Family vigil and traveller save orphaned foal Promise

NOSE to nose, this is Promise the orphaned foal who staged a fight for life after an internet plea found her a foster mother.

Helen and Vanessa Wark with the travelling mare and her adopted foal
Helen and Vanessa Wark with the travelling mare and her adopted foal

NOSE to nose, this is Promise the orphaned foal who staged a fight for life after an internet plea found her a foster mother.

Horse lovers in Northumberland spent 48 hours camped out in their hay barn as they played a pivotal role in helping the foal survive.

Mother and daughter Helen and Vanessa Wark tended to orphaned horse Promise round the clock in an attempt to help her bond with a new foster mum.

And with a bit of additional help from social networking site Facebook, the Warks say they managed to turn heartbreak into a success story.

Helen, 47, who keeps horses at her brother’s Brockfield Stables in Linton, Northumberland, said: “Our mare Sport gave birth but I think she was a big foal. The vet had her (Sport) on drips but she died and it was devastating.

“We took the foal into another stable and we stayed with her all night with my daughter laying down on the floor next to her.

“We’ve had lots of foals in the past but this had never happened to us and we were struggling to think how we could help her.”

Overnight the pair put a desperate plea out on social networking site Facebook explaining their new foal’s mum had died and they were looking for a foster horse.

To their surprise a travelling family from Rochdale in Lancashire, came to their aid within hours with a mare called Tilly with milk.

“She’d had a breach birth and her foal had died so we drove down and picked her up straight away.

“All this family said to us is that they would like her back in October in foal but they didn’t ask for money at all. They were very kind.”

Using a technique more commonly used by farmers with orphaned lambs, Helen wrapped Promise in a small section of skin taken from nine-year-old cob Tilly’s dead foal.

The scent helped the pair eventually bond but it wasn’t without its difficulties. Helen said: “When we first introduced them the mare didn’t want to know her. We stayed overnight in the stable – which I can tell you wasn’t that warm! – and we kept showing them to each other regularly. By 7am in the morning they were in the same stable together and the mare was a bit better.

“Later on that day she went crackers for her – she clearly wanted the foal with her.”

Helen and 23-year-old Vanessa, a care assistant, had helped Promise survive in the vital first 24 hours by feeding it with five litres of colostrum which the vet had managed to save from its mum.

“It was a long weekend with no sleep but it’s absolutely fantastic. We’re devastated that we have lost Sport but we’re over the moon that we have had a healthy foal and the mare’s lovely and they’ve been out in the fields together already,” said Helen, who is involved in Bedlington, Blyth and District Riding Club.

Vet and equine specialist Dr Philip Dyson from Clevedale Vetinary Centre in Redcar helped care for Sport before she died and has been praised by the pair for his support and advice.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer