Rachel Alexandra ‘doing as best as we can expect’ after long surgery

by | 02.14.2013 | 10:52am
Rachel Alexandra

Specialists at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital were cautious to speculate Thursday on the outlook for Rachel Alexandra following a long surgery to address complications from the birth of her Bernardini foal Tuesday morning.

“I think right now it's too early to say,” said Dr. Bonnie Barr, internal medicine specialist.  “We need to see how she responds to treatment and take it one day at a time.”

Barr said the 7-year-old mare is receiving intravenous fluids, antibiotics, nutrition and anti-inflammatories and is undergoing abdominal lavages regularly to continue to flush out bacteria and inflammatory cells.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/02/14/2516686/rachel-alexandra-standing-but.html#storylink=rss?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy

Barr and attending surgeon Dr. Brett Woodie, along with Stonestreet Farm representatives, held a press conference Thursday afternoon to update Rachel Alexandra's condition.  The champion race mare was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday for exploratory abdominal surgery following her delivery of a 140-pound filly by Bernardini at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Stonestreet farm manager Garry Megibben said that the foaling was “difficult”, but mother and foal were doing fine in the hours after the birth. Some time on Wednesday, the mare became lethargic and stopped eating, so Megibben and the mare's owner, Barbara Banke, made the decision to rush her to Rood and Riddle.

There, she underwent exploratory surgery to investigate the source of a bacterial infection. During the procedure, Woodie discovered a section of the small colon which had lost its blood supply, compromising the abdominal wall and allowing the bacteria to gain access to the abdominal cavity.  He suspects the blood supply was damaged during foaling. The segment of damaged intestine was removed. Recovery from anesthesia was uncomplicated for the Horse of the Year, and Woodie said she is “doing as best as we can expect at this stage in her recovery.”

Barr said it is too early to determine whether Rachel Alexandra will be able to carry foals in the future.

Veterinarians do not believe that Rachel's current complications are in any way connected to her difficulty with the birth of her first foal last year, a colt by Curlin.  Abdominal infections are “not uncommon” in broodmares, according to Woodie, but do happen.  The veterinarians also said that the difficulties Rachel Alexandra's dam Lotta Kim had as a broodmare have likely not had any impact on Rachel's current health issues.

“She looks brighter today, so that makes me happy,” said a somber Barbara Banke. “It's a day-by-day, hour-by-hour type of thing. It's very serious.”

Rachel Alexandra's Bernardini filly is said to be bright and active and adjusting well to a nurse mare at Stonestreet. Megibben said the pair is being monitored closely and will likely be turned out tomorrow.

  • Ida Lee

    “..long road”…we’ll be with Rachel every step of the way. Love you Sweetheart…

  • Beachy

    Huge prayers…we are with you all and especially Rachel…  

  • May God watch over Rachel and heal her. I will keep Rachel & her filly and Barbara in my prayers. God healed Paynter when we thought we would lose him and Miracles Still Happen by the Grace of God.

  • Tiz A Blessing

    I am asking God to PLEASE heal, Miss Rachel Alexandra. She means the world to so many people and her little filly needs her momma. 

  • William L. Anton

    Remember Rachel was a tough racehorse, she put away many of the colts that tried her. Now she will be tough again and defeat her physical set back.  All we need to do is help with our thoughts and prayers. Understand one thing, Barbara will be with her every step of the way, while the spirit of Jess and his toughness will assist her past all of this.

  • Katrab54

    YES…sending healing prayers to Rachel! Godspeed in her recovery! :)

  • Rachel

    You’re so sweet, I agree withn your prayers. Her filly has a new mom, though, and won’t be going back to Rachel…keep the nursemare’s baby in your animal prayers, too…it is now an orphan.

  • Ida Lee

    If anyone can make it, Rachel can. Remember when the guys ganged up on her in the Preakness? That was my favorite of her races. If boys eyeballed her, they went down! That’s the way I want her to fight  Lotta Kim had a lot of issues what with rejecting Rachel when she was born, one of her foals was euthanized after contracting a rare disease, she was barren one year…I think Rachel’s foaling difficulties may very well be connected to her own mom’s difficulties.  Also, did they actually comment on future foaling? I don’t think so…it would be outrageous after what she (and those who love Rachel) has been through to even discuss it…

  • Beachy

     Deepest prayers also that the nurse mare’s baby is cared for…FIND A WAY, people–it’s why God allegedly gave humans the ability to problem-solve. 

  • Don Reed

    I’m really hoping this will work out for the best.  This must be a dreadful experience for everyone involved in trying to save her life.

