From an injured, orphaned foal to happy horse

Baby horse (filly) lost her mother and then was severely injured. She receives treatment for her injuries and is now set to live a happy life.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Bug is a young female horse who’s already cleared some major hurdles in life. Her mother passed away when she was born, and although the orphaned foal lived with other horses, none of them looked after her as her mother would have. Then one day, she found herself desperately fighting for her life.

Today, Bug’s painful past is behind her and she’s growing and getting stronger every day at Best Friends Animal Society. It was a long road to get her where she is now, but saving the young filly has been worth every step.

Gloved hands holding injured face of Bug the filly

Emergency care for an orphaned baby horse

Bug was just under a year old on the day that changed her whole life. She’d been attacked and severely injured by other animals at her rural home. Her family called a local veterinarian for emergency help, and though the baby foal’s injuries were very serious, the vet said it was worth trying to save Bug’s life and was able to get her stabilized. That was step one.

Bug had deep wounds in her hindquarters and serious injuries to her face (including broken bones in her nose). She would need extensive wound care and possibly even reconstructive surgery if she was going to survive and go on to lead a happy, comfortable life. But Bug’s family didn’t have the resources for that level of care, so they made contact with Best Friends and soon, the baby filly was on her way to the Sanctuary.

The day the trailer pulled up at Horse Haven, poor Bug was weak, injured and anemic. But she soon showed Horse Haven caregivers and the Best Friends veterinary team what she was made of. “She has a good fighting spirit,” says team lead Linda Meadows. “She was a trooper, and she hopped right out of that trailer despite her injuries.”

Dr. Tara and Kelsey helping treat Bug the foal's facial injuries

A foal’s recovery

It wasn’t long before Bug was settled into a safe and cozy enclosure. During her first few days at the Sanctuary, she had someone watching over and caring for her around the clock. Because many of Bug’s wounds were deep and affected not just the skin but also the muscle beneath it, recovery was a long, slow process.

Dr. Tara Timpson and the Sanctuary’s dedicated large animal vet techs spent many hours nursing Bug back to health. They went to work right away to clean her wounds, keep her bandages fresh and clean, give her medication to keep her comfortable and pain-free, treat her for parasites and make sure that her every medical need was met.

Orphaned foal Bug with bandages over her facial injuries

“The types of injuries Bug sustained are very challenging to treat,” says Dr. Tara. “Because of the amount of trauma and the high risk of infection from bite wounds, they can often be fatal. It took many hours of dedicated care to bring her back from the brink and give her the chance at life that she deserves.”

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Kelsey giving an injection to Bug, the orphaned foal

Surgery for a baby horse

When she was well enough, the growing filly was moved into a slightly larger enclosure next to another horse who was recovering from an injury. Bug was exuberant. Finally, she was able to enjoy life and kick up her heels a little. The next step would be to introduce her to a kind and gentle equine friend who could help her learn how to be a horse. She was, after all, still just a baby.

Bug still had a few hurdles to cross — damage to her nasal cavities, along with built-up nasal scar tissue that made it difficult to breathe. Now that she was feeling so much better, she wanted to run and play like any other young horse. But she got winded easily, so her activity had to be restricted quite a bit. It was time for her surgery.

Orphaned foal Bug, being medically treated by Dr. Tara and Kelsey

A specialist in Las Vegas carefully removed the scar tissue so that Bug could breathe more easily. Though it didn’t solve all her breathing problems, it has helped her get more air each time she takes a breath.

Bug's face covered in a bandage mask with Dr. Tara

Injured filly finally enjoying life

For the time being, Bug is taking some time to enjoy life and revel in all the progress made since the day she arrived. She’s started training by learning appropriate boundaries with people and some other basic ground rules to give her a good foundation for when she’s adopted into a home of her own.

Ann walking Bug the filly on a lead

There’s no telling exactly what path Bug will walk in life. For example, she may be able to carry a rider or she may end up being someone’s pasture pal. But one thing’s for sure: She’s bridged her painful past, she’s now a happy horse, and her future is promising.

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A more grown up Bug the filly looking at the camera

Photos by Molly Wald