As a long-time breeder, trainer, and rider of the Akhal-Teke, I tend to take for granted those things about them that are so intrinsic that they tend to be overlooked and overshadowed by their more-visual traits. Such things as courage, fortitude, and intelligence, even in the face of dire situations.
This past weekend, I was once again overwhelmingly reminded why I love this breed of horse, and largely for those qualities I just listed. Our purebred mare Gozakhal, on Day 337 of a textbook pregnancy- fat, serene, and glowing with health, developed a uterine torsion between my last night check at 4:30 Sunday morning and her morning feed at 8:30 AM. For the non-breeders reading this, this means that she flipped her uterus over with the foal still inside, an incredibly painful and dangerous situation and the dread of breeders. While in obvious pain and distress, Gozi was instantly calmed by seeing me and trusted that I would fix her situation. Incredibly stoic, she allowed the vet to palpate her to confirm my suspicion, and then calmly walked onto the horse trailer without even a moment's hesitation for her ride to the surgery clinic. I rode with her in the trailer to keep her company and to ensure she did not try to lie down- indeed, she never budged all the way there.
While she was being prepped for surgery, catheterized and sedated, her belly was shaved and ultrasounded, sadly, the vet was not able to find the foal's heartbeat. In-utero foals can be very compromised by a uterine torsion, and it appeared ours was- regardless, I wanted to save my mare. She went quickly into surgery, and I went to pace in the office. While peeking through the tiny crack left open in the observation window, I was able to see her head showing from under her surgical shrouds, I have assisted before in a colic surgery so I was somewhat familiar with the routine; however, watching it happen to your own horse is quite different. With a mixture of sadness and relief, I saw them bring in the hoist to pull out the foal, since it was heavy enough that it couldn't be lifted by the vets. I saw the foal being pulled up by it's hind ankles and then retracted into the induction room, then, suddenly all hands in the room, save the surgeon who was still diligently working on Gozi, ran into the other room and out of my range of sight. Then, to my complete shock and utter amazement, one of the surgical team stuck their head through the door and said, "It's a filly, she's alive and already trying to get up ! Would you like to come and see her ? "
The filly had a heartbeat when they got her out and with an oxygen feed, was gaining strength as she came out of the surgical anesthesia she received through her umbilical cord. At less than 30 minutes old, she was up and walking and searching for something to eat !! Gozi came through the surgery well and while shaky on her feet, was brought into her recovery stall to meet her daughter. She was a bit taken aback to see a foal she didn't remember giving birth to, but within 30 minutes, filly had latched on nursing and mother and daughter were firmly bonded.
Gozi not only had no complications from her ordeal, but was doing so well she was able to come home from the hospital that Thursday, 4 days after her C-section !! She continues to be healthy and strong, although distressed at her mandatory stall rest. The vets were concerned that the filly might show dummy foal symptoms due to her rough start, but she never did and is strong, feisty, and perfect, and already growing like a weed. Very few uterine torsions end with such a happy ending, the fact that Gozi was already 337 days and the foal was mature enough to survive outside the mare if she made it through the torsion, was the key to our success. Knowing also that the torsion had happened in that one 4-hour period, we were able to feel fairly confident that we caught it as early as possible. The vet feels the foal was turning in preparation for birth in the next few days, and Gozi rolled one way while the foal was rolling the other.
Looking at my healthy pair, I am so thankful that I chose a breed with such courage, strength of will, and just sheer toughness. Gozi never complained, gave up, or quit trying, and neither did her foal. She is still as implacably solid as ever, and will hopefully go on and contribute those invaluable traits to future foals after a well-earned year off.
Pictures to come soon,
Central Asian Equines