description: 2007 bay Thoroughbred cross mare
type of rescue: owner surrender
intake date: 7/3/2014
adoption date: 6/16/2017
length of time at SAFE: 3 years
Emmy was seized by Pierce County Animal Control after she was discovered abandoned on a property with a huge herd of starving pigs and cattle. While the owner of the animals was identified and charged with cruelty, he apparently fled the country, so we received no background information on her. Emmy went through 45 days of professional training with Larry Plagerman and was going very well at all three gaits. Sadly, Emmy was diagnosed with an OCD lesion in her right stifle in early 2015. Thanks to a number of generous donors, she underwent surgery in April 2015 to remove the bone chip. The surgery was a success, but following a long period of rehabilitation, Emmy was still unsound. It was discovered that Emmy also had an injury to the middle patella ligament in her stifle, an injury which is somewhat uncommon. Emmy became a light riding horse, and was enjoyed by many SAFE volunteer riders. She was adopted along with her best friend, Gracie.
Sometimes timing and patience play a big role in finding the perfect match for our horses. Rebecca put in an adoption application last year, but at the time, SAFE didn’t have the right horse for her. But several months later, we took in a horse named Gracie who seemed like a good prospect for Rebecca. While Gracie moved through her rehabilitation, she got all the medical attention she needed, including multiple dental floats to help correct her neglected teeth, and we began reintroducing riders. In the meantime, Rebecca made sure she was ready to take on another horse in her herd.
Fast forward to the spring of this year: Rebecca and a group of friends and family make the trip up to meet Gracie. They were in love with her gentle ways on the ground and understood her nature and sensitivities. During their visit, we also introduced them to Emmy, another horse that seemed like a good fit. Emmy and Gracie were pasture mates here at SAFE and really great friends out in the field and on the trails. Both mares showed well and Rebecca could see a future with each of them. The group left SAFE with a lot to think about and consider.
We were thrilled when Rebecca had decided that she couldn’t see the pair separated and wanted to be considered to adopt both of them! This was great news, but a lot of careful consideration on both sides needed to happen to make sure this was a good idea. Gracie and Emmy both have special needs so it was important to make sure the family was prepared to take on the costs associated with caring for these two mare, now and in the future as they age. After a lot of conversation and consdieration, everyone felt prepared and comfortable moving forward. Gracie and Emmy’s adoption was a go!
Rebecca has sent us many lovely photos of the girls and tells us she is delighted to have them in her herd. Gracie and Emmy join Rebecca’s 37 year old retired mare Tina, 31 year old gelding Cezanne, 10 year old gelding Amber and 18 year old mini Nugget! Both have settled in well and are out exploring the trails together. Enjoy these photos of the girls in their new home!!
I have been working with Emmy for a while now, and can see how she has come along (with the work of many riders) since she came back to SAFE after her surgery and rehab. She has a lot of try and great big strides so she’s a pleasure to ride. Emmy’s main areas for improvement are in her transitions (being more responsive to feel when changing from canter to trot and to walk to stop). She is still a bit stiff with her stifle, so she could use work backing circles to strengthen her (though as she showed us when Joel did the flag exercise, she is physically capable of doing nice front end yields).
We have been working on strengthening Emmy’s stifles for the past few months. There have been a few small setbacks but we have been slowly working her up to weight of a rider. Her training currently is a combination of lots of walking both on the ground and with a rider and trot poles on the ground. We have also been seeing some results by keeping her on a small dose of Previcox anti-inflammatory medication once a day. We are currently trying to add a Turmeric Paste and then lowering the Previcox and hoping to see continued improvement. Happily, Emmy was able to participate in the Joel Conner clinic with the help of SAFE volunteer rider Sara S. Here’s what Sara had to say about her ride:
I rode Emmy in the Joel Connor clinic on Sunday afternoon. As far as I know this was the longest (nearly 3 hours) that Emmy has been under saddle in quite a long time, and she did wonderfully.
Erika and Tess and I (and probably others) have all been working on Emmy’s rehabilitation since she returned to Safe Harbor after her surgery and recovery. Both in ground work and under saddle, she has so much “try” and is always paying attention to her handler/rider, very responsive to cues. She was great at moving her front end out and back on cue when backing circles, and she also did well leg yielding at a walk. I was being careful not to ask to turn too tightly because of her injury, so we focused on this exercise in larger circles instead of a pivot on the hind legs. I was also able to get a “soft feel” and “thread the needle” from halt to walk and walk to trot, and also come back down to a walk or halt.
