Saving Stash Part 3
by Holly Peterson
I knew I couldn’t put Stash to sleep. His type of gentleness and patience doesn’t come along everyday. He deserved a chance, but now I had to figure out how to make that chance happen. Stash was now on a deadline, and time was not on his side. We knew his tumor was growing and causing him pain. If we waited too long it could affect the bone, if that happened we wouldn’t have any choices at all. He needed a miracle….or an angel.
After his initial x-rays, our vet, Dr. Liz Fish of Shadowrock Equine Veterinary Services in Oneonta, NY, immediately went to work, sending the x-rays out to be seen by a surgeon, for confirmation on her diagnosis as well as for estimates for the surgery. They were sent to the two closest hospitals; Cornell and Rhinebeck Equine. Then we had to wait to hear back from them.
In the meantime, we knew Stash was already suffering and couldn’t let him go too long without deciding what to do. We had a rough idea from Dr. Fish how much this procedure was going to cost. We figured we would need around $2,000 to cover the costs of transportation to and from, the surgery, after care and supplies. The farm could cover only a small part it; a very small part. My family could contribute another tiny part, but where was I ever going to find the rest?
To this point, I hadn’t said much to anyone other than discussing it with my husband. We poured over the finances to see what we could do, but Stash had already drained a lot of our reserves with his multiple issues over the last 6 months. After much discussion, as much as I hated it, we decided to put it out there to my clients. Explain the situation and see if we could raise the money in time. I figured, what could it hurt? The worst that could happen was we wouldn't be able to raise the money in time and he gets put to sleep anyway, but at least we tried to help him. Right?
November 5, 2013, I took a chance and posted this to the farm facebook page:
“I've really debated asking but one of our lesson horses needs some help. Our Stash needs unexpected surgery.
As many of you know Stash came to us last December as a 4 year old and after some training was meant to join the lesson program. His docile and sweet personality made him a perfect candidate and even had students riding him bareback shortly after his arrival.
During the course of his initial round training we found he had some slight hock soreness, which we successfully treated with injections.
He was started into the lesson program in April/May with our advanced riders, was successfully ridden walk/trot by Miss Gloria and did his first Summer Session in June with beginners and did well.
In July, after getting a new set of shoes for some aching feet, our big baby managed to rip them off in such a way as to imbed the toe clip into his sole, which gave us a nasty scare when we went to bring him in, as he was so lame we thought he broken a leg!
As expected, he developed a large abscess which required treatment and packing for several weeks (many thanks to Nancy Williams, Agnes Olson and the SS kids for this). It appeared to have cleared up in time for the Advanced Session and final summer sessions in which he did several lessons but just didn't seem quite right still. His 'lameness' was intermittent and nothing we could pinpoint despite visits with our vet.
This issue, however, was put on the back burner when he managed to get a small cut on his back leg that became extremely swollen and infected. Several rounds of antibiotics later his leg finally healed but he was still lame.
After a few back and forth meetings with our vet and farrier trying to figure this out, and a burning need to get answers, finally prompted us to x-ray Stash’s' feet. We were shocked to find that he had developed a tumor a keratoma) in his hoof. It is believed to have formed due to the trauma and subsequent abscess when he ripped his shoes off in July as it is in the exact location of the abscess.
At this point we only have 2 options: Surgery or Humane Euthanasia.
Doing nothing is not option, as not only will the tumor will not go away on its own, it’s painful to Stash.
The estimate for surgery is approximately $1000 (barring complications) plus additional costs for aftercare including antibiotics, wrapping ect. While we are hoping it will be much less we are looking at a minimum of $1000-$1500. He will require several months off for his hoof to heal and grow back (they cut away part of the hoof to remove the tumor), but it is believed that once he is healed he WILL be able to be able to return to active duty in the lesson program.
Given our farms small size, while we do have funds for emergencies, we do not have that much available for this without compromising the care of the rest of our ponies.
I really hate to ask at all, but the thought of putting this 5year old sweetheart down over something fixable is something I just can't do.
