First-time owner Eddie Bayeh has had a rough introduction into the business of Thoroughbreds.
The first foal born on his Hill Farm in Erie, Penn., was stillborn. Then, his mare Coco Rainbow delivered a colt by Boys At Toscanova. All appeared well until her second day with the foal, when she began attacking him and landed one sound kick, which Bayeh said knocked the colt out cold for a few minutes. Bayeh had his veterinarian examine the foal immediately, and even though there were no signs of serious damage, he chose to haul the colt to a clinic in Ohio for observation.
By the time Bayeh decided the colt needed to go to the hospital, it was the middle of the night and he couldn't get ahold of anyone with a horse trailer who was willing to come pick up a foal and make a hospital run. He called one of the farm workers at Hill Farm who had a mini van, and they rushed the tiny foal to Ohio in the back.
“The foal was small enough that if he stands up in the back of the van, he still has room,” said said trainer Tony Stabile, who has helped Bayeh set up his racing and breeding operation. “He wound up falling asleep after five minutes.”
Veterinarians told Bayeh about 1 percent of Thoroughbred mares reject their foals as Coco Rainbow did, but it's especially unusual for a mare to wait until the second day with the foal before attacking it. Foal rejection may present as an avoidance behavior, in which the mare appears to be afraid of the foal or will not allow it to nurse, or in some cases, actually displays aggression toward the foal. Experts say mares can sometimes be trained out of the behavior, but in cases of aggression, it can be safer for the foal to remove it before serious injury occurs.
The Coco Rainbow colt spent several days in the clinic suffering from diarrhea, but by the time he was ready to come home to Hill Farm, Pennsylvania was bracing for a cold snap and winter storm. Bayeh tried to reintroduce the foal to Coco Rainbow, but she showed no interest in him. He tried to insulate a stall in the barn with tarps, but worried it would still be too cold for the weakened colt.
Bayeh didn't want the bottle baby out in the barn alone given his rough start in life, so naturally he brought it in the house. Bayeh secured a tarp over the floor and lower walls of a spare bedroom on the ground floor of his home, filled the room with straw, and walled off doorways with baby gates. His first foal has rested in the luxury of central heating while the snow stacks up outside. Final snowfall totals for Wednesday evening were projected to reach eight to ten inches. A member of the Hill Farm staff sits with him 24 hours a day, administering antibiotics and fluids, and milk replacer every two hours.
“He's got energy and everything. If you take him outside, he jumps around. Then when he's done, he knows to come back in his room,” said Bayeh.
Bayeh jumped into the racing business headfirst after meeting Stabile, who has helped Bayeh purchase horses and get Hill Farm up and running.
“We wanted to buy one racehorse, and we ended up buying a farm. It took one month,” said Bayeh with a chuckle.
Bayeh has five broodmares, and the remaining three are all due to drop their foals any day now, just to keep his life busy. He also owns a restaurant on Lake Erie and a bar in downtown Erie, and with St. Patrick's Day coming up, his week was already hectic without having a horse in the house. If it means giving a colt a good start, Bayeh said he'll do what it takes.
“We couldn't let this one go. We had to save it,” Bayeh said. “He's going to be in there as long as it takes until the weather clears up. The room is big enough he can stay in there for a couple months if he needs to.”
Stabile has already helped Bayeh apply to the Jockey Club for names: Rough Start and Rocky Start are their first two choices. Around the house though, he has taken to calling the colt “Little Eddie” because he sees the same tenacity in both the horse and his owner.
“After what he went through, he's a survivor,” said Stabile. “And Eddie himself, who's very modest, he came to this country with nothing and is a very successful businessman here in Erie. He's overcome a lot of things to get where he's at. I figured if Eddie could survive what he's done, Little Eddie could survive it, too.
“Eddie thought of all of this. I thought he was nuts, but when you've got that kind of compassion, you do it.”
Stabile and Bayeh agree Little Eddie is not a sale prospect. They're hopeful the extra attention he's receiving will make him easier to train when he's older.
“He's going to be that horse who follows you around in the barn everywhere you go,” said Bayeh. “He'll just be begging for treats.”
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