She does need more work to learn the cues from our seat/weight shifting when asking her to halt and back up, and also bringing her head in a bit more when we ask for a soft feel, so I tried to focus on these during the clinic.
Overall, I love working with Emmy and it makes me really happy to see the change in her disposition compared to when she first returned and was so nervous and flighty. She’s (re)turning into such a sweet horse, who will hopefully continue to heal and strengthen as we work with her toward finding her an owner who loves her as much as we do.
Here are a few photos of Emmy taken by volunteer Jessica Farren:
What is cuter than pictures of sweet Emmy? Pictures of Emmy and a PUPPY! Molly is our volunteer and neighbor’s new golden retriever puppy and Molly along with her big sister Maggie, came over to say hi this week. These photos are absolutely ADORABLE! Jessica Farren caught some very sweet kisses between them!
This week we brought Emmy home from winter turnout at foster. We had a lameness evaluation done on Tuesday (video posted below) and sadly, she is still slightly off on the right hind. The time off has helped her some, but there is clearly something still bothering her. The two issues we’ve been struggling with have been the sizeable bone chip that was surgically removed from her right stifle last year and the middle patella ligament swelling that we discovered after the surgery. Injuries to the middle patella ligament (PL) are relatively uncommon, so there is not a lot of information to go on. It’s much more common for horses to have issues surrounding the medial PL, which causes the stifle to “lock up”. Since we don’t know how long that ligament had been contributing to her lameness, we decided against PRP or shock wave as treatment. Instead we opted to give her the winter off in a big turnout and allowed nature, movement, and time to do their work and let her heal. After discussing our options with Dr. McCracken, we decided to try injecting her stifle to see if that brings her any relief.
Emmy’s right stifle was injected with a combination of steroids and antibiotics. She then had 24 hours of stall rest before we started hand walking: 5 to 10 minutes of walking over the next two days, gradually building up over the next two weeks. She’ll be able to return to normal turn out on Friday. Dr. McCracken will recheck her in 10 days to see if the injection has helped. Best case scenario will be that the injection allows her to return to light walk/trot riding. If the stifle injection proves to be successful, she should be able to maintain soundness for six months to a year by continuing the injections. However if we see a return to lameness within the next month, we’ll know that the damage to the patella ligament is still causing the majority of her lameness and we may have to consider retirement. For now, we’re going to stay positive and hope that the stifle injection keeps her sound. With consistent work and conditioning, we hope that shecould have a good riding career as a walk/trot horse.
Personality-wise, Emmy is still an absolute doll, and just a lovely looking mare. She is easy to handle, great for the vet, and calm for volunteers and others to be around her. She is settling back into life at Safe Harbor Stables and we hope that this injection will allow us to put her back into work and conditioning soon! We will keep you posted!
Emmy’s lameness exam:
Emmy’s rehab after surgery went according to plan — or so we thought —until around the 6 week mark. We noticed her take a few bad steps in turnout and that raised a few red flags that something might be wrong.
Dr. DeWard examined her and noted swelling in the stifle and sensitivity on palpation of the sesamoid ligament, where she had previously had some issues. He recommended performing a nerve block on the ligament to see if the pain was coming from the ligament or the stifle. Emmy was still lame after the block, so the ligament was not the issue. Dr DeWard thought her movement was indicative of pain in a source further up the leg instead of originating from the stifle.
With this information in hand, we contacted Dr. McCracken, who had performed the surgery. Emmy was hauled up to Rainland Farm Vet Care for an exam and follow-up x‑rays. The stifle joint appeared to be healing with no remaining bone fragments or new fractures. The joint was then injected with anti-inflammatories and Emmy was given discharge instructions for continued stall rest and hand-walking. If she did not return to soundness, our next step would be to schedule an ultrasound.
Unfortunately, Emmy was still lame at her 3‑month post-surgery exam. We scheduled an ultrasound to see what was happening. It showed that she had a significantly enlarged middle patellar ligament. At some point she had clearly injured it. It isn’t clear if it happened during her rehab, during the recovery from anesthesia, or it was there before her original diagnosis of OCD.
Dr. McCracken researched how best to treat this particular ligament because unlike the medial patella ligament, injuries to the middle ligament are not very common. We had two options. The first option was that we could inject PRP and do shockwave treatments. Given that we don’t know the age of the injury, that approach would have no benefit for an older chronic injury. There was also a debate about whether the cost was worth it if that was the case. Our second option was to turn Emmy out to pasture for the winter and see how she healed on her own.
