Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finding a rehab farm

Five weeks into her New Bolton stay, Suki was still taking antibiotics and gabapentin. The gabapentin is used to treat neuropathic pain, which is common in burn patients. The healing of these burns can cause much burning and itching, and Suki needed to remain as comfortable as possible. It was vital for her to have these drugs, so it was a relief to have found a way for her to take them easily.

We also encountered some behavioral issues which were a result of the treatments, I’m sure. With her cloth halter and sensitive skin on her head, restraining Suki continued to be difficult. In fact at one point she became very difficult to catch in her stall. The size of the mare and foal stall made it even easier for her to evade people. The doctors did not want to put Suki back in the smaller stall because they felt that it was better for her to be able to move around more, and they were still hopeful that she would lie down. Ultimately we had to clip a short lead (about 10 inches long) to her halter for her to wear all the time. As it became more difficult to treat around Suki’s head, an animal behaviorist started to visit her and work through some of these issues. At some point she would leave the hospital and need to be handled in a less controlled atmosphere.
I really believe that Suki looked forward to my visits. I always called her name as I entered ICU, and she always answered with a nicker. As I opened the door and looked into the unit I could see her putting her eye close to the bars to look for me. Most people say that one of the reasons Suki recovered was because of the time I spent with her while she was in the hospital. I don’t know if that is the case, but from the beginning I knew that it was important for her to know that I was there. We had been together for six years and I would do everything I could to aid in her recovery.

Even with a significant amount of eschar still across Suki’s back, the doctors began to discuss her release from the hospital. This skin would gradually peel away with minimal assistance, but Suki was getting to the point where living in ICU would no longer be necessary. Once released, however, she would require oral medications twice a day and treatment to the burned skin. This was more than could be managed by me in a regular boarding situation. We would have to locate a rehabilitation barn. New Bolton has lists of a variety of facilities for that purpose but the majority were located near the hospital. I wanted some place closer to home so that I could be actively involved in the process.

My research and networking led to many dead ends. I contacted a local Hanoverian breeding farm. Although they did not have the staff to accommodate Suki’s needs, the owner passed along the name of a part time employee. Kelly Buss, who had her own small farm was a dedicated horse person with a good reputation.

I first reached out to Kelly by email, explaining the situation, followed by a telephone conversation with the details. We arranged for a visit. Kelly’s farm is in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, about thirty minutes from my house and twenty minutes from my office. The property appeared to be well maintained, with the barn far back from the road. The layout seemed perfect for my needs. Each stall had direct access to its own, individual paddock with a lovely view of the valley. This would enable Suki to begin to go outside again not requiring her to be led very far to get there. This was perfect since she was still not able to wear a regular halter or be restrained very well.

I liked Kelly immediately. She was friendly and passionate about her work with horses. Kelly suggested that she go to New Bolton, meet Suki and speak with her doctors. Learning first hand what treatments were required and how to perform them. I felt like I could finally breathe, even though I was concerned that once she saw the situation she might change her mind!
In addition to the medical needs there were basic living requirements that were different from the other horses in Kelly’s barn. Her horses were bedded on shavings, which is very common in our area. There were still some open wounds, plus the section of skin yet to fall off, requiring that she be bedded on straw. Straw is cleaner and better suited to her current condition. While it was important for Suki to begin going outside again she would only be allowed out before sunrise and after sunset due to the sensitive new skin.

Following her trip to New Bolton, Kelly called me and said that she was willing to take Suki into her care. I was so relieved.

November 19, 2011
I am still at the conference and missing my family (2-legged and 4-legged) immensely. Not to worry though. Nikki is being ridden by Meaghan, and Suki is being cared for by Deb.

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