"She is just a nice, plain mare; nothing special."
That is the way Don Blowe describes 16-year-old Halo Silver, a bay mare he purchased in 2001 to add to his small band of broodmares at Ascot Thoroughbreds, a farm he and his wife, Beth, own in Canada.
Blowe never guessed that a few years later, Halo Silver, who quickly proved she was a valuable producer, would be fighting for her life. But thanks to the generosity of a Kentucky veterinarian who donated his services to help, her story will hopefully have a happy ending.
Since the Blowes purchased Halo Silver, they have had considerable success with her, as she has produced five foals, including Saint Arch, an Arch colt the couple sold for $115,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale.
"She's produced mostly all winners, no black type, but she's done pretty well," Blowe said of Halo Silver. "We really like her."
The Blowes ship most of their mares to Matt Koch at Shawhan Place near Paris, Ky., to be bred. There Halo Silver produced her most recent foal, Overtime Hero, by Even the Score, in 2008. Instead of being sent back to Ascot after she was bred though, which is normal protocol, the Blowes decided to leave Halo Silver at Shawhan Place because it was so late in the season.
But Halo Silver has never returned home.
In November 2008, Koch noticed a problem with Halo Silver, one that caused only minor alarm at first.
"She got sore on us; it was her left front foot," said Koch, who started 240-acre Shawhan Place in 2005 after getting out of the Marine Corps. Koch, son of Claiborne Farm manager Gus Koch, breeds more than 60 mares at Shawhan each year. "We treated her, but it wasn't getting any better so we sent her over to Dr. McVey at Park Equine."
Upon admitting Halo Silver, Travis McVey, DVM, who is one of three veterinarians at Park Equine Hospital, owned by John Park, DVM, and located near Winchester, Ky., noticed a ruptured abscess on her foot, which caused her lameness. He treated the serious but fairly common injury, and Halo Silver returned to Shawhan 10 days later.
But in a few weeks time, the mare's condition worsened, and Koch had to send her back to Park Equine. This time McVey realized Halo Silver had become lame on her right front foot as well.
"At that point we elected to perform deep digital flexor tenotomies of both front feet, which helps to alleviate the pull of the tendon on the coffin bone. Halo was discharged soon after with instructions for strict stall rest at home."
After more time at Shawhan, Halo Silver's left foot improved, but the right foot became even worse and she was in considerable pain. The options were clear for Blowe: euthanasia or removing the entire hoof wall in order to stop the pinching.
Having exhausted his treatment budget, Blowe was at a loss. What would he do with his beloved mare? That's when Park Equine stepped up to the plate.
"I had grown kind of attached to the mare, so after discussing the situation with Dr. Park, he agreed to donate the materials and I agreed to donate my time and labor to proceed with the (treatment)," McVey said.
In February, with the help of farrier Rob Spencer, McVey performed the total hoof wall resection, and inserted stainless steel pins through the cannon bone to bear weight and allow the foot to float within a cast until a new hoof wall grows in. In mid-May, after months of resting comfortably, Halo Silver's cast was removed, revealing mixed results. At that time, McVey gave Halo Silver a fair chance at recovery. Only time will tell. Either way, Blowe will be forever grateful to Park Equine.
"She's a fighter," he said. "We're not giving up. But the fact they were willing to help, out of the goodness of their hearts, is terrific. They truly care about horses."
(Originally published at BloodHorse.com.)
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.