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Pleased as punch as rare foal survives against the odds after Newmarket hospital care

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A rare Suffolk Punch filly foal is back home safe and healthy after spending ten days fighting for her life in a Newmarket equine hospital.

It was touch and go whether Tommyshop Astra would survive complications that developed after her traumatic birth but she has defied the odds to become a symbol of hope to this critically endangered breed.

There are only 50 breeding mares in the UK so every filly foal is good news for a breed of heavy horse that is now more endangered than the Giant Panda.

Jasmine and foal Astra safe back home
Jasmine and foal Astra safe back home

“It is fantastic that she survived and is doing so well,” said Claire Bartram who works at Tommyshop Farm, at Terrington St Clement, where Astra was born.

She explained that this was a first foal for eight-year-old Whatton Jasmine, one of four Suffolk Punches owned by Jackie Taylor and kept at her farm.

“She was a big foal and it was soon clear that she was stuck and we knew at once that she was going to need veterinary help.

Jasmine and foal Astra enjoying some fresh air
Jasmine and foal Astra enjoying some fresh air

“Diana Verhulst, from Anchorage Barn Equine Clinic, got here fast in spite of having to take a detour because of a road closure and we were able to get her out alive.”

Then it was obvious there were complications because the foal was not feeding, was having trouble standing up and showing signs of oxygen starvation.

Mare and foal were rushed to Newmarket Equine Hospital where they were taken to intensive care and Astra spent ten days on antibiotics in case she caught sepsis and having life-saving treatment.

“We knew it was possible she might not survive but we always had hope and she was finally able to come home to Terrington on Tuesday,” said Claire. “It was a huge relief for everyone.

Jasmine and Astra
Jasmine and Astra

“She is fit and healthy and will soon be out in the paddock during the daytime with her mum. They have already been out for a time time for a graze and some fresh air.

“We are so grateful to our vet and to the hospital. It is good news for Jackie and for the breed as a whole.”

Jackie is also hoping to breed from her other mares at Tommyshop Farm but by using embryo transfer.

News of Astra’s birth will have been welcomed by the Suffolk Punch community and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and it is expected that she is one of only 20 fillies that are due to be born in this country this year so she is rather special.

The Suffolk Punch breed, with its distinctive chestnut colouring, can be traced back to a single stallion in the 1760s and originated in East Anglia where it was bred to work the heavy clay soil in Norfolk and Suffolk.

It is the oldest of the heavy horse breeds and there are only a few hundred left in the UK with similar numbers in America.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk

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