In February 2016, Bettie, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare was found down with no use of her hind legs at her Connecticut farm. Owner, Susan Sieber, and her daughter Lindsey knew just where they needed to take the mare for her best chance of survival.
Two hours later, Susan and Bettie arrived at the Hospital for Large Animals (HLA) in the dark and the snow. While a cause was not determined, Bettie was diagnosed with neuromuscular degeneration. A positive outcome would require restoration of the connection between the spinal and peripheral nerves in her hind end. “We needed to provide the support to let her survive long enough for her body to heal itself,” said Dr. Melissa Mazan, of the Internal Medicine Service.
Bettie’s case had the attention of the entire large animal Internal Medicine team, including Drs. Melissa Restifo, Melissa Mazan, Daniela Bedenice, and Claire Dixon. The team also consulted with outside veterinarians, chiropractors, and massage therapists to determine an appropriate rehabilitation plan. “They were patient, respectful of my thoughts and answered my many questions,” recalled Susan.
Dr. Restifo and the team created a plan to get Bettie back on her feet right at the Hospital for Large Animals before she was transferred to a rehab center equipped with a large animal lift. She benefited from the care of a 24-hour team of technicians, therapists, and students who refused to give up on her. She was hand-walked and trotted many times each day, supplemented by treadmill sessions. Susan was a regular visitor, getting to know the staff and students personally.
“They cared for her as if she was their own horse,” said Susan. “A grass paddock and a special sling lift were made especially for Bettie and Tufts team even regularly treated her with her favorite mix of carrots and bananas.”
Thanks to the teamwork amongst the Tufts Hospital for Large Animals staff, Susan, Lindsey and Bettie herself, Bettie’s outcome was a positive one. According to Dr. Mazan, “Bettie let the staff help her every step of the way. She had a unique kind of determination and a strong work ethic.”
Susan and the staff at the HLA are like family. “Today, Tufts Hospital for Large Animals is my go-to for specialty care for all our horses,” she said.
After her five-month stay at the Hospital for Large Animals, Bettie is now in full work, ridden every day, and will compete again.