There have been a lot of ups and downs in the last 4 weeks since the Christmas ponies have arrived at CVHR. We never really know what kind of issues a horse is going to have when we bring it in. We have a lot of experience in dealing with horses that are starving and need rehabilitation. We know how to kick start their recovery. What to feed them. What happens when they lay down and can’t get up. It never seems to fail though that one of them will always keep us on our toes.
St. Nick – The Choking Quarter Horse
We saw his pictures online. We saw the complete defeat and lack of will to live in his eyes and we knew that you would want us to save him. Nick is an 8 year old quarter horse. They tell us he came from a lesson barn in New York. He looked like he was involved in a train wreck. Who could have allowed him to become so beat up?
On the very first day that Nick arrived, after we took his intake photos we fed him and he immediately choked. With the guidance from our vet, Dr. Moga, and our founder, Cindy, we were able to get him through the choking episode and started providing him UlcerGard to sooth the ulcers that we determined were the cause of his severe discomfort. I’ll never forget watching him and trying to understand why he was giving ALL of the signs of a colicking horse that was not colicked. There was no way. He had maybe two bites of his food. He had pooped yet here he was in pain and discomfort kicking at his stomach and all he wanted to do was lay down.
We took him out of his stall and walked him and massaged his throat. We gave him some meds to relieve the discomfort and pain and we comforted him the best we could. He was moved to an all soaked alfalfa diet with UlcerGard treatment daily and waited a few days for the UlcerGard to work and then put him on a feed specific for horses who tend to get ulcers and tried again. Exactly one week after his first choke, he choked again! This time it was clear that he was not going to be able to pass it on his own and Dr Moga came to the farm and tubed him. We determined his esophagus was swollen. He had multiple clogs in his throat and all of his food was removed for the rest of the night to give him time to rest his throat from the tubing. The next night, he choked again but this time on soaked alfalfa.
After his third choke we made the decision to send him to the clinic to get scoped. Maybe there was something anatomically wrong with his throat causing him to choke? 8 year old horses don’t choke. The scope revealed most of what we already knew. He had stomach ulcers. His esophagus was swollen. They even performed a barium swallow to see if they could find anything that would be causing him to choke and they could not. He was sent home with very specific instructions for feeding and a new medication to be given after the UlcerGard.
Fast forward to today…. Nick has consistently choked at least once a week. In all of our reviews of what exactly happened each of the days he choked there is nothing consistent that we can pin point that is causing it. During each vet exam we did notice something curious and that is an unhealing ulcer that has been there for roughly 3 weeks now. We also discovered 3 more in subsequent exams of his mouth. This added a new piece to the puzzle and we added yet another medical treatment to his day. He was to get an antiseptic mouthwash after each meal. He had a visit from the state vet and the USDA vet this week to test for one virus and a biopsy on another day to test for an autoimmune disease. We have built him a round pen dry paddock that he can stay in next to his friends and even gave him a friend to hang out with during the day.
Nick’s medications and treatments are totaling into the thousands. The months worth of UlcerGard is close to $1000 and we aren’t sure how much longer he will be on it. The surgeon suggested starting him on a medication for megaesophagus that runs approximately $300 a month. His vet bills are currently in the thousands. Nick is in desperate need of sponsors. If you are able to assist with a monthly sponsorship, please use the link below:
Christmas …. The starved Christmas Pony
While Nick has been a lesson in patience and perseverance, Christmas has continued to thrive at our Brodnax barn with Cindy. We saw his photos and we knew he was in rough shape but we didn’t know how bad until he arrived at the quarantine barn and we got the initial intake photos. He was a body score of 1. He was so weak that he could barely walk after the 30 minute trailer ride from the auction lot to the quarantine barn. He stayed there for about a week and at that point we determined he was strong enough to make it to Brodnax where he would get his dental, rest a couple days and then make it the rest of the way to Fredericksburg. We couldn’t have planned for what happened next but it must have been in God’s plan.
The day after Christmas arrived in Brodnax, I became ill and went to get tested for COVID. With the test coming back positive, I was quarantined from the Fredericksburg barn and unable to be of any help to the volunteer team taking care of the horses at the farm. We made the decision to leave Christmas in Brodnax until I was cleared and able to get him. During this time, Christmas was settling in and finally felt comfortable enough to lay down. This was excellent! Except when he laid down, he couldn’t get back up on his own. When a horse has nothing to eat, it’s body will start to sacrifice its own muscles for energy. That is what happened to Christmas. He had no muscles left and his hind end couldn’t pick his body up off the ground. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t the first horse that has come to CVHR with this issue. You may remember Hope from the Nottoway seizure.
Cindy called for back up, rigged up a sling, and picked him up off the ground with the help of Jordan. Christmas was grateful and went on to walk around and eat the rest of his alfalfa. This process would continue for two weeks. There were days he laid down in his stall and they had to find ways to get him out and then pick him back up. We purchased a cattle lift that was installed in the barn that made the process easier. He would lay down for a nap in the paddock and then we would wait and pray that he was able to get back up on his own. The day finally came this past week when we watched him stand back up on his own completely unassisted. His body condition was slowly improving. His muscle was coming back. He was eating as much as his little heart desired. He was on the right path to recovery!
Next week, Christmas will be making the trip to Fredericksburg where his journey will continue.
While Christmas and St. Nick have been the most needy of our six Christmas ponies, the rest continue to show great progress. Each of them gaining weight and showing us more of their personality. The latest measure of success was the day that I had to adjust all of the straps on Frosty’s blanket because it was too tight and wouldn’t easily go back on him. Frosty is still roughly 300 – 400 lbs underweight but he has gained quite a bit in the last 4 weeks since his arrival. With dedication and hard work, the team has managed to get all of the caked on manure off of his coat and he is actually a white horse again. He still has to learn to pick his feet up without stomping them back down and that the proper way for him to walk on a lead line is behind his person. But he is getting there. He has a willingness to learn and has begun to trust his care team.
Sugar we found is not actually a morgan saddlebred cross as we were told but she is a branded Standardbred. We have pulled her brand and found her race history. She will be turning 21 years old this year and is now back in a proper body weight. Sugar is still learning to trust her people but if you come offering neck rubs or treats, she becomes your best friend.
Solstice and Spice also continue to thrive. Spice is incredibly easy to catch in the field. She has a bit of anxiety that we are going to be working through. Once we are able to handle her feet without issue, she will be evaluated for riding. Even when she is scared and trembling she is very willing to work with our volunteers for her care. Solstice is on a weight gaining plan. She continues to have a never ending supply of alfalfa and a special feed just for senior horses with bad teeth. She will remain with Cindy at the Brodnax farm for now.
We want to thank everyone for their prayers, support and donations. We continue to pray for Nick and Christmas that they will continue to improve. Even if we have to take a couple steps backwards before we can go forwards again, we are making progress. Until the next update…… Thank you for all you do.