My name is Ellen Jackson, I’m the sole proprietor
of Victory Rose thoroughbreds here in Vacaville. We raise about 70 to 80 foals a year. We also
race them. The investment to raise a racehorse is quite large. So that’s why we put in so
much to making sure the foal can be just as healthy as possible.
We want to see the foal bright and alert, aware of the environment, sticking close to
the mare, nursing, but the important thing is that it moves away from you. That’s the
normal response because they’re prey animals. When we don’t see that, then we know there’s
something wrong with the foal. So, when you see the behavior change, could be an infection,
but it also could be this syndrome that’s been described for about 100 years: maladjusted
— nicknamed “dummy foal” — it could be that. Well it used to be just a nightmare. You go
oh, great. We’re going to have to bottle feed this baby or tube feed this baby for the next
ten days or however long until it grows out of it. But it was pretty much a waiting game.
It was really quite frustrating. It would take 24 hour micromanagement, and lots of
bodies and no sleep, until that baby came out of the syndrome.
Our research showed the cause of that is not low oxygen, but actually a persistence of
the hormones that keep them asleep in the womb. And we also found that the birth canal
pressures, which we now mimic with a procedure with these foals that come into the clinic,
they’re maladjusted. We create birth canal pressures, it lowers the neurosteroids, and
they wake up. Often very, very quickly, very similar to what happens when they’re born.
You put on the, the harness, we’ve built sort of a little harness that just snaps on, doesn’t
affect the foal in any way, and then as soon as you go and tighten it up a little bit,
they just drop. And go to sleep. And then you unsnap it while they’re out, you unsnap
it, and they jump up, and nicker! It’s amazing. We had one that was trying to climb in the
feeder, cause it couldn’t figure out how to get out of that corner. We squeezed it, and
it got up and nickered to the mom for the first time. Immediately. It was just astounding.
They have identified a group of chemicals that modulate neurodevelopment in the foal
that may be very relevant to autism. And so it certainly caught my interest.
Well, this all started when John Madigan and Monica Auman(?) came to talk to me and suggested
that I should be thinking about a connection between these two completely unrelated disorders.
And I really knew nothing about fetal transition in consciousness until they sort of forced
me to think about it. We believe our research has brought some new
understanding that could be applicable to some conditions in children. One of the things
we’d like to look at is autism spectrum disorder. In order to pursue that and apply what we’ve
learned, we’re looking for some support and help to get that done.