So we are hoping you- our friends, fans, clients will be able to help us raise what we need to fix Stash.
Please call or pm me with any questions or if you are able to help.
We saw an immediate response. While not everyone agreed with my request; feeling that it was my responsibility to take care of my horse on my own, the response from everyone else was amazing! The majority of my clients were extremely supportive. The negative responses, I couldn’t argue with, if Stash was mine. However, Stash wasn’t mine, he belongs to the business. Had he been my personal horse and not a farm lesson horse, I would have never asked for help. People would never have known there was an issue until after it was done. Many people since, have told me they are glad I asked for help- they would have been hurt had I not. So now our path was set. Now all we could do is wait and see.
One client saw my post and created a Facebook bottle drive event called ‘Save Stash’. She set up it up with the local redemption center for people to drop off bottles/cans in our name. The owner of the redemption center (also a client) was very happy to help. In addition to the bottle drive, we tried auctioning off custom-made horse purses, quilts, held lesson sales…. Any thing we could think of to raise money. Donations started to trickle in…. $5, $20, a bag of bottles here, and a bag of cans there, medical supplies, and additional items for us to auction off. We even had a couple $100 donations. We received donations from clients, strangers, and unexpected sources too. I was over whelmed with gratitude. Every donation was shared and the fund updates on our facebook farm page. In a few short weeks we had raised several hundred dollars.
Dr. Fish had come back with an estimate and a recommendation to use Rhinebeck Equine Hospital for his procedure. They were a little more cost effective to our budget and she had experience with them. After two years with Dr. Fish as our vet, I’d come to trust her judgment and decided to go with her recommendation. However, I also shared my concerns about raising the money with her. How I just wasn’t sure we would be able to raise the money in time to help him. So, while I called to discuss Stash’s issue and options with Rhinebeck, I refused to schedule surgery until I knew we had enough to pay for it.
Time was ticking away and it was not looking good for Stash. It was getting close to Thanksgiving, he was now starting to display pain at the walk and we were still short the funds we needed to schedule his surgery. Donations were still trickling in but they just weren’t enough.
My heart was sinking. I knew from the start it was a tight deadline and a huge goal to meet in only a month. Maybe surgery really wasn’t in the cards for him after all. I had kept track of every donation so I could return the donations if we were unable to meet our goal. After everything everyone had done for him; how could I tell them it wasn’t enough? What I didn’t realize was that Stash had angels in his corner. Two of them, and they just weren’t going to let the worst happen.
Just before Thanksgiving, I was approached by a long time client, whose daughter had been riding with me for several years. This student had also helped me with Stash when he first came to the farm and was one of his regular riders. The family had taken an active interest in helping Stash and had already donated to the ‘Save Stash’ fund. It wasn’t unusual for her to check in with me whenever they came to the barn to see where we were at with his fund. She already knew we were struggling to make our goal. On this day, I was forced to admit how grim it was looking for Stash. While every little bit was helping and we were creeping towards our goal; just not fast enough. With only small amounts trickling in, it didn’t look like we were going to have the money in time to help him. We were still short by a considerable amount.
Stash found his first Angel in Joan Olson.
I knew she liked him but didn’t realize how much until we were faced with putting him to sleep. Can anyone every truly put into words how a horse touches someone’s heart? The feeling you get just being near them. The calm that invades every fiber of your being just stroking the velvet softness of their nose? Or, when that one horse speaks to you in a way no other does or has. When you find that, you want to hold onto it. How far would you go for a horse that wasn’t yours, one you had never ridden, just so that they would have a chance to live a full life? While his angel did not have the whole amount we needed, she put us close enough to our goal for me to schedule surgery!
His second angel was a much quieter presence for Stash; waiting in the wings watching the outcome of our efforts. She very quietly let me know that she would never have let me put him to sleep, even if it meant doing the surgery herself. While I didn’t know this until much later, I’m thankful and grateful to know he had always had options.
Stash had needed a miracle and got angels. Next stop. Surgery!
(to be continued in Catskill Horse May/June Edition).