Willow Is Walking Taller
We love this picture. This is our dear Willow. She is a Belgian Sorrel Draft Horse whose spirit takes your breath away - even more so than her gigantic stature. We hug her from every angle, and from behind, with our arms stretched wide. You cannot reach around to the sides of her rear end - she's over 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall. She's been called a Mack Truck by most visitors. And her size made her the perfect tool on a farm for the first 5 years of her life, where she pulled thousands of pounds of equipment and got very little rest. We know this because the tendons running down her back legs weren't given enough time to recover at night - they stretched and stretched and eventually the vertical bones in her legs started to drop until her back stature looks like she's wearing human shoes.
Most horses like her with dropped pasterns are in so much pain they will not walk. But her bones remained in the L shape for so long that they fused together. She came to us completely spent. Dropped at a sale barn with the black leather strap marks fresh around her back end.
Yes, we love this picture - because she's at the very top of our steep hill - her favorite spot. She swings her legs over a 1-foot retaining wall to get here - even though she can walk around it. The direct route is faster. This has become the first "pulse check" for her well-being. Dr. Avery taught us this. Because outsiders looking in would say "that horse is suffering." But Willow tells us every day when she chooses the short route up her favorite hill, that she chose not to lay in a stall, or be alone, or any other myriad of signs of a suffering horse. Willow is thriving.
Infection: ClearA year ago, she came in from the pasture with a hole the size of a softball that opened above her hock (that's the knee to us lay people). A biopsy showed infection from "swamp creatures" -- essentially 2 notoriously hard to kill bacteria. We had 2 veterinarians work together with us to get her over this infection - Dr. Vlahos and Dr. Metcalf. Prontosan Surgical Gel (a miracle) closed the wound within days.
And she was placed on Enro. We learned this is a scary word. This antibiotic can cause life ending colitis when used in some horses. For many, many weeks we timed feedings and medicines a few hours apart to ensure she would make it through Enro:
- Breakfast with Enro
- 2 hours later - a medicine to coat the stomach
- 2 hours later - a probiotic to put good bacteria back in
- 2 hours later - Bute pain killer
- 2 hours later more medicine to coat the stomach
And we did this over and over with blood tests throughout the weeks, as we watched the infection number drop and drop. Her SAA number was over 3k. It dropped to 14 by the end of the treatment -- she was infection free!
Next was Tenex Surgery
This VERY new and novel minimally invasive treatment has been used on people's tendons for many years. It's like an ultrasonic needle that goes in, breaks up the bad tendon into tiny glassy pieces, and all those parts get sucked out into a bag where you can see them. Then, the body starts to form Type 1 collagen in its old place.
In the last 3 years it has been used on horses with suspensory ligament damage. Dr. Vlahos is a teaching doctor for this treatment - so we are extremely lucky to have an expert in this technique - it is so rare! If you google this, you won't find much. Trust us, we tried. One published clinical study on a horse that went back to racing afterwards. Successful for that horse. Successful for many performance horses Dr. Vlahos has treated. But this is Willow. She'll never have vertical bones. She'll never walk normally. In addition to her fused bones, she's a draft horse with very crappy hooves. She gets abscesses.
The very next morning after her surgery, Willow's walk changed. She was in full stride. It was simply remarkable. We have never seen her move so fast. You would see her at the north end of the property at a hay bag, look down, check your email on your phone, and see her way on the other end of the property eating from a different hay bag.
Is this really happening? We knew that our hope after about 12 weeks was she'd be able to go down on the number of her daily Equioxx "Tylenol" pills -- but in 1 day? And she has full range of motion? What on actual earth are we seeing?
This is where we stand today. We simply would not believe it had we not been living this reality every day. We are not to the full 12 weeks - but the motion and movement is like seeing birds take flight, swoop and dive and make figure 8's. Her hooves are our next project. But for now, we are grateful Willow is feeling the best she's ever felt at our Sanctuary.
Dr. Vlahos once said that he does these novel techniques because he knows when he passes away, and he meets the animal again, they will thank him. It's the most beautiful way to carry yourself through the world, and we have acquired this new thinking. Because we will absolutely do the right thing for Willow, and every animal here in our care knowing that their quality of life is foremost in our minds - that every day we work together so they can each have their Top of The Hill Moment.
This is where your purchases have been going and we could not be more grateful, and neither could Willow!