In the end, we opted to send Emmy to foster with her pals Sophie and Annabelle where she will live the next few months in beautiful fields of green pasture. We will re-assess her lameness in the spring. For now, she is happy and enjoying Mother Nature’s healing touch. Also there are goats.
Emmy is getting a winter turnout with her new friends Sophie and Annabelle. Sophie and Annabelle have been at the farm for about a month now and welcomed Emmy into the herd. They are all getting along well and even the goats get to hang with the girls!
We are hoping that some rest and time out will help Emmy make a full recovery and we will be taking a look at her soundness again in the late spring. They are all very happy and enjoying the big field and space to be horses. We wanted to share with you these cute photos our wonderful foster mom Jackie sent us:
Update: Bone fragments successfully removed. Remainder of joint looks good. Surgery uneventful, tolerated anesthesia well. She was “smart” standing up after. She will be assessed for status and comfort tomorrow AM to determine if she can be discharged.
Thanks to an amazing group of people who pitched in their monetary support, Emmy is going to get the surgery she needs to remove the bone chip from her stifle. The surgery is scheduled for April 21st and she’ll be transported to Rainland Equine the night before to get settled in. Dr McCracken will be doing the surgery, and we are very hopeful that it will be a success for Emmy!
Emmy was seen by Dr McCracken at Rainland Equine last week for continuing diagnostics, following the discovery of the OCD lesion in her stifle. The results of these diagnostics were informative but not completely conclusive.
Dr McCracken used Rainland’s “Lameness Locator” system to objectively measure response to localized sedation, or blocking. This is important, as it quickly became clear that this would not be a simple diagnosis.
First, the right stifle —the area with the OCD lesion—was blocked. Initial response at 10 min and 30 min was zero improvement. At 60 minutes, there was 25% improvement and at 70 minutes approaching 50% improvement. This left us in a grey area, as Dr. McCracken couldn’t be sure that the stifle was the only issue.
We opted to continue with diagnostics and block the lower leg. 4 injections were done to cover from the fetlock down. Boom! 100% improvement.
Next step was to determine if it was a joint/bone issue or soft tissue problem. We opted to do radiographs on the lower leg and subsequently the foot. No OCD lesions were found, no arthritis, no fractures, no navicular. All images were negative.
This leaves us with a tentative diagnosis of lower limb soft tissue injury; Dr. McCracken believes it’s most likely in the distal sesamoid ligament. Ultrasound would be needed to confirm, but we opted not to ultrasound at this time.
Because Emmy was sedated and the imaging equipment was set up, we opted to x‑ray the left stifle to rule out another OCD lesion. This information would be critical to determining if surgery on the right stifle lesion would be an option. Additionally, another view of the right stifle was needed to rule out the presence of a cyst. Fortunately, the left stifle was clean and we did not find a cyst on the right. Both good news for prognosis.
So, we still don’t have a definitive diagnosis, but we have a lot more information to work with. We are now considering some options based on what we learned, and we’ll have more to report once we figure out how best to proceed. We’re still considering surgery on the right stifle to remove the OCD lesion, but there is also the question of treating the soft tissue, which is likely to mean limited movement and a very structured hand walking regimen, similar to the rehab program that we recently followed with Phoenix.
More to come!
A few weeks ago, Terry was showing Emmy to some potential adopters. She looked fine at liberty and on the lunge line, but when Terry got on her to ride, Emmy pinned her ears and kicked out at her leg…behaving in a way that was very non-Emmy like! Terry got off and checked the saddle fit, watched her on the lunge again, and got back on. Again Emmy made it very clear that something was not right, so Terry called an end to the showing and put her away.Over the next few days, Emmy began to look progressively worse on the right hind. She was hand-walked and kept quiet for several days to see that would help, but by the end of the week, she was no better. We made an appointment for Dr Krauter from Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital to come take a look at her. After evaluating Emmy, Dr Krauter felt the first thing she wanted to look at was an x‑ray of her right stifle. Looking at the x‑ray (right), the bone chip is pretty easy to spot. Based on this x‑ray, Dr Krater diagnosed Emmy with Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) of the Femoropatellar (Stifle) joint.
