It is with great sadness that we announce Stetson has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We are all brokenhearted to lose such a wonderful old friend.
We rescued Stetson in September, 2016, after his owner decided she no longer wanted to care for him. Stetson had been a lesson horse, and his owner continued to use him for lessons after he developed Cushings (an immune disorder), but when he developed neurological issues as well, he was no longer able to make money for her, and she had no plan in place to retire him.
Thankfully Hanaeleh was able to place Stetson with our neighbor Debbie who kept Stetson as a companion horse for her other gelding, but Stetson did not do well going from a large stable to a backyard.
In February of 2017 we were able to bring Stetson to Hanaeleh, where he could be around a lot of horses, which was more comfortable for him.
Stetson bonded very quickly to other horses, but had difficulty when his older friends, Aurora and Onyx, passed away. We had him on a prescription calming medication for several months to help him because he was so upset and would not eat. It took a long time for us to finally find a food combination of pellets and grain that he enjoyed (and was low in sugar) that he would eat on a regular basis, but we finally were able to put some weight on him, and he was looking very good. Stetson was also on high doses of pergolide to help regulate his Cushings disease. Every year we would have him tested, and every year we would have to increase his dose, but we were able to give him enough medication to manage the Cushings.
Unfortunately, Stetson’s neurological issues compounded his physiological issues. Horses can become neurological for a number of different reasons, but when we brought Stetson into Hanaeleh, the vet suggested that pinched nerves in Stetson’s neck, probably caused by a standing martingale, was the cause of his neurological issues. We put Stetson on high doses of vitamin E, but beyond that there was little we could do.
We were actually very happy with Stetson’s progress at the beginning of the year – he was eating well, he was at a good weight, and enjoyed getting out everyday.
A few months ago, however, Stetson started getting stuck in his stall, casting himself in the bars. He would get upset and begin thrashing around, so it became dangerous for people to even try to help him. This past month we noticed that Stetson was having issues with his hind end, which was not keeping up with his front end, and his entire back end was collapsing underneath him, especially at the trot. We stopped exercising him and just let him walk around at his own pace, but unfortunately he continued to degrade.
Recently, he began getting “stuck” in the corner of the stall- he would stand in the corner of the stall and think he was unable to move. He was not really stuck, and just had to turn his head, but was upset that he was unable to move through the stall. Stetson would try to climb the stall, and when he could not, he would get himself into a sweaty mess until we were able to move him out of the corner. We tried to manage this behavior as well, but it continued to get worse and more pronounced. Stetson also began running into the side of the arena when we turned him out, and would get small nicks and bruises on his shoulder. We realized at this point that we were no longer managing his symptoms.
When the vet came out a few weeks ago, we asked if there was anything we could do to help Stetson. The vet, however, had no advice and suggested only to put him down. We called a few other vets, but they also had no other ideas of how to help Stetson, and said that we had done everything that we could for him.
Hanaeleh is built upon the idea that we can create miracles.
In some way, the fact that a grassroots organization run solely by volunteers can exist in Orange County where land is at a premium is a bit of a miracle. We are used to doing things that others are unable to do – we are able to take in emaciated horses and make them healthy. We are able to train horses who were previously branded untrainable. We are able to make horses who were dead lame comfortable again. When we are faced with the knowledge that we have run out of options to help the horse, however, it seems to challenge our entire ideology.
When we first took in Stetson, our vet tried to warn us that this day would come. He told us that there was nothing we could do to fix Stetson- we could only manage his symptoms, and for only a short time. He told us to feed him, love him, and when the time came, to let him go. We cared for him, loved him, and, when it was time, we were able to let him go. Stetson was surrounded by people who loved him, and had dedicated volunteers who brushed him several times a week. The fact that we were able to keep him and love him for over four years is, we guess, the miracle.