Romans Farm Heroic Efforts Save Broodmare and Colossal Union Rags Foal

February 2014

The Romans name is world-renowned for success on the track, but on one recent winter night, Dale Romans’ Lexington breeding operation took center stage.  In an industry where farm staff are charged with delivering racing’s progeny even in the most dire circumstances, never was that more evident than the events surrounding Mother Russia in foal to Union Rags on February 9th.

Hollywood should be calling about this one.

At 8:21pm in the midst of a snow storm blanketing Eastern Kentucky, broodmare Mother Russia’s water broke.  General manager Teresa Little and her son and farm manager Billy Crouse immediately noticed the absence of the placenta and the mare heating up and in distress.  Additionally, they discovered that the large foal’s legs were completely tucked under him.  Joined by Teresa’s nephew Taylor Little, the three worked in vain to untuck the legs when they realized it was time for the emergency call.   

Despite the adverse weather, Rood & Riddle veterinarian Bart Barber, DVM, already on standby, arrived in 8 minutes to attend to the problem.   He quickly determined that the only chance to save the pair was to bring them to the world famous equine hospital.  As many in the business know, timing is critical when a mare is having difficulty foaling.  From the point the water breaks, breeding staff have a mere 45 minutes to deliver or the mother and baby will both likely be lost.   

The Romans team scrambled to prepare the trailer which became stuck almost as soon as it was hooked.   Teresa summoned Taylor to bring the tractor and chains to pull the trailer out.  Tom Camp, owner of Forum Racing and another client of Dale Romans, happened to be in town for the Fasig Tipton sale and was on the property visiting his own two mares.   Teresa quickly enlisted him into duty to steady the mare and do what he could to prevent her from pushing through contractions.   All the while, she continued to announce time remaining with the volume and precision of a drill sergeant.   

By phone, the mare’s owner Molly Vogel, who had already had a very successful day on the track with her other horses, exhorted the team, “Please don’t let my mare and foal die!”

Teresa’s sister Marilyn took the wheel while a coatless Crouse stayed in back with the mare.  Area roads were treacherous to say the least, causing the trailer to almost jack-knife a number of times.   There was no stopping, even if they wanted to.  Red lights be damned.

The convoy eventually slid to a stop finally reaching Rood & Riddle where they were met by a dozen staff members of both surgical and medical teams.  With the echoes of Vogel’s desperate plea still resonating in her mind, Teresa continued to announce.  “Twenty minutes!  Only twenty minutes left!” 

The surgical team sedated the mare and suspended her, back-end-up, in order to counteract contractions and repel the foal back into the uterus.  The countdown continued.  “Five minutes.  You’ve got five minutes, doc!” 

Finally, and exactly forty-four minutes after the water had broken, the surgical team was able to deliver the colt successfully.  Weighing in at a mammoth 168 lbs, the colt was transferred to a stretcher that could barely contain him.

  It was at that point that the reality of the situation sunk in for the Romans team.  Finally allowed to step off of their platform of calm, emotions took over.   “It was a miracle,” says Little holding back tears.  “Most foals born at that size are put down, but this team never panicked and knew exactly what to do.” 

Because of leg contractures, the colt wore splints for a few weeks, but his prognosis is excellent, as is the mare’s.  “The Romans team did a really good job of recognizing the problem right away,” said Barber when asked about working with the farm staff.  “They reacted fast enough to give us time to help them.”

Reflecting on the events of that evening, Forum Racing’s Camp describes witnessing the event.  “From the beginning to the end, the Romans staff performed flawlessly as far as I’m concerned.  They exhibited outstanding professionalism during a very critical time.  I’ve known all along about their abilities and commitment.  This just confirmed it for me.” 

His partner Tina Schmeisser, co-owner of his Cedar Hill breeding operation, was also present. “It’s truly a family affair.  They are extremely dedicated to all the animals, as if they were their own.  They love it, and it’s obvious.”

According to Schmeisser, they were so impressed by what they saw that night that they tried to purchase another mare at the next day’s sale to bring to Romans, but unfortunately they were outbid.   

Vogel plans to keep the foal and is already working on a name that will mark his dramatic entrance into the world.   If Teresa Little has anything to say about it, “this will definitely be a special horse in the years to come.” 

Of course, only time will tell for this colt. 

And thanks to the heroic efforts of the Romans team that night, that’s exactly what he has. 


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