CorleyOak Stud
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Some tough times!!
Some tough times!!

Oh Dear!  What a Year !!  2018 – not so great!

Shetland pony owners and breeders will be only too well aware of the considerable ups and downs inevitably encountered when dealing with these lovely characters.  Never let anyone tell you that breeding ponies is easy! In spite of giving our ponies the very best of care, things can still go wrong........ 

We had a tough year in 2017, losing one foal born prematurely and then poor Pinglewood Pandora (Socks) endured a terrible foaling where we almost lost her and did lose her stunning palomino colt, Andy, three days later.


R.I.P. Gorgeous Andy – aka CorleyOak Band of Gold

No wonder we called our one and only foal that year “CorleyOak Every Cloud”…….

However, that was 2017 and with only one foal due in May/June 2018 we were looking forward positively to the exciting event.  Surely our luck was about to change……?   

At 4.30 a.m. on Friday 8th June, Kelsey of Brindister presented us with a lovely palomino filly.  We were there for the birth and all seemed well at first but alarm bells started ringing in my head when the filly took quite a while to get to her feet and attempt to suckle.  I just had a deep sense of unease and went off to work feeling very anxious, leaving husband to watch over mare and foal.  The filly, now named “Sparkle” by my grandson, “She has a white star on her forehead and stars sparkle, so she should be called Sparkle”, he pronounced on his first visit to her.

to the right, Sparkle, just born..........

The next day, although she was trotting around our lawn and suckling from her dam, I still wasn’t happy.  The mare wasn’t behaving like the devoted mother she usually is and kept moving away when the filly went to suckle.  I called our vet and sent pictures and even a video, only to be reassured that all appeared normal.  I wasn’t convinced.

On the Sunday morning, the filly was noticeably limping on her off hind and the dreaded joint ill was the first thing to come into my worried mind.  Sunday call out or no Sunday call out, I summoned the vet who examined the foal and said “It’s far too early for joint ill – perhaps her dam has stood on her in the stable?”  She ran bloods to be on the safe side but by now my feeling of concern had escalated to total dread.

By the time the blood test results came back at around 3.00 p.m., indicating a severe infection, poor Sparkle was deteriorating rapidly.  Her only hope, said our vet, was to rush her to Three Counties Equine Hospital in Malvern, some 65 miles away, as she was in need of urgent intensive care.  We created a “nest” of hay bales in the front of our trailer for Sparkle and hitched the trailer up to our Landrover.  Just as we were loading the agitated mare, our local farmer rang to announce cheerfully that he had “baled the hay”!  This meant that he was therefore expecting us to go and take all the bales off his field, which we do every year.  We had to tell him that it would be the evening before we could do this, due to the equine emergency.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful sunny day so the bales were in no immediate danger.

Typically, we were low on fuel in the Landrover, so the first stop for myself and my daughter was to a filling station for fuel.  Unbelievably, the fuel cap on the vehicle refused to release no matter what we did.  We had no choice but to chance it on the quarter of a tank we had as we could not afford to delay any more.  Off we went, anxiously checking the fuel gauge throughout the trip, down the M42 and onto the M5 as fast as dared go with two precious lives in the trailer, fuel gauge dipping menacingly towards the red at the bottom.  Fortunately, all our ponies are used to travelling in the trailer between our various fields, so we have no loading or travelling issues.  Nonetheless, it was a lot to expect of an anxious mare who had only given birth 48 hours previously.

It seemed that every HGV in the country was on the M5 that Sunday afternoon and it also seemed that the drivers all felt they had all the time in the world!  As they slowed for hills, they blocked two lanes.  With a trailer, we couldn’t overtake them, so mad with frustration we were screaming silently at them to “Get out of the way!!!”

Once off the motorway, my daughter called the number we’d been given to obtain precise directions to the hospital, only to be told when she asked where it was… “I have absolutely no idea!!”  This was apparently just a call-handling number and the person on the end of the line did not know where the hospital was, nor could he give us a postcode!!  Not the best idea when daughter’s blood pressure was almost off the scale!   My daughter was just on the point of saying something fairly unrepeatable when fortunately we spotted a sign “Equine Hospital” and turned down a country lane, pulling up at the gates a few minutes later.

On checking the foal, we were horrified to find that she was limp and unconscious with yellow matter pouring from her nostrils.  Having tube-fed her before departure for the hospital, I was fearful that I’d killed her by doing it wrongly and getting milk into her lungs.  On the gates was a number to call to gain admittance.  Daughter called it.  Engaged.  Called it again.  Engaged… and again…. and again…. still engaged… going to voicemail!.  “What shall I do?!” she asked.  “Climb over the fence” (it was a six bar fence), I commanded in panic “and FIND someone!!  Quickly!!”

