Only about 20 minutes pass after a mare's water breaks to when her foal is born. So if you're glued to Penn Vet's New Bolton Center's Foal Cam — just like veterinarians and other officials will be glued to their cell phones for the next couple of weeks — you might miss something.
For the first time, the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, known as Penn Vet, is live-streaming the birth of mare My Special Girl's foal. The pregnancy is also the first successful one using artificial insemination.
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MSG's due date is Friday, so that call to Penn Vet officials could come at any minute. But there's still some time left, said Dr. Regina Turner, associate professor of large animal reproduction for Penn Vet.
"But I don't know if anyone's been sleeping yet," she admitted. "Phones and pagers are right next to our beds, our scrubs are laid out, so you can just get in the car and go."
When MSG seems close, people will start sleeping at the New Bolton Center, Turner said.
The mare is a teaching horse. She lives at the center with more than a dozen other mares that are used to teach veterinary students. MSG is a surrogate mother and after her foal is born, it will go home with one of Penn Vet's medical specialists for training as a show horse.
The idea for keeping a camera on MSG at all times, including the live birth, started because Turner said so many people ask about Penn Vet and request behind-the-scenes tours.
"We generally can't accommodate," Turner said, "because we're a hospital with client confidentiality. But since the mare belongs to us, the foal belongs to us, we thought this was an opportunity. It's a great story. It's a great opportunity to have something on the Internet so people can see some of what we do and get to watch the birth of what we expect to be a healthy, happy foal."
The response has been great. After only a few days live, more than 20,000 worldwide had tuned in, said a Penn Vet spokesperson. Since the live feed isn't very exciting right now — a pregnant mare doesn't do too much — Turner said people really like the updates on MSG's condition, her ultrasounds and educational information on the center and the animals.
"The feedback we're getting from people is they just want more," Turner said.
And if this is successful, the group may do this for future pregnancies, she added.
The camera feed can be found at www.vet.upenn.edu/foalcam.