Our Colt: Health News

Gelding and Vaccinations: July 16

New Bolton Center veterinarians gelded Boone, our Foal Cam colt, on July 16.


The 20-minute procedure to remove the colt’s testicles was performed outside in Boone’s paddock at 3 p.m. on a cool, sunny afternoon. Boone’s mother, My Special

Girl, was close at hand. Boone also received his first round of vaccinations against West Nile virus, tetanus, rabies and equine encephalitis as well as a routine de-worming medication to kill any potential internal parasites.

“The procedure went very well, and Boone is doing just fine,” said Dr. Regina Turner, Associate Professor of Reproduction and Behavior at Penn Vet's New Bolton Center. Dr. Turner performed the procedure with Dr. James Myers and Dr. Jenn Linton, both residents in reproduction at New Bolton Center.

Boone was gelded when he was just shy of four months old. Although it is traditional to geld horses when they are around 8 to 12 months old, there is no evidence that waiting until colts are a year old offers any benefit. Dr. Turner indicated that more owners and veterinarians have been opting to geld horses at a younger age as the procedure is simpler when the animal is younger. Gelding Preparation

“There are fewer complications, less bleeding, and less swelling, because the testicles are so small. They recover from it very quickly,” Dr. Turner said. “The whole process often seems to be easier on the foal when the procedure is done at a younger age.”

Since Boone will be moving to a new home at Dr. Rose Nolen-Walston’s farm, our veterinarians also thought that it would be in Boone’s best interest to geld the colt before leaving New Bolton Center. That way, Boone would have the full attention of New Bolton’s veterinarians and staff while he recovered.

The day after the procedure, our colt had some mild swelling that was treated with anti-inflammatory medication. Two days after the procedure, the swelling had gone down but Boone had a low-grade fever. Since the surgery site looked so good, it was thought that the fever might be a response to the vaccinations that the colt had received. But just to be safe, Boone was placed on a few days of antibiotics and the anti-inflammatory medications were continued. By the next day the colt was fully recovered.

After GeldingHorse owners routinely geld colts if they do not intend to have them reproduce, Dr. Turner said. Once colts go through puberty they can exhibit strong, stallion-like behavior, especially when near mares. This can make the stallion more difficult to handle and to ride. Some intact stallions require more experienced handling, and even reinforced fencing – things that may not be convenient or possible for some horse owners.

“The stallion behavior can be difficult to deal with for many horse owners,” Dr. Turner said. “Particularly if there are other horses around or if the stallion travels to large horse shows where there is a lot of exposure to other horses, especially mares.”

Height Check: Monday, June 30

Measure June 30

Boone measured 49.5 inches, or just over 12 hands, at three months old. Handler

Ben Gessford did the measuring, while handler Rick Ladow kept our scamp Boone in line, all at Penn Vet's Hoffman Center for Reproduction. Ben says he's had to let out the halter a couple of notches. Also, Boone's bay little-foal coat is almost gone, with his grown-up dark grey shining through.

Physical Exam: Thursday, May 8

May 8 exam

Dr. Michelle Abraham, a resident in internal medicine and neonatology, and Dr. Fe Ter Woort, a resident in ultrasound and cardiology, and Dr. Jamie Kopper, a hospital intern, all came to the Hofmann Center to examine Boone to check his heart murmur. 

They said he seems just fine, healthy, and progressing normally.

"The murmur sounds like a normal, physiologic murmur, of the blood flow leaving the heart," Dr. Ter Woort said. "He's fine, totally fine. We are not concerned."

Penn Vet New Bolton Center veterinarians will continue to monitor his progress with regular examinations.


Health Update: Thursday, April 10

My Special Girl and Boone are progressing well. However, each of them has conditions that their veterinarians are monitoring.

Boone is thriving, weighing in at 137 pounds on April 10, up 33 pounds from his birth weight of 104. He is eating well, is very playful and has lots of energy. His front teeth, or incisors, are just coming in. “This is the expected growth rate for a normal, vigorous foal,” said Dr. Jonathan Palmer, Chief of New Bolton Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Dr. Jon Palmer, New Bolton Center

However, as described last week, Boone has four fractured ribs. Dr. Palmer also has detected a heart murmur.