Daughter did as she was bid, ran down the driveway and spotted an overall-clad man who she took to be a handyman, standing in the empty yard, tapping on his phone.  “Could you open the gate please?!” she begged.  He carried on tapping on his phone…  “We’re supposed to be meeting a vet here!  We’ve got a very seriously ill foal on board!” she protested.  “That will be me” said overall man calmly (who was in fact the vet) and he continued resolutely to press the keys on his mobile phone, much to my daughter’s extreme exasperation!  What neither of us could have known was that it was his mobile that was used to open the gates and every time he tried to open them, a call came in and blocked the signal!  To cries of “What’s the matter with you?!  Open the gates!” from my daughter, he finally succeeded.  The gates opened and I drove in and parked up next to the barn, to be greeted by overall man and two other vets.  Relief!!

One of the vets carried Sparkle into an immaculate stable which had the cleanest straw I’d ever seen in my life.  Daughter and I followed behind with the mare who, I should explain, is semi-feral and only comfortable with the people she knows – i.e. us and certainly not strange vets in a strange place!

Sparkle unconscious on arrival at Three Counties Equine Hospital.  The star that gave her her name is clearly visible

Chris, the head vet, explained about the phone issue with the gates and my daughter apologised for screaming at him.  Very kindly, he replied that he hadn’t realised how poorly the foal was and had he been at the gates with a foal in that state, he would have been screaming too!

If I’m absolutely honest, at this point I would have given Sparkle very little chance of survival.  I said to Chris, “my fear is that this is joint ill”.  “That’s my fear too…” came his immediate reply.  I mentioned that our vet felt that it was too early, but he explained that sadly he had seen many cases very early on in a foal’s life.  I also asked Chris to check that I hadn’t got milk into the foal’s lungs.  He reassured me straight away.  Her lungs were clear.  Phew!  In fact her lungs were the only part of her that was OK!

Our poor baby Sparkle, unconscious and with a cannula in, ready for treatment…..

Sparkle was put onto a drip and given all the attention that veterinary medicine had available to her.  While we stood with Kelsey, her dam, she stood patiently.  However, when the vets decided to put a wall of shavings bales around Sparkle to protect the drip and equipment that was now attached to her, Kelsey went crazy – rearing up and protesting loudly - so a gap in the shavings bale wall had to be made for Kelsey to peer through and mercifully
she subsequently calmed down, at least she did while we stood with her…….

At around 6.00 p.m. we left Sparkle in the very expert care of Chris and his team and headed… not for home, but to the farmer’s field where husband had stacked the bales into piles.  This is how it came to pass that we were still loading bales onto a trailer at 10.50 p.m. on a very beautiful Sunday summer’s evening.

The following morning, I received a call from Chris to say that they had stayed with Sparkle throughout the night.  She had been given painkiller and antibiotics and her joint had been tapped.  “It’s not looking good”, said Chris “the level is 300”.  “What should it be?” I asked.  “Around one”, came Chris’ reply.  “One hundred?” I queried.  “No – One”, came the answer  - at which point the seriousness of the situation really came home to roost – not that it hadn’t before but this just emphasised it!

Chris explained that realistically it was likely that he would have to put Sparkle to sleep the following morning.  We both agreed that she must not suffer and that if there was no improvement overnight, then that was the correct decision.

I was in the bathroom getting ready for work on the Tuesday morning when Chris called.  My heart sank.  Amazingly, he explained that Sparkle had rallied.  She had fed throughout the night and was “maintaining herself” (Chris’ words), suckling from her dam, albeit while still on antibiotics and painkillers.  Chris had not tapped her joint again for fear of aggravating it but on palpating it he felt that it was heading in the right direction.  He also added that he had sedated the mare and asked if I minded?  I reminded him that I had joked on the Sunday afternoon that a tranquilliser dart might be required!!  Poor Kelsey.  She only feels safe and secure at home here with us.  How worried she must have felt with strange people all around her foal and without us there to reassure her.   It is testament to her qualities as a devoted dam that in spite of her fear, she allowed Sparkle to suckle and bonded with her throughout her ordeal and for months afterwards.

We collected Sparkle and Kelsey on the Tuesday evening.  Sparkle stood in her “nest” at the front of the trailer all the way home but understandably was very tired and “flat” once she came home, causing us further worry.  

Poor little Sparkle..  The journey home has 

worn her out...

We had to inject her with antibiotics every day for a further two weeks and administer painkiller and eye drops as well. Our own vet came out to check on progress.  All the time, the devoted Kelsey tolerated these interventions and her attitude to her foal changed completely, confirming my view that she had known from the very start that something was wrong with her foal.  Never underestimate the wisdom of a mare!

