by Sara Gordon

This year’s Junior Amateur Photographer champion photo, taken by Mia Hugo of her mare Smash and her colt Dash.

The deadline for this year’s Foal Photo Contest was almost upon us when we received Amy Kurtenbach’s email with her daughter Mia Hugo’s entries. In addition to the adorable set of pictures, their entry contained a story of a special foal facing the fight of his life at just over a month old.

Kurtenbach and her family live on a small farm in Darnestown where they pursue their family goal of breeding a good, athletic family horse. They decided on the registered Hanoverian stallion Dubarry to breed to their Holsteiner mare Smashing and then began the long preparation for the arrival of their first foal.

When the big day finally arrived, the birthing process didn’t turn out as they had hoped. Smashing was three weeks overdue and endured a difficult delivery at the Virginia Tech Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, VA. “We were hoping for a home delivery, but that became [too] risky as we passed the due date,” Kurtenbach said.

Despite a delayed arrival, Smashing produced a healthy bay Hanoverian colt on May 29. They decided to name the colt Dashing, Dash for short, and took the pair home. It was during these first few weeks that 14-year-old Mia, captured the great shots of the doting mother and son out in the field, earning her the champion title for this year’s Junior Amateur Photographer category in the Foal Photo Contest.

Around the one-month mark for Dash, his situation changed and turned dire. During a night in the stall, Smashing felt the need to protect her young colt from their curious neighbor. She knocked a board out of the wall into their stall with her warning kicks. Dash stepped on a protruding nail, puncturing a bone and developing a septic infection. Kurtenbach and her family immediately rushed him back to the EMC where he underwent surgical procedures to drain the infection from his coffin joint for two weeks.

Kurtenbach’s kids visiting Dash at the EMC.

After the first week, Dash had stopped making progress and the family feared the worst. “His hoof became quite compromised and we almost lost him,” Kurtenbach said. In the worst case scenario that they lost Dash, the family prepared to open their hearts to help another foal, posting on the Facebook page of the Maryland Horse Network, “I’m posting this because should things not turn out, we would like to try to save another foal who needs nursing and we would be open to adoption.”

Mia urged the family to stick by Dash and continue with the second week of treatments. Despite his obvious discomfort walking on the injured leg, Dash’s bloodwork continued to improve.

Dash was released from the EMC on July 14 and transferred to Havenbrook, a rehabilitation farm in Leesburg, VA, for another 30 days of treatment. “Aside from the wound from the nail, his vitals are finally looking better and he is alert, energetic and eating well. He’s [also] getting big!” Kurtenbach said.

Thanks to a deeply devoted family, Dash has a wonderful future ahead of him. “There is no promise that he will ever reach his potential as an athletic warmblood, but he’ll have a forever home with us regardless,” Kurtenbach said.