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The Miracle of Carboness

by Ashley Alden
You can never be prepared for bad news. I know I wasn't when my mom picked me up from school Aug. 27, 2001, the day after we got back from the World’s Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Ky., to tell me that my horse, Carboness, had undergone surgery the night before and that she was lucky to have made it through the night alive.

Carboness started showing signs of colic in the trailer on the way home from Louisville. Luckily, there was a man in the back with the horses, and he noticed something was wrong with her and banged on the trailer to let the driver know. Dennis, the driver for Drexler Horse Transportation Co. stopped the truck and he also knew something was not right. He phoned ahead to his wife Mary Jo, (Royal Scot Stable’s barn manager), and had her call our local vet who met the truck at the barn. When they saw Carboness they immediately knew she was in trouble.

They loaded Carboness on to the Drexler truck with my trainer, Kenny Smith, and rushed her to the Equine Veterinary Associates in Delevan, Wis. where Dr. Stone is on call. Carboness passed out twice and went down in the trailer during the forty-minute drive. Thank God Kenny was able to get her up.

By the time she got inside the clinic, Carboness was in so much pain and so dehydrated that she passed out again. Only this time it was on the cement floor. My other trainer, Donna Smith, was about 30 minutes behind the trailer on the way home. As soon as she found out about Carboness, Donna and her dad, Mr. Pettry rushed up to the clinic. Donna walked in the clinic to see Carboness on the floor about 30 seconds after she had fallen down. This was definitely not your normal colic. At that point, they weren't sure Carboness was still alive.

Once they realized Carboness was still alive, Dr. Stone, Kenny, Dennis, Mary Jo, and the rest of the staff did everything to stabilize her. Once she was finally stable, she went into surgery. When Dr. Stone got into her stomach though, there was a big problem. She had a fatty tumor, called a lipoma, about the size of a man’s fist on a stem, and her intestines had wrapped around it. It was so bad Dr. Stone had to call my parents in the middle of the surgery to ask if he should keep going. She had about a 20% chance of making it through the night alive. the first words that came out of my dad’s mouth were, “Save the horse.” Dr. Stone kept working and ended up taking out the tumor along with three other that weren't causing any problems at the time, but could in the future. He also took twenty-five feet of her intestines that had been cut off from the twisting.

Mary Jo and Dennis stayed at the clinic until the surgery was half over, and Donna, Kenny, and Mr. Pettry stayed until Carboness stood up in the recovery room. From the start, Dr. Stone knew that Carboness was a very loved horse. He stayed up with her that night and for 5 nights after that. He even stayed with her on his night off.

The whole staff at the Equine Veterinary Associates were so nice to my mom and I. The first day we went to see Carboness, I was very nervous about what the clinic was like. I just wanted my horse to live, but I knew she had a better chance to survive in a nice place. When we walked in, the front looked like a doctor’s office, except for the oversized operating rooms that you could see from a viewing window. they looked like a human operating room, except they were a lot larger.

We walked through the front and down to the ICU were Carboness was. I just started crying when I saw her. There were 4 1-gallon IV bags that were connected to the ceiling connected to Carboness with a coily IV connection so she could walk around the stall and not know it was there. You would think it was pretty cool if it weren’t your horse the IV was connected to. The ICU was also air-conditioned, and that told me this place was nice enough for me not to worry as much. I had more important things to worry about; like that my horse could die.

Dr. Stone dropped what he was doing and came over to introduce himself. He was very nice and told me what Carboness had to overcome to get better. He told me enough information about what happened to make me feel informed, but not enough for me to freak out. We drove 2 hours to the clinic almost everyday that she was there, and every time we would get there he would leave another one of his patients, or drop what he was doing to come tell us how she was doing, and what she had to overcome that day. Every day the nurses would unhook her IV for me so I could walk her outside for 15 short minutes. I savored those fifteen minutes, because I knew that might be the last time I ever got to be with her.