Slowly but surely, Sparkle gained in strength and her character started to emerge.  When weaning time came we felt she couldn’t possibly be weaned on her own, so off we went to Reading Sales to buy ONE companion foal for her.  We came home with two miniature foals and a standard yearling (ooops – how did THAT happen?!) so she has plenty of company of her own age and she hardly noticed she had been weaned.  When registering her, we decided to call her “CorleyOak Gold Mine”, tongue in cheek, due to the size of the vet bills!

Sparkle is TINY (possibly due to her poor start in life?), super-friendly, laid back, stoic, extremely strong, feisty and into everything.  Our aim was to be able to take her to the National Foal of the Year Show in November and she made it!  She gained a 5th and a 6th in her two classes.  It was never about ribbons for us though.  It was about celebrating the fact that she’d survived – something she wouldn’t have done without the expert care of Chris and his team at Three Counties Equine Hospital, for which we are so grateful.  We’re not pretending that she’s any sort of show pony, but she’s ALIVE!  That’s what matters to us!

That was the end of November 2018.  We had a good show with Sparkle and also with Talog Honey Bee who was 2nd in the very competitive miniature Shetland filly class.

Sparkle strutting her stuff at the National Foal of the Year Show…..

Unfortunately, disaster was waiting for us right at the end of 2018.  On Christmas Eve, our beautiful stallion, our pride and joy, CorleyOak Easter Bobby Dazzler (Bob), sire of Sparkle and Andy, appeared to present with the start of laminitis.  This was strange as he wasn’t on grass, wasn’t overweight and had never had laminitis in his almost 10 years of life.  We immediately treated him with bute and for the next few days he seemed to improve.  On Sunday, 30th December, he was reluctant to walk again and I began to feel that this was more than laminitis.  That horrible feeling of dread came over me again.   I spent the afternoon in the stable with him, grooming him and fussing him.  He behaved completely normally and I gave him a further dose of painkiller (on veterinary advice).  He then strolled out onto our lawn and picked at the willow leaves that had blown down in the wind.  The farrier was due first thing in the morning, so the vet advised painkiller, then see what the farrier said, then possibly running bloods in the morning.  We were watching Bob closely in his stable that evening on our cctv.  He munched some hay, moved around a bit, lay down for a while, got up, munched more hay, lay down flat, got up again, moved around a little, dozed a little and then lay down flat again.  No signs of stress at all.  15 minutes later, when he was still in the same position, we went down to his stable to check on him.  He had passed away.  It seemed that he had just laid down and died.  Our vets are mystified.

To say that we are heartbroken is possibly the greatest understatement ever!  To us Bob was a member of our family.  He died in the very spot in the stable where he was born.  He was with us for almost a decade.   Although he was a working stallion, his temperament was second to none.  Children could climb all over him in safety.  He received hugs and kisses with patient good grace. He was kind and loving (unless you were a rival male equine, in which case he became known as “Bob the thug!”)  He was gentle with his mares, kind with humans and passed his wonderful temperament and the cream gene to his offspring.  He was also stunningly beautiful with looks and movement to die for and was very successful in the show ring.  He was a proper, golden palomino and a proper gentleman.

Goodbye 2018!  You weren’t the best!  Not sorry to see you go!
Ann Caine – CorleyOak Stud


Touching Wood in the Fight for Hope !   2008
“CorleyOak Touch Wood”





Shortly before 7.00 a.m. on Thursday 17th April 2008, Quakers Comfrey, our little bay roan mare, gave birth to a gorgeous chestnut filly.  Sadly, it very quickly became apparent that all was not well with the little one.  She made no attempt to get to her feet and remained as cold as ice, despite every attempt to warm her with towels, etc.  We rang our vet and Sam from the 608 Group, Solihull, came out to examine her.


Our worst fears were confirmed when Sam discovered that the filly’s heart rate was only 60 beats per minute (as opposed to the 140 it should have been), that her circulation was shutting down, her body was going into shock and that she appeared to be suffering from some sort of infection.




The decision was quickly made to load the mare and foal into our trailer and take them to the veterinary surgery in Solihull, some distance from our home and down the motorway!  Unfortunately, the surgery does not have facilities for horses, so the foal was carried and the mare led through the main reception and down several corridors to a dog kennel, into which the mare could just fit across the back and the foal was laid down on a soft mat at the front.  At one point there was the mare, myself, the foal, four vets and two veterinary nurses all crammed into this very small space.







The vets at the 608 practice were amazing – very professional, caring and completely committed to saving the foal’s life.  It was all hands on deck as the foal was sedated, given oxygen, fluids and intravenous antibiotics.  Everyone in the practice came to help when they could and she was surrounded by hot water bottles and various warming devices!  I was asked her name.  Of course, she didn’t have one at that time, but I just said “Hope” as that seemed all we could do at that time and therefore entirely appropriate!


