Mare Nurses Foal While Battling Life Threatening Injury, Adopts Another

Mare with two foals
Meringue (white) with her foal Vinceraii (left) and her adopted foal Alcanzar (on ground).

“Case of the Month” – December 2019

Meringue, a 23-year-old Davenport Arabian mare, was found with her head stuck in her stall door. Her owner, Michael Bowling, had to use fence cutters to open the gate. Once her head was freed from the gate, Meringue went down on her right side and was unable to get up. Bowling, a UC Davis veterinary hospital client for nearly 40 years, called the Equine Field Service, which immediately dispatched veterinarians and a team of veterinary students to his ranch.

At the ranch, radiographs were taken of Meringue’s neck that showed multiple irregularities in her C1-C2 vertebrae. Beyond the vertebral issues, Meringue had elevated heart and respiratory rates, multiple abrasions on her face and neck, and multiple injuries on her legs, including a deep wound down to bone on her right front forelimb. She also showed signs of lameness in her right front limb and an uncoordinated gait, indicating a neurologic injury. Due to the extensive nature of her condition, Meringue was transported to the veterinary hospital the following morning after she was able to stand again.

At the time of the injury, Meringue was nursing her foal Vinceraii, who was born just 10 weeks prior. Vinceraii, too young to wean from her mother, was brought with Meringue to the hospital. Vinceraii was familiar with the UC Davis veterinary hospital, having been hospitalized herself for management of angular limb deformities when she was just six days old. She underwent surgical correction of the deformities but was recovering well at the time of Meringue’s accident.

After further tests at the hospital, Meringue was diagnosed with temporohyoid osteoarthropathy (THO), cervical fractures, an infection in her fetlock joint (septic arthritis), and several flesh wounds.

THO is a progressive disease of the middle ear, and the origins of it are not fully understood. Suspected causes include infection, trauma, and osteoarthritis. In Meringue’s case, her recent trauma may have exacerbated the disease and was certainly what was causing her neurological issues.   

Under the care of the Equine Internal Medicine Service and the Equine Emergency Surgery and Critical Care Service, Meringue was treated in the hospital for five weeks. Her neurologic abnormalities improved with anti-inflammatories and stall rest. The septic arthritis in her fetlock required multiple joint flushes and intra-articular antibiotic infusions.

Vinceraii stayed with her the entire time.

Follow-up appointments by the Equine Field Service at Bowling’s ranch were positive, showing marked improvement each time. After six weeks of antibiotics and bandaging, Meringue’s right front limb and neck wounds fully healed. She has now discontinued all of her medications, and remains very comfortable moving around in her pasture with only minimal changes seen on bone radiographs. The twice per week appointments gave the veterinary students experience in wound care – cleaning, debriding, and re-bandaging Meringue’s wounds, which decreased in size and progressively healed with each visit.

Bowling currently owns approximately 35 horses and is president of Davenport Arabian Horse Conservancy, which is dedicated to enhancing public awareness and appreciation of the Davenport Arabian horse as Homer Davenport knew it, with emphasis on its usefulness, aesthetic merit, historical tradition and appropriate place in contemporary Arabian horse breeding.

Davenport Arabian horses are descended entirely from the historic Davenport Desert Arabian Stud. The breed consists of horses descended from those imported by Homer Davenport in 1906, and in some instances, in possible combination with pedigree elements from the Hamidie Society importation of 1893. With support from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Davenport, the world’s highest-paid political cartoonist, was permitted to buy Arabian horses in the Ottoman Empire. (Roosevelt credited Davenport with a major role in the success of his 1904 presidential campaign.) Davenport traveled to Arabia to meet with Bedouin tribes and returned with the largest single importation of Arabian horses ever brought to the United States.

About a month after Meringue’s discharge from the hospital, one of Bowling’s Davenport Arabians, Almohada, died from internal bleeding from a torn uterine artery after giving birth. Her foal, Alcanzar, survived the birth and was adopted by Meringue. This was her second time as an adoptive mother, having adopted another orphaned foal four years ago, making her a 5-time mother (three natural, two adopted). She nursed Vinceraii and Alcanzar simultaneously for almost two months before Vinceraii was weaned. She is still nursing Alcanzar and recovering well from her injuries.

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