  • Loonylinda1

    “Barr said it is too early to determine whether Rachel Alexandra will be able to carry foals in the future.” We have 2 wonderful foals from Rachel now… 2 is enough! I will pray that greed doesn’t take over and they give her a peaceful Retirement now.

  • lyn

    Actually, nurse mares are usually mares that have lost their foals.  They don’t take a foal away from its mother to let a different foal nurse. 

  • J Carson Black

     I don’t see any greed in Barbara Banke. I wouldn’t worry about that. Rachel Alexandra means the world to her.

  • Hossracergp

    That’s not actually true….nurse mares are usually another breed like QH or draft that they pull the foals from and graft TB foals onto.

  • We are all praying for her, the energy is in her favor. Get well soon Rachel.

  • Ida Lee

    I very much agree with what you’re saying. I just saw a video of the press conference from the Hospiral on Rachel’s condition. Barbara looks devastated. If we love Rachel so much and are hearbroken, imagine Barbara that sees her every day.  I wish I had words of wisdom to help Barbara but quite frankly right now, I’m just barely holding on to my composure.

  • Hotboxbailey89

    has anyone ever thought about leaving Rachel alone and let her be a horse. She has done so much for fans and owners like you people need anymore money. Why can’t all of you sit back and enjoy looking at her. I know I would if she was mine. She is so beautiful.

  • Lorelibe

    It would be a much sounder decision to harvest her eggs and use a donor mare to “house” the embryo we all hope will be possible at some point in the future.  C’mon Rachel, you can do it!!

  • Sandra Warren

    It’s very common for the bigger farms to keep a few draft mares that they use to test breed stallions.  The resultant foal is saleable as a warmblood, and then they have a potential nurse mare.  But also, there is usually a network of nurse mare availability.  Everybody knows somebody whose mare lost her foal.  The CTBA keeps a nurse mare registry to help the members. 

  • DawnP

    Fingers, toes, and even teeth crossed for a full recovery! C’mon Rachel my dear!

  • Lisa Wintermote

    Yes, they do exactly that. It’s an industry of its own with nurse mare farms mostly based in KY. Almost all big Thoroughbred farms have a nurse mare or 2 of their own as well.

  • Ninjanoodle

     That would be an exercise in futility. The Jockey Club won’t be moving towards something like embryo transfer anytime this century. Progress be damned! :)

  • Ninjanoodle

     Using that mindset, the she has done enough mindset, why breed anything at all? Let’s just look at all the pasture ornamentation.

    If and when she is cleared by her vets, and let’s be honest here, she is going to have access to the best in the business, then by all means breed her again.

  • Ninjanoodle



    She is a broodmare. Two foals is a mere drop in the bucket of the genetic influence that she may give to the breed as a whole through her foals.

    Not to mention she is only 7. If they give her owner an all clear in regards to breeding her, then why on earth shouldn’t they???

  • Tyme2trot

    I feel so sorry for her! No concern about her being able to carry future foals for me.. she needs to recover and enjoy her retirement.. Too bad the Jockey Club wont allow embryo transfers…..

  • Convene

    Heartfelt prayers for this very special girl. She’s tough as nails and not short on fighting spirit. Never are those qualities more important than now. I’m sure Ms. Banke will do right by her, whatever that proves to be. 

  • J Carson Black

     I will never forget her Woodward. They threw everything they had at her–older male horses, double-teaming and triple-teaming her, and she still won. This horse is a fighter. We saw what a fighter can do with colitis and laminitis, and I have little doubt she will be just as tough.

  • Ron Crookham

    As an owner and breeder , I can give you 3,506,730 reasons why they should not breed her again. Enough is enough!!

  • lyn

    I stand corrected.  I am saddened.

  • Rachel

    2 out of 2 foaling complications.

  • Mjgmoloney

    Don’t be too saddened. One of the finest foxhunters currently in KY is a bucket-raised nurse mare baby.  There are many like her out there.

  • Tveazey

    You keep fighting pretty girl, just like you did on the track.  I know you must be tired and sore but you can do this.  We have faith in you and your connections.  Your connections love you very much and want only what is best for you.  There is a tremendous outpooring of love and prayers for you.  If faith and prayer can make you better, then you will be well when you are ready. 
    Keep strong and do not give up.
    Sending love ,kisses and hugs to you and everyone concerned.

  • Drgill

    Too Bad as Ray points out, the Jockey Club wont allow embryo transfer, which would allow Rachel’s gene’s to continue to influence the breed with the help of a recipient mare, while she remains safe and healthy. Many other breed registries embrace embryo transfer technology and this situation is a perfect example of why it is necessary.

