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Corolla wild horses lose herd’s newest foal, Elsa, to malnourishment, pneumonia

Courtesy of Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund announced Tuesday evening that a decision was made earlier in the afternoon to humanely euthanize the herd’s newest foal, Elsa.

Elsa was born Sunday morning and, while small, she appeared to be in good health at first. She was seen nursing multiple times on Monday, but on Tuesday morning a staff member noticed that Elsa’s mother and two-year-old sister were seen without Elsa.

Staff looked for the new foal and found her on Corolla Beach with a different harem. She was with a mare who was protecting her and letting her nurse, but Elsa’s health appeared to have taken a turn for the worst.

On the Fund’s vet’s recommendation, staff removed Elsa from the harem and planned to return her to her birth mother.

“We were able to catch her and get her into the truck, but once we had our hands on her we could tell she was in very bad shape. After another conversation with the vet, and also after learning that her mother had been seen kicking at her on Sunday, we decided to forego trying to reunite them and brought Elsa directly to the farm so she could be seen by the vet,” the Fund posted on Facebook Tuesday evening.

According to blood tests, Elsa did not receive any colostrum, which is vital for a foal to thrive. The Fund is unsure if her mother did not produce colostrum or if Elsa did not successfully nurse soon after birth.

“She also had pneumonia, was severely dehydrated, and while we don’t think she was truly premature she was definitely dysmature. She was very sick. It became clear why Elsa’s mother had rejected her – she most likely sensed that Elsa was not going to survive,” the Fund wrote.

Elsa’s health was already quickly fading so the decision was made to allow her to pass quietly without further suffering.

“She has been buried at the farm next to the other foals we’ve lost over the years. They are just outside the mares’ pasture so they always have a big herd of their “aunts” watching over them.”

The Fund thanked staff and volunteers for handling the situation and putting the needs of the horses ahead of emotions.

“Rest easy, Elsa.”

The Fund has known heartbreak several times in the last year before the birth of several foals between February and May of this year.

In late July 2023, 9-year-old stallion Thicket was struck by a vehicle, which left the scene without contacting authorities. Thicket’s elbow was badly fractured, and multiple lacerations on his shoulder and face confirmed trauma consistent with a vehicle impact. He was euthanized the next day, and left behind a harem of four mares.

A mare named Cora Mae was struck by a vehicle on the beach on August 5, 2023, however, the driver in the incident reported it to the sheriff’s department. Cora Mae’s tibia was fractured in multiple places and the decision was made to euthanize her. The teenage mare was one of Corolla’s top producers, who foaled Liberty, Valor, Riptide, Bravo and Cosmos in the last few years.

In early October 2023, Blossom, believed to be in her late 20s if not nearly 30 years old, was unable to bear weight on her front left leg and refused to move but could not keep up with her harem. She was removed from the herd for treatment. X-rays and a physical exam showed a torn ligament. The Fund believes that Blossom was caught in something and tore the ligament in an attempt to free herself or twisted the ligament when walking in the deep sand.

In mid-October 2023, 25-year-old Daisy was seen “behaving abnormally.” She had fallen and was unable to get up. Pain medication was administered and Daisy’s condition reassessed the next morning. While Daisy was then standing, she was unstable. During the night she “passed away quietly on her own.” The Fund believes she suffered chronic cardiac and liver changes, conditions which are associated with old age.

“Daisy certainly lived and died on her own terms, but we’re glad that we were at least able to make her last few hours pain-free. She also got to see her old friend Raymond one last time.”

‘Growing up healthy and wild’: Corolla horses welcome first foal of 2024 – Augusta Free Press

‘A long, bright, wild future’ ahead for Corolla horse herd as they welcome fourth foal – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.