Neglected horse and her 'miracle' foal's incredible tale of survival

Cinderella was on the brink of death and heavily pregnant when she was found scavenging for food in a saturated field, in a desperate bid to keep her unborn foal alive.

The elderly horse was so emaciated that nearly every bone was protruding from her frail body, in one of the worst cases of neglect Blue Cross has ever seen.

When was in a terrible state, with nearly every bone protruding.

When the RSPCA found her beside an industrial estate with a group of other abandoned horses, vets warned she was just days away from losing her fight for survival – so the mare was immediately seized and rushed to our Burford horse unit for emergency care.

Well into her 20s, Cinderella was far too old to be in foal and she had a body condition score of just 0.5, on a scale which rates one as emaciated and five as obese. Her skin was dehydrated and covered with scabs.

It was touch and go for the brave thoroughbred cross for some time and our team knew it would be a miracle if her foal survived too. But two months on, her horrific tale of suffering has had an overwhelmingly happy ending, thanks to unstinting care from our devoted team.

Against all the odds, the remarkable mare gave birth to a beautiful, healthy skewbald filly foal named Princess in early May.

Vicki Alford, Horse Manager at Blue Cross Burford, recalls: “I have worked in welfare for more than 10 years and have witnessed so many tragic sights, but I have never seen a horse in such a pitiful state as this.

“Thankfully her foal was wriggling and kicking so we knew we had a chance to save them both, albeit a slim one.”

Vicki explained that when Cinderella arrived at Blue Cross, she was given a big, comfortable isolation stable and immediately started tucking into some hay.

She was carefully introduced to small amounts of concentrated feed to help build her up and support her unborn foal.

Over the weeks her condition slowly started to improve - she gained some flesh to cover her bones and her tummy continued to grow. As she became stronger she began to enjoy dragging her groom out to the field every day for some grass.

But two weeks prior to foaling - when her teats were full to bursting - Cinderella had a worrying setback when she developed placentisis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the placenta.

This put her and her foal at serious risk but prompt veterinary attention and a course of antibiotics cured the problem.

In the week leading up to the birth Cinderella was checked every two hours throughout the night, and then every hour when she started to produce milk two days before Princess’s arrival.

I have worked in welfare for more than 10 years and have witnessed so many tragic sights, but I have never seen a horse in such a pitiful state as this." Vicki Alford, Horse Manager at Blue Cross Burford

“We were all ecstatic when Princess arrived,’’ said Vicki. “I have helped with many foalings but I have never worried as much as on this occasion. We all willed her to get through it safely and thankfully she did. She is an incredibly resilient mare.”

Poor Cinderella had more pain to endure when she retained the placenta, but with more veterinary help she recovered quickly and is proving to be a wonderful mother.

Princess is getting bigger and stronger every day, to the joy of all the Blue Cross staff who worked around the clock to ensure her survival.

Vicki added: “I had many sleepless nights checking on Cinderella prior to her foaling so the relief when Princess was born safely was overwhelming, and we are all over the moon that they are both doing so well. 

"I’m very proud of the horse unit team for giving so much to a horse that so deserved to live.”

Blue Cross will be looking for an experienced new home for the pair shortly

— Page last updated 1/03/2017