Before we can arrive at a plan for treating this, we have more diagnostic work that needs to be done. First we have to confirm that the bone chip is really what’s causing Emmy’s lameness, so Emmy will be taken over to Rainland Equine later this week for a more thorough examination. First, Dr McCracken will block the stifle joint by injecting it with a local anesthetic to rule out the possibility that the pain causing the lameness is coming from somewhere else. If blocking indicates that the stifle joint is indeed the source of the lameness, then the next step is check Emmy’s other large joints with x‑ray (starting with her left stifle, and moving on to her hocks) to see if those have also been affected by OCD. If it turns out that Emmy has OCD in more than just the right stifle, then we most likely have to find a non-riding home where she can be a companion horse.
If it turns out the the OCD is isolated to just her right stifle, then surgery to remove the bone chip might be a good option for Emmy. Right now we’re talking to several vets about that possibility. If we chose to go that route, we will likely be asking our supporters to contribute to the cost of the procedure, since elective surgery such as this is outside the parameters of SAFE’s annual veterinary budget.
In the meantime, Terry and the volunteers at Safe Harbor Stables are working hard to keep Emmy quiet to avoid making her lameness worse…and that’s not an easy task with a horse as young and spirited as Emmy! She hates being cooped up in her small paddock all day. She gets hand walked every day, which helps a bit, but she tends to have a lot of pent up energy, so we’re having to lightly sedate her so that she can be safely handled when she’s being walked. It’s not an easy situation for anyone.
To help keep her entertained while she’s on rest, we hung a donated “Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Ball” in her stall. Here’s a (slightly blurry) look at what happened the first time she encountered the ball, it’s pretty funny! Judging from the amount of sticky stuff on her face today, she seems to have mastered whatever technique is necessary to at least make a mess…
We’ll have an update on Emmy’s situation very soon. In the meantime, we’re going to place her on Medical Hold for her adoption status.
Here is the lovely miss Emmy working under saddle with SAFE volunteer rider Steph W. Does she look to you like a fun horse to ride? She must be because everyone who rides her says they never want to climb off her! What a beauty!
We sent Emmy into training with Larry Plagerman two weeks ago, and got a great update. She’s been going WTC under saddle for a week now. The only issue she’s had is picking up the left lead. She is very right canter dominant and just needs to learn to function on the left lead. She is getting better and Larry doesn’t think it’s a physical issue, just a preference. She is softer now in the bridle, using her back more, and powering off her hind end. Larry set up some very low jumps and sent her over them on the lunge. She stopped and looked at them at first, then took the jump no problem. Emmy is a thinker, Larry says, and he likes that about her. She is very easy going and will make a very nice arena horse for someone. He strongly agrees she is probably an appendix quarter horse.
Lola has had a very good month. She went out on a trail ride to the watershed with Skye. She was initially reluctant to lead the way and about an hour into the ride I felt she was ready. We moved into sharing the lead with Skye and then as she gained her confidence we took the lead. She was a great girl and led the rest of the way home! She trotted and cantered in the lead, was easy to bring back down and was not afraid by even a bicyclist who came around a bend. This girl has come a long way this year. She is ready for a great forever home who wants a fun mare to enjoy both arena and trail work!
Cameo was a great girl all month. We are trying her on a magnesium supplement to help with muscle discomfort and calmness. After about 2 weeks on the product, I could see a change in her attitude. It may not be something she needs forever but it seems to be helping take some of the edge off and helping her focus. She still takes a few minutes to smooth out when I initially get on but once she does, she has a very nice trot and a lovely canter. She still has a hard time picking up the correct lead on the right. Without a rider, she has no problem picking it up, but under a rider, she gets off balance and falls over the right shoulder. We are working on keeping her balance and this should get easier. Our goal with Cameo for October is to get her more relaxed about trailer loading so that we can take her out somewhere like Bridle Trails for an easy trail ride.
Skye has been really working hard to change her work ethic and she is making steady progress. When she came home from training, she still had quite an objection about going forward under saddle, but it’s hard to say if that was due to lack of fitness or some sort of mental block. But with improved athletic conditioning, her willingness to go forward has improved considerably. Plus she’s lost some weight as well as more time miles under saddle.
