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An unfinished story of resilience and dignity

Once in a while, a horse emerges with a spirit so enduring, a courage so great, a beauty so complete and a gentleness so bountiful, that her nature can neither be expected nor explained.

A stunning chestnut Arabian mare, Showie was foaled in the spring of 1992 in Camp Verde, Arizona. Her first two years of life were happy and uneventful as she spent her days mostly grazing and interacting peacefully with other horses. Her only other activity were regular training sessions as her owners were anxious to take her out on the trails.

Her idyllic life did not last long. During a routine lunging exercise, Showie stumbled and took a very hard fall. Although no bones were broken, she suffered severe spinal subluxation - spinal misalignment – from her neck to lower back. The disturbances in her vertebrae not only caused her pain, but also dysfunction in muscle, lymphatic and organ tissues in addition to a generalized neurological imbalance in her normal body processes.

Horrified at the extent of her injuries, the owners spared no expense and paid for four months of veterinary hospitalization. After a long struggle, her vet – who had also battled to bring Showie back to her former self - finally pronounced that no further improvements were possible, and suggested she be euthanized.

Her owners despaired. Knowing that they could not provide the special care that Showie needed, they realized that they would have to choose between putting her down or handing her over to a facility that could give their horse the care she needed. They opted for the latter and contacted All God’s Creatures in the hope that we could give her a new home and a chance at rehabilitation.

We did not hesitate. When her trailer drove up, our hearts were filled with the excitement that only the arrival of a new horse can bring and no small amount of trepidation. Just how badly injured was this horse? And would we be able to help her? Doubt and joy lived together in that same moment.

Then she stepped out of the trailer, and all apprehension disappeared. It was if royalty had arrived. Her neurological damage was undeniable – she walked around like a drunken sailor, swaying every which way possible. But through all that, she was astoundingly regal, elegant, dignified, holding her head high in sheer defiance of her physical limitations. Right away we knew that despite her injuries, her spirit was uniquely tranquil and intact.

We immediately embarked on a program of physical therapy and body work. Although she showed modest improvement, we enlisted the aid of an Australian equine chiropractor, Jamie Knox, to give her further support. He visited only three times. And that was all that was needed to change her life.

During the first visit, he assessed the extent of her injuries noting that her spine was so misaligned that it had completely scrunched up her backside. Not wanting to overly stress her, he gently worked on her neck, gave us supplements that would help in her rehabilitation and taught us exercises that we would perform during the next several days.

The second visit proved her turning point. Performing an intense chiropractic workout on her pelvic and sacrum areas, Jamie grabbed one of her hind legs and yanked it in one swift maneuver that sent Showie screaming and reeling with pain. Although she was too stunned to notice, we immediately saw that her backside – just moments before crumbled like a discarded tissue – was smoothed out. By the next morning, all her neurological symptoms were gone. With her gait normalized, Showie sauntered around her pen that day as if nothing had ever happened. Not the accident, not the four months of hospitalization, not even the painful chiropractic session less than 24 hours before. She was once again a happy horse.

Two weeks later, Jamie paid his final visit to administer some fine-tuning adjustments and his work was done.

The next several years were spent strengthening Showie with daily sessions of physical therapy. By the time she was six, she was as healthy as a horse could be. The hard work – always buoyed by her good nature and positive attitude – had paid off.

After that, things were peaceful for Showie. From time to time, she would cut herself on something and would recover – albeit slowly. At the time, we did not suspect anything was amiss. We thought it was just how she healed.

When she was 13, she had colic symptoms and we discovered she had ulcers. Their origins stumped us as she led a stress-free life and seemed at all times content and pain-free. They passed, like her slow-healing wounds, and we went about our daily routines.

In June 2006, tragedy struck again. We woke up and noticed Showie limping about. A vet exam revealed laminitis, one of the most crippling and often fatal equine diseases. Although she was promptly treated, the laminitis was aggressive and advanced despite our round-the-clock efforts. It did not take long for the disease to force the bone in her hoof to rotate downwards towards the bottom of her foot, forcing her to undergo tendon surgery to arrest any further rotation. Despite the surgery being a success, she suffered further ravages of laminitis. Stress marks on her coronet band began oozing out the front of her hoof – a tell-tale sign that could only mean that she would lose her hoof without immediate intervention.

A cast was placed on her hoof and fetlock for six weeks. She did end up losing the front part of her hoof, but we were grateful that she had escaped losing her entire hoof as that would have forced us to put her down. Right after that, a bi-monthly regimen of stem-cell therapy was administered and her recovery accelerated rapidly. Her front hoof began to grow back, and until this day is still strengthening.

Notwithstanding her improvement, the vet worried about her lackluster response to medications and ordered blood tests. What was revealed explained instantly how the laminitis was able to rage so aggressively, why her cuts and other ailments healed so slowly, and the reason behind her mysterious ulcers. Showie has insulin resistance – the equine equivalent of the human metabolic disorder, diabetes.

This good news is that Showie – now with her laminitis in remission - has confronted her new diagnosis with grace and good humor. She quickly adapted to her new diet and takes all her medications without complaint. Her blood sugar – regularly checked – is under control thanks to a grain-free diet that Showie relishes with a gusto that most horses reserve for a basketful of carrots and treats. Better yet, she is no longer a slow healer – in fact, her recoveries from minor scrapes are now much faster than average.

For a horse that has endured more in 14 years than a whole stable of horses usually suffer in a lifetime, her battles are still not over. The tendon surgery she underwent in the summer of 2006 left her with scar tissue that attached itself to both neighboring tendons, causing a contraction in her foot that has rendered her lame. She needs a minor surgery to release those tendons so that she can regain the full functionality of her leg. Not only would this be critical for any horse, it is especially critical in Showie’s case as regular exercise would greatly improve the management of her insulin resistance.

Closing Thoughts -
This horse’s story is not one of sadness, but of triumph. At every stage, she has demonstrated a will to not only live, but to live well. In the 12 years we’ve had her, she has never welcomed a day without a twinkle in her eye and loving nudges for all those that have been lucky enough to work with her. She is a portrait of enduring grace, patience and beauty that has many, many wonderful years ahead of her. With the surpassing greatness of her spirit, we believe she not only deserves that chance but has earned it.

By Michelle Chalmers


sacred healing arts



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