One Year Since Marrakesh

One year ago today, Marrakesh was born. I was so excited for his arrival- after all, I waited over a year for Gina to foal!

He was cute and curious, but he struggled from the get-go. He was thin, weak, and small. Once helped to his feet, he nursed vigorously, but tired quickly. Marrakesh rallied a couple of times, but just wasn’t strong enough to fight off the infections that raged in his tiny body. Just over a month after he was born, I decided to end his life.

I like to remember the joy I felt when I saw him for the first time. I remember how he zipped around the paddock on one of his best days. How soft his downy foal coat felt. How long and thick his curly tail was. The way he peeked out from under Gina’s belly.

I am often asked if it was a hard decision to euthanize him. It wasn’t- he was clearly suffering, and his veterinary team had tried everything. The care he received was excellent, and no expense was spared for his treatment. When his hock joint became infected and didn’t respond to treatment, I knew that even if he survived, he wouldn’t have a pleasant life.

Another question I frequently get is if I’ll breed Gina again. That’s a harder decision. The entire breeding endeavor, from stud fee to veterinary care pre and post-partum, totaled about $15,000. That’s a lot of money for me, and I don’t have enough saved up to spend another $15,000 if things go sideways again. Breeding is still appealing to me, but Gina isn’t getting any younger. I will probably not breed Gina again. Maybe some day I will breed another mare and try to produce another horse for myself.

But today, right now, I will hug Gina and remember her flashy and imperfect foal who left us too soon.

Goodbye, Marrakesh

On Friday, I made the decision to have Marrakesh euthanized.

Last Thursday, his vet called me to give me an update on how he was responding to the treatment for his joint infection. It wasn’t a good update- he didn’t appear to be responding to treatment at all. He refused to bear weight on the leg. Clinic staff would help him up to nurse, he would do so, and then he’d immediately lay back down. The vet told me I didn’t need to make any decisions immediately, but he did advise me that the chances of Marrakesh recovering were dwindling.

On Friday, I spoke with the vet about further diagnostics. I told him I wasn’t particularly concerned with cost- I was more concerned with long-term prognosis for soundness. He understood, and said that another set of radiographs would be useful. Radiographs would show if the joint was continuing to degrade or not. I gave the vet the okay for another set of radiographs and held out hope for a minor miracle. A few hours later, his vet called me with the results. The joint was degrading. If he lived through the infection, he would never be sound and would likely live in chronic pain.

After that, the decision to euthanize him wasn’t really a decision at all.

Johnny and I met up at the clinic on Friday night, where the staff met us after-hours and let us spend as much time with him as we wanted. I petted his soft face and fluffy ears and assured him that he was the very best boy who’d done the very best he could. I petted Gina and told her she was a good girl and a good mama. The clinic staff assured me that I was making the right decision; I knew that, but it was comforting to hear veterinary professionals say it.

And so Marrakesh’s brief life came to a peaceful end on Friday evening.

Being right doesn’t make this situation less awful. I’m sad. Johnny’s sad. I imagine many of you who have been invested in the little guy’s life since he was a small black dot on an ultrasound screen are sad. Gina seemed sad over the weekend. I derive some amount of comfort from knowing that since the beginning, I did everything I could to give him a chance at a normal life. The veterinary staff at Pine Ridge Equine Hospital are outstanding, and I know they worked hard on his behalf. But that’s the way it goes sometimes- everyone does their best, and sometimes, it’s just not enough.

I cannot thank all of you enough for your encouraging words, your prayers, your positive thoughts, and your support. Having such a big network of supporters and cheerleaders and friends has helped me stay positive through what’s been a very trying time.

Good news, bad news

I haven’t posted much about Marrakesh because I haven’t heard much about Marrakesh. His vet is good about calling me with updates when something has occurred. I don’t call the clinic daily; it’s better for my peace of mind to wait for an update.

On Sunday morning, the vet called me with some good news. The systemic infection that’s been plaguing Marrakesh seems to be on its way out. He’s more active, the fibrin has cleared from his eyes, and incidents of diarrhea are infrequent and much less watery than they were before. I was really glad to hear all of this!

Unfortunately, the clinic staff noticed that Marrakesh was lame on his right hind on Sunday morning. After a physical examination and x-rays, his vet determined that the right hock had become infected. An injection of antibiotics was administered directly into the hock. The vet hopes that this early, aggressive intervention will lead to a positive outcome.

Hopefully he’ll go back to doing this eventually!

Joint infection has been a fear since the get-go. It’s pretty bad news: some foals with joint infections die and some live to have irreversible damage and incurable arthritic change. Early treatment is the key to success, and I’m grateful to the vigilant vet clinic staff for noticing something was wrong and acting quickly.