The first two days were bad, there was a lot more negative than positive, but the third day was the worst. If she didn't get her appetite back, go to the bathroom, and if her stomach had to keep getting pumped, within the next 24 hours we would have to make some serious decisions. When Dr. Stone called that fourth morning and told us she had a good night, and that she accomplished all of her goals, I think it must have been one of the happiest moments of my life. The night before I had cried myself to sleep thinking that she might not make it through the night, and now I was crying because I was so happy. It was so nice of Dr. Stone to call that morning because if he hadn’t I would have worried all day long until I saw her for myself. When we went to see her on the fourth day, it was a whole different experience. Unlike the days before where she was too sick to even eat the five bites of grass she was offered, on the fourth day she wanted to eat grass for hours. Obviously she couldn’t eat for hours, but at least she wanted to.

On the fifth day Carboness was taken off the IV and moved out of the ICU and to the back barn. Even though Carboness wasn’t in the main barn anymore, she had the same amount of attention as she did in the ICU. Everyone at the clinic loved her. She had a bag of apples, carrots, and some sweet potatoes hanging on her stall at all times. Usually all those treats aren’t good for a horse, but no one cared as long as she was eating and kept passing it through her system. In fact, Dr. Stone loved Carboness so much that by the sixth or seventh day she got to roam around the clinic by herself without a lead rope.

Finally, after 16 days of being at the hospital and 4 weeks since she had seen her home stall, Carboness got to come home. Dr. Stone and all the staff were very sad to see her leave, but happy to see her going home. Carboness was named the very first patient of the month at Equine Veterinary Associates.

When Carboness came home we thought it would be all over and she would be fine, but we were wrong. About five days after being home, Carboness started acting very strangely. She would look at her stomach all of the time it sounded like there was a gorilla inside. The local vet came and found that she was compacted in her intestines, but after they got all that out she was still making funny noises inside of her stomach. So Donna had Mary Jo pick her up and bring Carboness back to Dr. Stones clinic. Luckily it was just that Carboness wasn't moving enough, and she is fine now. Carboness will stay at the clinic until she is ready to come home for good, which was a few days after the St. Louis Charity horse show.

After Carboness came home, Kenny followed Dr. Stone's orders by just keeping her moving. Whether she was walking, getting long lined, or being jogged lightly, Carboness loved to get out of her stall and go. Kenny said she looked almost as good as she did before all this happened. That was when the first ounce of hope that she could come back to the show ring happened.

About four weeks before the Royal, I walked into the barn for a practice ride and I saw that Carboness was ready to be ridden. I couldn't believe it; Kenny took her out and got on her. I almost started crying. I was so excited to ride her after all we had been through since August. Little did I know, that Donna and Kenny wanted to surprise me with Carboness' progress.

The decision was made after that ride to take Carboness to the Royal. I still wasn't guaranteed to get to show her because we didn't know how she would travel. Luckily Carboness traveled perfectly and I was able to show her in the UPHA Junior Challenge Cup Finals. I was called back from the morning to show at night. I knew she might be tired. She gave everything she had and it was all from her heart. When I heard my number called as the winner I screamed and gave Donna and Carboness the biggest hugs. then i started crying. After all this horse had gone through, to come back and win a final was just amazing. She couldn't have done it without her huge heart and her love to show.

I would just like to thank everyone involved in helping Carboness, the man in the back of the trailer with her, Dennis for knowing what to do when she was in trouble, and for staying with her through surgery. I would also like to thank Mary Jo for leaving her birthday party to take care of Carboness and for driving her back and forth to the clinic. Donna and Kenny for being so concerned about her, staying with her until she got up after surgery, all the late night and early morning checks and the many walks. I would especially like to thank Dr. Stone and all of the staff at the Equine Veterinarian Associates for saving Carboness’ life and for taking care of her when she was recovering.

And to Carboness, I would like to thank you for showing with me even when your intestines were twisted at Louisville. You were in so much pain, but you showed for me anyway and I don't think you have ever looked better than you did that week. No one has a bigger heart than you do. You are truly a miracle. You defeated all odds, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. You have taught me so much. I love you.

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