The common term “dummy foal” describes a foal affected with Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NHS) and is has been estimated that between 3 and 5% of foals will be affected and will require intensive support to survive. Dr. John Madigan has been working with these foals for many years at UC-Davis. He and his research group, in 2012 paper, tested his hypothesis that “the application of a rope restraint device would result in behavioral, electroencephalographic and humoral changes consistent with sleep and analgesia in neonatal foals”. 8 healthy foals underwent a series of assessments before and during or at the end of a period of restraint using a soft linen rope. Heart and respiratory rates, temperature, circulating endorphins, behavior and ECG patterns were just some of the parameters that were measured and evaluated. All foals were “lively” with apparently normal behavior prior to application of the rope. During application of the restraint, the foals laid down on their side (lateral recumbency) with relaxed, sleepy behavior. Heart and respiratory rates and body temp. all decreased. ECG patterns were recorded for just three of the foals and all were consistent with a state of sleep. The hormone levels that were measured all increased. The authors concluded that this “squeeze-induced somnolence may resemble the effects of compression of the fetus in the birth canal and lead to inhibition of voluntary activity.” Use of this technique to restrain foals during other procedures was suggested to be worth further investigation.
Relevance: Dr. John Madigan has used this earlier described technique to help “wake up” foals who have been diagnosed with NMS with a great deal of success. This technique is covered in detail in many articles as well as in a video easily found on YouTube. The science behind it and the ease with which it can be learned and performed makes this something well worth looking into for any breeder and equine veterinarian.
Scientific Article: Toth, B, Aleman M, Brosnan RJ, Dickinson PJ, Conley AJ, Stanley SD, Nogradi N, Williams CD and Madigan JE. “”Evaluation of squeeze-induced somnolence in neonatal foals”, Am J Vet Res 2012, Dec: 73(12), 1881-9.
Companion Article: Barakat, C. “The Squeezing Cure”. Equus May 2015, issue 452, pp. 56-67.