I’m worried and sad and disappointed. I’m also really grateful for my friends, my family, and the equestrian blogging community.  Everyone’s been very supportive and overwhelmingly kind. I hope my next update will be full of good news.

Baby horse roller coaster

When I brought Marrakesh and Gina home last Saturday, he seemed firmly on the mend. He was running, bucking,  napping, eating- all the things you expect a two-and-a-half week old foal to do.  The vet had sent us home with five days’ worth of antibiotics, and Johnny and I dutifully administered them morning and night.  I also took Marrakesh’s temperature every day to make sure he wasn’t feverish. The vet told me to call the clinic if he spiked a fever, had loose stool, or became lethargic.

On Tuesday morning, his temperature was slightly elevated. I called the clinic as instructed and spoke with my vet. He thought the increase in temperature might be due to the increased heat outside. (The heat index was over 100°F for the first time in a few days.) He advised me to bring Gina and baby inside, sponge baby off with water and rubbing alcohol, and park them under a fan. I did, and his temperature decreased to within normal range. However, on Tuesday evening, Marrakesh developed diarrhea. Not the kind-of-runny-but-still-recognizable-as-poop kind. The is-that-pee-wait-he-doesn’t-pee-from-that-area kind.

Still cute, even when he’s not feeling his best.

The diarrhea persisted through Wednesday. Marrakesh became less active. After consulting with his vet, I stopped the two antibiotics he had been receiving and switched him to a different one. I also began giving him probiotics. He remained lethargic and wasn’t nursing very well. On Thursday, the diarrhea stopped but he still seemed tired and uninterested in doing much other than lying under his fan. On Thursday evening, my friend next door noticed his eyes were sort of cloudy and oddly tinted. She texted the vet who treats our adult horses (and works at the same clinic as Marrakesh’s vet); she suspected fibrin formation in his eyes and advised applying atropine ointment and administering banamine.

On Friday morning, I called the clinic to discuss Marrakesh’s eye ailment and continued lethargy. They felt it was best if I brought him in, so I did. The clinic ran a blood panel on him, which unsurprisingly showed all sorts of wacky values. The vet felt most of the values were due to dehydration and diarrhea. So in went another IV catheter and another NG tube so he could receive fluids and milk. The cloudiness in his eyes was attributed to fibrin, which was forming as a byproduct of the ongoing bacterial infection. The vet felt it would clear up with treatment.

Marrakesh’s team putting in the IV catheter and NG tube. He’s under there somewhere!

I last heard from the vet on Saturday. Marrakesh was about the same as he had been on Friday- not feverish, but still lethargic and not nursing well. The diarrhea had also returned. The vet planned to run another blood panel on Saturday afternoon to see if any of the fluids he was receiving needed to be adjusted.

I’m trying to remain optimistic. I know he’s in good hands at the clinic, and I know his vet (and the rest of the staff) want to figure out what’s happening and why.  This certainly isn’t how I anticipated breeding Gina would go, but hopefully her colt will recover and go on to live a happy, healthy life!

Marrakesh is home (again)!

I missed a call from my vet on Thursday evening, but the message he left was heartening. Marrakesh’s temperature had been normal for the last three days without Banamine and there was very little drainage from the IV catheter site on his neck. The vet felt he’d be able to go home soon.

I talked to the vet on Friday, and he repeated what he’d said in his message. He added that they were still planning to do the blood culture, but in the meantime Marrakesh could go home with some medication.

On Saturday morning, Johnny and I drove down to the clinic and picked up Gina and Marrakesh. I left with a bag of medications- two antibiotics and a bottle of Banamine. The vet instructed me to dose him with the antibiotics and check his temperature to make sure the fever didn’t return. Both horses seemed really excited to be outside and spent several minutes trotting and cantering around.

Marrakesh is bigger and sturdier than he was when he left home last week. He’s too big to walk under Gina now, which makes catching him much easier! He also seems more energetic and active; I imagine that’s due to having a normal temperature instead of a 105°F fever.

Since he’s (understandably) skeptical of people, Johnny and I are working to make his experiences with us pleasant. We spend time petting and gently scratching him before and after medicating him. I brushed him with my softest body brush yesterday; he attempted to kick me when I brushed his hind legs but otherwise seemed okay with it. I plan to get a halter on him soon, but the one I bought before he was born is too big.

WHEE

Gina seems happy to be home, too. She’s looking a little thin, but with some extra feed and hay, I think she’ll fill back out. She continues to be an excellent mother- she’s watchful without being overbearing, is easy to handle, and doesn’t mind when her colt is handled.

Stretching those legs!

I’m grateful to the staff at the vet clinic for taking good care of Gina and Marrakesh and getting him on the mend. I’m so glad they’re home, and I hope they won’t need to go back for a long, long time. (Or at least until my bank account recovers!)

 

Somehow, he didn’t fall over