Boone’s fractured ribs are healing well and as expected, Dr. Palmer said. The colt’s body has formed a protective cushion over each sharp end, called a seroma, which helps prevent the sharp ends from cutting other tissue. The seroma is formed by a thick, tough outer layer of fibrous tissue surrounding an inner pocket of fluid around the sharp ends.  The bone also has begun to “remodel,” or re-form, so that the ends aren’t as sharp.

“As both processes proceed the fractured ribs become less and less a threat of causing further problems,” Dr. Palmer said.

Boone also has a heart murmur. Heard through a stethoscope, heart murmurs and are caused when the flow of blood through the heart becomes turbulent, Dr. Palmer said. This disrupted flow may occur as blood flows normally through the heart in young foals, referred to as a “flow murmur.”  Flow murmurs, which are completely harmless, are very common, seen in 80 percent of foals during their first month of life, Dr. Palmer said. Murmurs also can be caused when connections in the heart are not completed, or when there is a heart defect. 

“We will be following Boone’s heart murmur carefully during his first month to be sure it is harmless,” Dr. Palmer said. “But if it doesn’t fade and disappear we will do a complete heart examination including ultrasound imaging of his heart.”

My Special Girl is doing very well post-foaling, said Dr. Regina Turner, New Bolton Center Associate Professor of Reproduction.  At her last examination, she was pooling urine in her vagina, which is common in mares after foaling, Dr. Turner said, and occurs because the birth canal is stretched during delivery of the foal. Last week Dr. Turner supervised as students performed a lavage to flush out the pooling urine in her uterus.

“The vast majority of mares self- correct this problem after they have their first postpartum ovulation,” Dr. Turner said. “We and our students will monitor her after she ovulates to be sure that this is the case for MSG. We have every expectation that it will be.”

Physical Exam: Tuesday, April 1

My Special Girl’s colt is thriving with normal vital signs and his prognosis is good. However, he has four fractured ribs, as confirmed today in an exam by Dr. Jonathan Palmer, Chief of Penn Vet New Bolton Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“It is not unusual for foals to fracture ribs when they are born, even when it's not such a tight squeeze,” said Dr. Palmer after the Tuesday morning examination. “The birth canal was tight, so we had been looking to see if he fractured any ribs.”Dr. Emilie Setlakwe, NICU Resident

"The four fractured ribs are on the colt’s right side, which is better because they are farther from his heart," Dr. Palmer said. The ribs do not require repair, as they should heal on their own.

“It shouldn’t cause any long-term problems,” Dr. Palmer said. He checked the ribs on Sunday and Monday, but today some swelling appeared on the right side and he checked again.

He does not appear to be in too much pain, and was lying on his right side, sleeping this afternoon. “I’m sure it tingles and it bothers him a bit,” Dr. Palmer said."We don't want to give him any painkillers unless it's absolutely necessary. If he feels too comfortable, he might get overly rambunctious and fall on the fractured ribs, harming himself further."

The colt and My Special Girl will stay in the NICU at least until Monday, instead of leaving today as planned. Dr. Palmer said it takes about 10 days for the ribs to heal to the point that it will be safe to transport him to his new home.

“The bone will remodel and the edges will become less sharp so they are less likely to cut,” Dr. Palmer said. “During that time, the body will also form a protective barrier of fibrous tissue around the sharp ends. The ribs are not displaced. They just need time to heal.”

The danger is that a hard fall could fracture the ribs further. “Fractured ribs have sharp edges. Right now they are fairly aligned, but if he did something to misalign them a rib could puncture his heart or his lungs,” Dr. Palmer said.

The colt was born on Saturday, March 29, at 9:22, after a 22-minute labor. Dr. Palmer and his team had to assist in the birth, by lubricating the birth canal and pulling the foal through. The pulling by the clinicians did not cause the fractures. In fact their assistance probably prevented more from being affected. 

Once it is safe for them to leave the NICU, My Special Girl and her foal will go to live at the Hofmann Center for Reproduction on the New Bolton Center campus. They will be confined to a stall there for at least a month, until the colt’s ribs fully heal. Then they will spend much of their time outside.

On April 1, My Special Girl also had her examination, and she is doing very well.