Colt Born at New Bolton Center with World Watching

Colt Born at New Bolton Center with World Watching

My Special Girl gave birth to a colt at 9:22 p.m. on March 29. The foal weighed 104 pounds and measured 39.5 inches from crown to tail.

Photo: Courtesy University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

It’s a boy! With the world watching, mare My Special Girl gave birth to a colt at 9:22 p.m. on March 29 at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) New Bolton Center. The foal weighed 104 pounds and measured 39.5 inches from crown to tail. And, beginning today (March 31), the public will help decide the colt’s name at Voters can choose from eight proposed names during the week-long contest.

The birth was broadcast via a live foal cam, a first in PennVet history. The live feed from My Special Girl’s stall in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has been available since Feb. 26. Since then, more than 133,000 people in 116 countries have tuned in to monitor the mare and await the birth of the foal. My Special Girl and her newborn will be on camera for two more days, so viewers are encouraged to keep watching.

My Special Girl’s water broke at 9 p.m. and the foal was delivered at 9:22 p.m. It was a tight fit, but the presentation, position, and posture were all normal. Due to the tight fit, New Bolton Center clinicians decided to assist with the delivery. The birth canal was lubricated and the colt was delivered with moderate traction. The total duration of Stage 2 labor (the time between the water breaking and the actual birth) was 22 minutes. This is normal for a mare. Members of New Bolton Center’s NICU and reproduction teams were present. NICU clinicians took samples of the mare's allantoic and amniotic fluids and also drew blood from the foal to run tests that are routinely run on all foals born in the NICU.

"It was good that we were here," said Regina Turner, VMD, PhD , Dipl. ACT, associate professor of large animal reproduction. "It was a strain for the mare because it was a tight fit and the colt's shoulders were hung up briefly in the birth canal. We were able to assist the delivery with some lubrication and traction. We are all so happy that the mare and foal are bonding so well. It looks like My Special Girl is going to be a great mom."

Added Jonathan Palmer, VMD, chief of the Neonatal Intensive Care Service and director of perinatal and neonatal programs at New Bolton Center, "The foal at birth was not as responsive as normal and had a lower heart rate than normal, and had other indications that he was slow to start, so we did give him a dose of epinephrine to stimulate his heart rate and to support his circulation at birth

“You might have noticed we attached an electrocardiogram to monitor his heart rate and rhythm because of his slow start," he continued. "Within minutes he responded. We routinely in high-risk pregnancies take a blood sample from the umbilical cord at birth. We found mild abnormalities that showed the foal had some stress in utero and this may have led to a slow start. He was somewhat slow standing on his own and somewhat slow nursing on his own, but we fully expect that he will come around. But because of his slow start we will be monitoring him very carefully. We will be watching his behavior closely and we will be taking more blood samples to make sure he continues to make a smooth transition.

"My Special Girl is a wonderful mother but she is still unsure of how to fully fulfill that role," Palmer said. "You might have noticed that she stood as still as a statue. A more experienced mare tries to position herself so the foal has an easier time finding the udder to nurse. She is being very attentive and nurturing with her colt."

Corinne Sweeney, DVM, associate dean and executive hospital director for New Bolton Center, said, “We are thrilled to have shared the birth of this special foal through the foal cam, which provided a behind-the-scenes look at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center and served as a unique educational opportunity. Our exceptional veterinarians and staff members from several hospital services took part in this pregnancy, from reproduction to imaging to neonatal intensive care. We are very proud of the result.”

The colt will spend its first six months at the Hofmann Center at New Bolton Center, until he is weaned. He will remain in the New Bolton Center family, because he will be adopted by Rose Nolen-Walston, DVM, New Bolton Center assistant professor of medicine, who lives on a nearby farm. Lisa Fergusson of Cochranville, Pa., once on Canada’s Olympic Eventing team, will be the foal’s trainer when it is ready to begin its athletic career.

This foal, in particular, is very special because it represents the first successful pregnancy by Penn Vet using the advanced reproductive technique intracytoplasmic sperm injection (known as ICSI) which involves injecting a single sperm into a mature egg. This ICSI embryo was transferred to My Special Girl in early April. She was due to foal on March 14, which is the average of 340 days of gestation.

Matthew VerMilyea, PhD, director of the In Vitro Fertilization and Andrology Laboratories at Penn Medicine, is performing ICSI for the Hofmann Center. ICSI is a common procedure in human medicine that revolutionized the treatment of male infertility. VerMilyea is using a microscope with laser technology, used for humans but rarely used in the ICSI procedure in horses.

Through continued collaboration with Penn Medicine, Penn Vet hopes to provide this service to clients in the future so that everything—from the oocyte aspiration, to the sperm injection, to the embryo culture, and embryo transfer—are all performed at the University of Pennsylvania.

My Special Girl, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred, was donated to New Bolton Center’s herd of horses used for teaching veterinary students. The egg for the foal came from a Thoroughbred/Cleveland Bay mare. The sperm was from frozen semen from a long-deceased Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse cross stallion that was part of the Hofmann Center’s teaching program.

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