Six-week-old foal Emily was so weak when she arrived at our SPANA Zimbabwe mobile veterinary clinic that her delicate legs were buckling under the weight of her own body.
Emily and her mother, Mary, had been brought to our clinic by their young owner who explained how sick with worry he’d been over the health of his trusted donkey and her new foal. For years, Mary has helped him and his grandmother to travel to and from school, the local clinic, and market and they had been delighted to welcome another animal in to the family with the birth of Emily.
But only a month-and-a-half in to Emily’s life, they had noticed how frail she’d become and that no matter how hard she tried, she could never seem to get enough milk from Mary when she nursed.
This region, a seven-hour drive south of Harare, is extremely rural, and for many communities SPANA’s mobile veterinary clinic visits are the only time that owners can bring their animals to seek veterinary care. So when the donkey’s young owner had heard that SPANA could help, he’d immediately brought Emily to get treatment.
SPANA Senior Veterinarian Erick quickly recognised how malnourished the foal was and led her straight to the shade of a tree to start treatment. Out of the heat of the blazing sun, he used an IV bag to replenish Emily’s fluids. The little foal was so exhausted that Erick lay her down on her side to rest and recover while she received treatment, occasionally stroking her face to comfort her.
While she rested, Erick turned his attention to her mum who was grazing nearby. No matter how much she ate, the young mare had been struggling to extract enough nutrients from the grass as parasites – rampant in this part of Zimbabwe – had leached precious vitamins and minerals from her.
Erick and SPANA Community Trainer, Timothy, dewormed the mare and explained to the boy how to supplement Emily’s diet with corn meal to give her the precious nutrients she needed to grow, while her mother regained her strength. While Emily gained some weight, Mary could start to get her strength back and produce enough milk for her newborn in the process.
After an hour and a half of recovery, the foal woozily got to her feet after hearing Mary’s call for her baby. Already, Emily looked stronger and more alert and her glassy eyes now seemed brighter. The vets explained to the little boy that Emily was still weak and needed gentle care as she recovered and to be kept out of the heat of the midday sun. The little boy promised to take good care of his precious working animals and thanked Erick and Timothy for saving his foal’s life.
With a bit of luck and SPANA’s help, Emily can now live a long life and continue to be a source of joy for her owners and mother well in to the future.