The foal’s temperature was so low it couldn’t be recorded and it was several long hours before her condition stabilised and her temperature started to rise.  During that time, Hope’s Mum, Comfrey, stood like a statue in the dog kennel, watching the attempts to save her foal and not moving a muscle.  What an ordeal for the mare, so soon after giving birth.  She missed out on all the fuss and attention she would normally have had in the frantic dash to save Hope. 

Fortunately, I had milked Comfrey early that morning, so that we had colostrum waiting for the foal when she came out of her sedation.  The first thing she did when she woke up was try to suckle from the veterinary nurse!  A bottle was produced and she drank the contents straight down, which was wonderful to see.  Shortly after that, to our amazement, she struggled to her feet, albeit with a bit of help from her friends!

You can see from the redness in her eye in the photo below how fiercely the infection had her in its grip......... and this only approximately 8 hours after her birth.







The dedicated staff at 608 kept an eye on the foal until the early evening, not leaving her for a moment. After six hours or so in the dog kennel, we decanted outside to our trailer, which was parked in the surgery car park, so that we had a little more room to move as Hope woke up and tried to stand.  It also gave her Mum chance to stretch her legs and tuck into a hay net - just out of picture.   She was also able to have a long drink of water.  Then we were able to take Hope and her Mum home.   What a long day!



In an effort to keep Hope warm, she had been covered in blankets that were first put in the tumble drier and surrounded by warming devices.  To ensure she stayed warm in her stable she was fitted with two dog coats!  We also banked straw up all around the edges to prevent drafts.  We had to milk the mare and feed Hope with a bottle every hour all through that long first night, but eventually she made attempts to suckle for herself and very quickly gained some strength.  By the end of the following day, she was so much better, even trotting around the stable.  We were so relieved we allowed ourselves a brief break in the pub (!) but then we received a phone call and the devastating news from the vets that her blood test results were not good and the prognosis remained poor.




In spite of that worrying blood test result, to date by the following Tuesday (22nd April) Hope appeared to be going from strength to strength.  All we could do was “touch wood” (hence the decision to make her official, registered name – CorleyOak Touch Wood) and pray that she would recover. 




We didn’t know yet what the infection was.  The placenta had been sent away for analysis.


 Whatever the eventual outcome we are seriously indebted to our vets for their professionalism, commitment and dogged determination to help Hope and to fight for her life!




For the next two days, Hope had a transfusion of plasma, which should give her the antibodies she needs to protect her from infection.  She did have her dam's colostrum, but her antibodies were still low, so this was something of "extra insurance" for her.  She is getting stronger and quite feisty and now very much resents me for injecting her with antibiotics.  I don't think she's ever going to forgive me.  Her poor little bottom must feel like a pin cushion!  The blood on her neck in the picture below is where the catheter was inserted for the infusions.


Below is Hope's ever-watchful mum, Comfrey, who has been a superstar throughout, bless her.




The above picture of Comfrey was taken on Wednesday 23rd April as she watched the vets give her precious baby a plasma infusion.  Comfrey remained in that position until the procedure was completed, whereupon, having determined that her little one had come round safely from the sedationshe went over to her feed and starting eating.



Below is Hope in her favourite position.  It's such a relief that she can feed herself now!





Friday, 25th April - This morning Hope was galloping around her stable, skidding to a halt and jumping in the air, fly-bucking.  Obviously she feels good.  We are just awaiting the results of the test to see if she now has sufficient antibodies to protect her from further infection.  All test results have proved negative for Equine Herpes Virus and inconclusive for anything specific.

Latest news is that Hope's fibrinogen level is normal, her white blood cell count is normal (great) but that she is slightly anaemic and her albumin is a bit low.  Advice is to continue on antibiotics (more jabs!) until the NGG test (for antibodies) confirms that she's "good to go".  Her poor Mum must be fed up with being in a stable full time, but if she is, she's not showing it, bless her.  She has the patience of a saint. 

Monday, 28th April - just had the best news ever.  Hope's "NGG" test shows that she has sufficient antibodies now to resist infection and should do fine from now on - though I'm sure she'll be four years old before we relax completely!

Above and below are Hope and her Mum out in the garden for the first time.....


Hope playing with her new best friend....  Chav - our Jack Russell

Touching Wood for a Happy Ending...... fingers crossed!

and here's our happy ending.  Hope out in the field with the herd....

Here's hope at 3 months of age - looking very different now and turning strawberry roan (we hope!!)


On 10th August 2008, Hope went to her first show (Fillongley Agricultural Show), having been halter-broken only the day before!  She took everything in her little stride, waited patiently for her class and even managed a small individual performance for the judge - coming away with a beautiful SPSBS rosette for "Best Foal".  Given her terrible start in life, we were so proud of her!  Our thanks to the 608 Veterinary Group, Solihull, whose team saved Hope's life.......


Last updated 04.02.19