It is important that this big girl has a relationship where she understands clearly what is being asked of her and learns to answer requests with respect. Over time, she’s come to realize that she’s pretty big, and she holds herself in pretty high regard. I like the confidence in her personality but she needs to also listen to her rider. In the herd, during turnout, she is quietly bossy and typically pushes through whatever’s in her way to get to where she wants to go. But she is learning that with humans she can’t get big and pushy. Her ground manners are greatly improved and her willingness to load and unload calmly from the trailer is much better. She still needs some practice getting out of the trailer slowly but it’s getting better every time. Skye went on three trail rides last week, and was a very good girl. I think she has found her calling, out in the woods as a trail horse. She looked very happy to be out of the arena and outside in the open air.Skittles continues to be a gem in every possible way. We have had her on a glucosamine supplement for 30days. She is looking and moving well but continues to experience weakness on the right hind. While it doesn’t seem to give her a tremendous amount of pain but it is evident that she has trouble bringing it completely through and motion in the stifle maybe limited. Her canter leads are improving and she is able to pick up that difficult right lead correctly but still makes some mistakes.
Emmy is as sweet as ever! She is easy to groom and handle and likes other horses but doesn’t squeal or get overly excited. I have been sitting on her, getting her used to leg pressure and light guiding reins. We have trotted on the lunge line and she is getting more responsive to my seat and leg. She still does not like pressure on the reins but she is accepting it more each ride. After her recent visit with the chiropractor, her ability to turn to the left was greatly improved and she seems to be less uncomfortable when turn her head to the left. She does have a slight head wag in the trot when she is at liberty as well as on the line. Nothing too troublesome, just something to note that may go away as she gets more balance and strength. Her canter to the left needs a lot more balance, she goes into “motorcycle mare”…dropping her inside shoulder and losing her hind end out behind her. These are all things that will improve with more balance work.
They can’t always tell you what they know…so sometimes you just have to climb aboard and see what happens! Emmy came with no history, no background, but in the time she’s been with us, she’s proven to be kind, smart, and brave. Yesterday Terry climbed carefully into the saddle, and Emmy willingly took her for a ride. She doesn’t seem to understand leg or seat aids, but that’s okay because Terry is happy to teach her. So proud of our girl!
Emmy is 7!!! Dr. McCracken came out to do her dental float last week, and after examining her teeth, said that Emmy is actually closer to 7 than 8 or 9 as we were told. Now that’s she’s recovered from her cough, Terry has started working with her again and she is doing well. She gets a little worried when she’s asked to stand next to the mounting block but she’s getting more relaxed about it. Terry is looking into options for getting her started under saddle and says that she’s hopeful that Emmy will be a quick study, since she’s been so great for all the in-hand work so far.
Miss Emmy also had 2 very interested adopters who came to the Open House last month to meet her! We don’t expect that it will take too long to find a great home for this lovely mare.
Emmy has been a rock star for everything I have introduced to her. She’s been doing well with ground work, lunging over trot poles, bathing, spray bottles, wearing a saddle with a girth, and bridling and taking the bit. She is also very well behaved in turnout with other mares and loves Dottie. The only time she has shown me fear or worry has been working alongside the mounting block in preparation for mounting. I’ve been steadily working on desensitizing her to leg and sounds around the saddle and since I’ve started introducing it, she’s gotten better and less afraid.
Emmy is recovering from a cough and snotty nose this week and I hope to have her back to work soon and ready to go out for riding. She had to skip her dental appointment due to the cough so as soon as she is healthy again, we’ll reschedule her float, and then she will be ready to head out to be started with a rider.
Here’s video from Emmy’s trot pole session from last week:
Emmy’s been at SHS for two weeks now, and she’s become everyone’s favorite girl! She’s tall and beautiful, but she’s also a sweetheart who is kind and willing and just plain nice to be around. Here are two updates that Terry shared with us last week:
Big day for Emmy- 1st time lunging with a girth on. She did great and didn’t bat an eye. We have no history on her so we are taking things slow and assume she has either never had it done or it may have been a bad experience. She is so quite and sweet. Really loving getting to work with her easy manners. After this lunging session I wanted to wash her mane since she is itching it. She was so good we went ahead and gave her a whole bath!
And here is Emmy being introduced to a bit, possibly for the first time?
Welcome a new horse to SAFE! Emmy was seized by Pierce County Animal Control after she was discovered abandoned on a property with a huge herd of starving pigs and cattle. While the owner of the animals was identified and charged with cruelty, he apparently fled the country, so we have no background information on this horse. However, she appears to be sound and sensible, so she has been signed over to SAFE for rehabilitation and training, in hopes that we can find her a new home. Emmy is a very pretty mare, and we suspect she may be half or one-quarter Quarter Horse. We’re looking forward to getting to know her better!
Photos taken on July 3, 2014 after Emmy was signed over to SAFE: