The May Valley Company
15125 SE May Valley Road
Renton, WA  98059















Miracle's Mom, Tui.

The bright, steel singletree bounced overhead. It shook and clanked as the big, bay mare pushed and pushed against the retraining grasp of the webbing and buckles. The mare was due at the end of May, her belly swollen with her 9th month of pregnancy. Rhythmically, hour after hour, with hardly a pause in the pattern, she'd lean into the sling, pushing with the one leg still functioning. Why was she pushing so much? Was she still feeling pain even though she was being given pain medication every 6 hours? Was she pushing as a way of dealing with the boredom of being confined? Was she pushing because she wanted to get away from the situation she was in? It was hard to tell. We all wanted to get out of the situation. What was the best thing to do?.


This was my favorite mare, Balcony's Lady Too (called Tui); a big-boned, hard-muscled, 16.3 hand Thoroughbred. I had owned her mother for twenty years, and had bred and trained her. At 15, this was my fourth foal from Tui, the second from my black and white Paint stallion, Ima Black Jaguar. Tui had developed "dropped pasterns" in her third pregnancy, a condition not un-common in broodmares which usually goes no further than pasterns dropping father than normal and then returning to their original position after birth. 

                Tui, age 10                           Tui, age 15,  with her 1st  foal Showstopper RGS

       Tui with 2nd foal, Concertina RGS            Tui with 3rd foal, Charismatic Jaguar

The farm's veterinarian, Dr. Steve Latimer of Northwest Equine in Covington, Washington, explained the symptoms: a fetlock joint dropping from its normal angle of approximately 45 degrees, and sometimes in unresolved cases,  the rupture of the supporting network of tendons and ligaments. Veterinarians, even now, are not sure of the root cause; suspected causes might be long pasterns, multiple pregnancies, large foals, maybe even a systemic breakdown of the ligaments themselves. If the later, no amount of preventative or supportive care would help the condition.

Tui's hind legs improved dramatically after her third foal's birth. The pastern angles returned to normal and there was no hint of tendon damage. We consulted with two veterinarians; both of whom said there appeared to be no reason why Tui could not carry another foal. We read whatever material we could find and spent hours on the internet researching this topic but came up with very little information. 
We decided to breed her one last time. 

But as this fourth pregnancy developed, her fetlocks again started to drop. Her hind legs had been kept wrapped in no-bow bandages and standing wraps since her third month, 36 hours on, 6 hours off. During her fifth month, we started wrapping her front legs for additional support. Although still able to move about, it was clear Tui was getting more uncomfortable. Her feed intake dropped and she lost weight dramatically. We increased her pain medication, keeping in mind her developing foal. In late March, I found her right hind leg, swollen and hot. Even with icing, tighter wraps and bute, her right fetlock joint dropped to an alarming 90-degree angle in just a matter of days. Her left hind was now bearing most of the weight. The tendons in this leg started to swell and this fetlock began to drop as well. 

Starting in her fifth month,  her hind legs were shod in special, heavy-duty oval shoes which extended out the back some 4" with 1/2" heels. The support system was further increased by adding an additional inch of rubber matting to each end to ease the pressure on the suspensory ligaments. This really helped her discomfort. She was given Banamine every 2nd or 3rd day as needed.

Tui remained fairly stable until her 9th month. She was moved from a stall with a 12x36' run to her foaling paddock. To decrease the chance she would accidentally step on her foal with her huge shoes, they were removed.

In the space of just one week, first one hind suspensory ruptured and then the other. The increasing weight of the foal was raising the pressure in her veins, and a small vein burst in one of her legs. 

We now had to seriously consider end-of-life decisions for Tui. Should we end not only her life, but the life of her healthy (at this time) foal? The foal was so close to being born; it seemed if we took away the foal's life before she even had a chance, that would make Tui's struggle in vain. Tui made it clear each day she was not ready to die; her eyes were bright and, on good days, her appetite good. 


We agonized each day what to do. In a last, desperate try to make Tui more comfortable and as an attempt to save the life of the foal, we decided to put her in a sling.  After hours of phone calls, we located a sling and a boom truck to hang it from.  

To give her legs more support, Tui was sedated and her hind shoes were put back on. When hot weather set in, we built a shelter around her, turned on a fan and wrapped her in sheets cooled with water, re-wetting them every hour.  

Dave and I took turns watching Tui around the clock, hand feeding her, changing wraps that soaked up urine, removing manure to keep the footing safe, anything we could to make her more comfortable. Friends and neighbors helped us when they got home after work. Day after day we labored to care for Tui and tend our other responsibilities:, our farm. the other horses, our family and our special needs daughter. We were committed to a full breeding schedule with our two stallions and the weight of all this left us anxious and exhausted.

Dr. Sarah Sampson (top) cleans Tui's leg after the blood vessel burst.

Dr. Steve Latimer uses a heat gun to bend a 3" piece of PVC piping that had been split in half. After padding the splint with polypropylene, he wraps the leg in more polypropylene, standing wraps and duct tape.

After being in the sling a little more than a week, Tui went into premature labor at day 320 of gestation (340 is considered normal). Day 320 is also considered the minimum amount of time needed for a premature foal to survive birthing.


Those of us who care for horses on a daily basis or who make a living from their efforts, know the extreme distress of not being able to help an ill or injured horse. Hindsight is always 20/20 and, had we known all the details of what was to follow, we never would have bred Tui a fourth time.  We consulted the experts, researched on our own, relied on our past experience; but we recognize we're only human and can only do the best we can. 


Miracle Miracle's Mom 12 Hours Old Life At WSU Home Coming Nurse Mare Life Now

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