was waiting.

Tamara Rose’s situation was critical. She was septic, and so premature that the bones in her legs had not formed completely. “She didn’t have any bone in her knee and her hocks. She had some, but not much—mostly cartilage.”

Chaperona, separated from her baby by a gate, watched everything. “She was very attentive to the baby. She stood over her the whole time, watching what was going on, just wanting to be with her baby.” Unable to touch the foal, and separated by a gate, Chaperona paced and paced. “Then Tamara Rose went into seizures which preemies do. And mom thought she was dying, because every time (she had a seizure) she became quite still and mom became quite upset.”

Roye-Manderbach was worried about Chaperona’s well-being. They decided to send the mare back to the farm, where she is doing fine and regaining the weight she lost. Even after they examined the placenta, they could not find any reason for what happened during Chaperona’s pregnancy. Roye-Manderbach says that they won’t breed Chaperona again. “I felt since we don’t know what happened, it was best not to use her any more for breeding, even though she’s a really good mom.”

A Foal on the Cusp

“Mares have very variable windows when they can foal, unlike people. But horses have a much wider window of what can be normal for them,” Linton says. “Some mares foal at 370 days every year, so for them a premature foal may be 330 days. It is hard to predict, but we usually say less than 320 days, they need a lot of support and a lot of help. Anything less than 300 days, the prognosis is really terrible for them for a lot of different reasons.”

Tamara Rose, born six weeks premature, was a foal facing a steep climb. “She was right on the cusp; we worried about her prognosis,” Linton explains. “There are different things they battle with early on that they have to get over.”

The bones in the foal’s legs had not formed fully, but there were other complications as well. “There were a lot of things we dealt with initially because of her prematurity,” Linton says. There was an infection in her blood, which required medication. And then the seizures she had—though worrisome—were not unexpected. “The seizures start anywhere from birth to two or three days post birth,” she says. “Hers lasted about 24 hours.” During the seizures, she held her urine, and so she had catheters in order to prevent a ruptured bladder.

“None of her organs were mature enough for being out in the real world,” Linton says. “And so there’s a lot of supportive care.” There were lots of medications required to help Tamara Rose recover from the blood infection, and Linton says that with a foal that small, and so many other things going on, every medication had to be considered carefully. “You want to help them, but not hurt them at the same time.”

Tamara Rose is a spunky little patient, who has been the center of attention at New Bolton’s neonatal unit. “She’s probably about now 55 or 60 pounds, and for this mare it’s probably normal birth weight. So she has actually hit her birth weight around the time she should have been born, which is kind of nice.”

Linton says now that the foal is able to walk around in her little stall, they’re looking ahead to other challenges. “We try to prevent the behavior issues from happening. We’re trying to get her with a companion that’s going to be a good companion for her because she’s so small.”

Roye-Manderbach is going to bring a mini from the farm to stay with Tamara Rose until she’s strong enough to go home. “Minis are pretty good because she won’t let her get away with too much,” Linton says. “It’s hard for us to discipline them in a way that they can understand what we mean. So, we rely on them having a companion.” And in this case that companion can be a lifelong buddy. “This mini will be a friend who will be with her for quite a while and will teach her how to be a horse. Because right now she doesn’t know what she is.” 

An Amazing Ride

Laota Spring Farm is home to two World Champion Paso Fino horses and several National Champions.  But one of the most revered residents is a 39-year-old Tennessee Walker named Laota.

Roye-Manderbach was severely injured in a riding accident many years ago. “I used to show jumpers, and had a really nasty fall and spent quite a long time in the hospital recovering. That’s when I said I would never ride again,” she explains. But her husband had other ideas. He knew how much she loved horses, and how much she once loved riding.

“Finally, my husband said this is crazy! I had a fear of riding, and he took me to Virginia and got me on a Tennessee Walker.” He bought the horse for her as a birthday gift, “and she’s still here at the age of 39.” The name Laota means Rose of the Prairie in the Native American language of Roye-Manderbach’s father.

She says she can’t ride jumpers anymore because of the injuries she had sustained. But someone introduced her to Paso Fino horses, and she was hooked. Besides their legendary smooth gaits, these are horses that really warm up to people. “They love human beings. They’re just amazing horses. I have never met horses that have been so willing and want to do things for you and please you.”

So, the small farm that had no horses has turned into a destination for lovers of this ancient breed. “I fell in love with the breed. I thought it was just one horse, but I have 28 in the barn now, and they’re all sweet, kind and amazing. I just can’t get over the temperament of these horses.”

The long road from a devastating riding injury to the barn full of Paso Fino horses had lots of twists and turns. Roye-Manderbach says it’s been an amazing ride, made even more so by the arrival of the little foal that would not quit.