Nothing could have prepared us for the challenge that would dominate our lives for the next year. It began as a simple phone call on a lazy Sunday morning from a friend. Unconcerned upon first spotting our client’s horse lying down in pasture, Alan became alarmed when he drove by an hour later and the horse had not moved. My husband Mark and I went down to check on the horse, hoping he was just napping in the sun. Although there was no visible injury to the 2 year old, he wouldn’t stand. A vet was called in and, upon closer examination, found a half inch slit under the forelock, by his right ear. Probing the hole, Dr. Warden pulled out a three inch piece of tree branch that had been driven 6 inches into Scimitar’s head, causing some swelling on the right side. Missing his skull and spinal cord, it was removed and the wound cleaned. Scimitar was given fluids, painkillers and antibiotics. The following days Scimitar looked and acted healthy, yet resisted using his back legs to stand.
We attempted to hoist Scimitar up with a tow truck with disastrous results. Imagine Peter Pan with flailing hooves. Afraid of injury to all, we abandoned that experiment. Despite several days of care, Scimitar still could only stagger a few steps before falling, as if drunk. Although Dr. Warden got a big reaction from Bunny when he applied a shock to his butt, it was followed by days of no improvement. Dr. Warden had come to the conclusion that Scimitar would never walk again due to damage from swelling near his spinal cord. Dr. Warden recommended to his owner Jim that Scimitar be euthanized. We understood Jim’s decision to do so; however, Scimitar did not concur with the dismal prognosis and continued to eat and drink and present an amazing positive attitude.
The day Dr. Warden was to administer "The Shot," I left for work crying my eyes out. Mark called me to report that Scimitar was depressed and lifeless that morning. Although he assumed Scimitar had given up, Scimitar suddenly sat up and looked bright and perky when he heard the vet’s truck. The vet took one look at him, said, "I can’t put that horse down. He looks too good!" and drove away. We guessed that Scimitar had either figured out Dr. Warden’s agenda or remembered Dr. Warden’s last visit and did NOT want to be "zapped" again! When we asked Jim to give Scimitar more time to heal, Jim decided instead to give him to us. The shot issue was now in our hands; however, we decided to leave it up to Scimitar. We would help him so long as he was willing to go the distance with us.
Gypsy Camp in Pasture
The first month we slept in our van in the pasture with Scimitar to turn him from side to side every few hours in order to prevent pneumonia and nerve damage. He also needed protection from the mountain lions and coyotes. Every day he was down diminished his chances for recovery, yet when we tried to stand him up, he would wobble and fall. He fell so many times that he bit off a chunk of his upper lip, giving him the appearance of a Bunny --- hence the nickname, which has continued to stick despite Mark’s protests that this is NOT a suitable name for a gelding!
As Bunny lay in his pasture sympathetic passers-by began to offer their help. He soon had a fan club that brought him carrots and apples. Others left "Get Well" balloons and cards on the gate. He had pillows, foam mattresses, and a sun shelter. Volunteers came to offer massage (Mark even got one) and acupressure. I was using the Ttouch techniques; however, all the vets consulted said that Scimitar had been down too long to ever walk again. A masseuse suggested that Bunny’s problem could be injury to his inner ear during his initial fall. A vet said that if true, it would take at least 4-5 months to heal the cochlea and most horses would not survive that long. Most would either give up, stop eating and drinking, or die of infections or pneumonia due to lack of activity. Hope was rekindled when told that nerves can regenerate and about a steeplechase horse who was rehabilitated after being down for a year and recovered to win his race.
Setting up the Intensive Care Unit
We moved Bunny from the pasture to a paddock and then into the barn where we created an intensive care unit. We made mid-night runs to turn him over and keep up his spirits, in addition to being with him most of the day to treat him and tend to his needs. Bunny did his part by exercising himself every day. He would sit up on his haunches like a dog and pivot around in a circle. We prayed that a fractured cochlea was his only problem and would resolve. Bunny maintained incredible spirit. He nickered to friends, begged for attention, carrots and apples.
The Incredible Anderson Sling
Four months after his initial injury, Bunny’s dizziness seemed to disappear; however, his back legs were very weak from lack of exercise. We needed something to support his weight during rehabilitation. We found it in the Anderson horse sling! It was a long trial and error period of making the sling work as well as finding ways to get Bunny back standing, instead of just dangling. We used everything from Neurokinesiological release, to Ttouch, to massage, to animal communicators! To read the complete story, you can go to www.saving-bunny.com. We are so grateful to all the people who so generously donated their time and expertise. This was truly a global effort.
Unusual Rehabilitation with the Aid of a Tow Truck and a Brave Horse
After a month of therapies in the sling, we tied some hay bales to the back of the tow truck to act as buffers and took him for a walk behind the tow truck. Loosely attached, the sling gave him confidence. He grew steadier with each day. The whole herd came over to the fence to cheer him on. Bunny was obviously proud of himself.
After 2 weeks of tow truck rehab, Mark kept him distracted, as I quickly removed the sling, and walked him out. When Bunny realized he was on his own, he was ecstatic! It had taken six months, a slew of dedicated people, hard work, and most importantly, Bunny’s amazing attitude!
Two years after his injury, Bunny was finally strong enough to rejoin his friends in pasture. Inspired by Bunny’s indomitable spirit and courageous recovery, I made a video that I hope will encourage others to listen to their hearts when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. As my friend and author John-Roger always taught me, work for the best and lovingly accept what is. Even had this story not had such a happy ending, the lessons we all learned and love we shared with those accompanying us on our long journey, was truly a gift to us.