  • Anyone who saw how distraut Barbara looked in yesterday’s news conference woulnd’t question how much she means to Barbara Banke.  That spoke volumns.  Anyway, do we really think she would sell one of Rachel’s babies?  i don’t see greed here.  They had a little bit of a problem last foaling.  If everyone was being truthful and all RA wen to R&R for was pain, then I have no problem that they bred her this year.  No way to forsee this happening.  Now after this happening, I might not be so keen on them breeding her back again.  I do hate that all the mares turn into baby machines but that is the way it is right now.  Maybe there should be a move afloat to require mares only be bred every other year.

  • NY Owner

    It is natural for mares to be bred each year.  In the wild, the herd stallion doesn’t say, “oh honey, you’ve had 3 in a row, why don’t you take this year off.”  If the mare’s body isn’t ready and able to be pregnant, she won’t conceive or will “slip” the foal early in the pregnancy.  There is really very little that can be done to keep a mare pregnant if she’s not normally healthy other than progesterone therapy and antibiotics.  This is especially true for thoroughbreds since the Jockey Club requires live cover and forbids embryo transfer.

  • Abbers

     The nurse mare industry is vile. Throw away babies….sick.

  • Abbers

    Totally agree, I hope they don’t intend to breed her again. Enough already.
    I pray she pulls through.

  • WT

    Yes it is a very sad industry. If nurse mare foals can be bucket raised, why can’t TB foals? I guess TB foals are too good for that.

  • Choochy420

    Hope this is her last baby. She’s done enough.

  • Please get well soon, Rachel!! We are pulling for you!

  • Kim Howell (Anita Xanax)

    Biggest risk right now is sepsis-an infection of the entire system/organism. Peritonitis is bad enough, the drains are essential but risky. Pray specifically for her strong immune system, liver and kidneys.

  • Vettext

    Good for you.   Sadly, I suspect she will be ‘bred to death’.

  • Vettext

    Going from ‘done enough’ to ‘why breed…’ is quite the leap.  She’ll be cleared by the vets because they’ll be bought.  Of course she has access to the best stallions – what does that have to do with it? 

  • Vettext

    She’ll be bred again becasuse her ‘connections’ enjoy the attention.

  • Vettext

    Sadly, greed tends to win out.  She can carry those foals, but the post-foaling seems to be a problem, doesn’t it?

  • Vettext

    In what universe?

  • Noelle

    I really dislike doctors nowadays.  No longer healers, they talk like lawyers, hedging their bets, careful not to say anything substantive that might get them sued. Rachel’s doctors “don’t believe” her current difficulties have any connection to her history, physiology or heritage.  Blah Blah Blah.  I really hope they find her a real doctor who can do more than read a chart.

  • Noelle

    Embryo transfer?  Are you  nuts?  I love her too, but if her genes can’t survive naturally, whatever the reason, then so be it. 

    Horses are marvelous, beautiful, amazing creatures – let them continue to be as God made them.

  • Bristling

    I agree

  • Greatform4

    I know from my own experience of 30+ years raising horses that mares that have trouble getting in foal and foaling tend to pass that on to their own daughters- not 100% of the time, but a good amount of the time. And a mare that has trouble foaling is always going to be a bigger risk of having trouble again.

    However, that said, with all of the problems that this mare has had now, I’m sure that her owner will think long and hard about where to go from here with her. She is an iconic mare for the industry, and as much regard as the rest of the world has for her, one would think that Ms Banke treasures her most of all.

    And no, it is not all about the money, it is also about wanting to pass this magnificent mare’s genes on down the line. She obviously has so much to contribute! At least there are two foals to carry on after their mama now.

    Pray for Rachel- she deserves it…

  • Idohay2

    Prayers for Rachel Alexandra and her baby and owners!!!

  • Marylou5740

    The best equine docs around…she’ll do alright.  It’s not unusual to hear of this happening esp. after delivery of a LARGE foal..that intestine has been pushed aside for months for the developing fetus and when the baby ‘leaves’ the area, the intestine ‘flops’ back into the void..albeit, not in the right anatomical position.  This happens in other animals, too, not just horses.  As long as the infection is contained in the abd. and not in the reproductive organs, her ability to foal again likely won’t be compromised, although, I’d think a closely monitored pregnancy with a C-Section about 24 hr.s pre-confinement time..would be the way to go..I don’t know much about C-sec. on mares..depends, I gues on the value of the colt.  Go, Rachel!

  • Baileyh19

    Hoping and praying for a full recovery for Rachel !

    I have a question about her Dam , Lotta Kim . I can’t seem to find out if
    she is still in foal ? She was confirmed early on when covered by Lokkin At Lucky .

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram