Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center is recruiting volunteers to assist veterinarians and staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit during the busy foaling season.
Registration to be a volunteer “foal sitter” takes place in December, with an orientation to follow in January. Foal sitting volunteer shifts start in February and go through June.
For nearly 30 years, New Bolton Center has enlisted more than 90 foal sitters each year, about half of them returning volunteers. Some foal sitters have participated for years, and include local horse owners and enthusiasts, as well as university and high school students. Foal sitters must be at least 16 years old. Second-year Penn Vet students also foal sit for five shifts of six hours each as part of an elective course.
“The foal sitters are very important,” said Dr. Jon Palmer, Chief of New Bolton Center’s NICU and Director of Perinatal/Neonatal Programs. “To deliver the level of intensive care that we do, we need help. Foal sitters are vital to our operation.”
Two foal sitters are assigned to each of three daily shifts: 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm, and 11 pm to 7 am.
“Most mares foal between 10 at night and 6 in the morning,” Dr. Palmer said. “It is much more active at night. If you want to see the birth of foal, that’s when you want to be around.”
Possible duties for foal sitters include: holding foals upright when they are lying down, assisting staff as they stand and turn foals, milking mares and storing the milk, monitoring equipment for alarms, changing bedding, restocking treatment areas, and cleaning equipment and hospital areas.
Laura Ramspacher, a foal sitter for the past two years, is an operating room nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I love being a foal sitter,” Ramspacher said. “It’s just so nice to be there. It’s fun,” she continued. “I enjoy crossing over into a different kind of medicine. It’s really neat to see how the two worlds are similar, but also different.”
Foal sitting can be a very physical activity, but Dr. Palmer said some foal sitters have been well into their 70s. “No matter what your age, you need to know your physical limitations and not take on a foal sitting job that is too much for you,” he said. “But no matter what your limitations are, there is always something you can do to help.”
For more information and to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.