Put him down or try and grow back a hoof – the heart wrenching story of Finding the Nemo – Part 1

Finding The Nemo - Recovering in his stall and fighting to grow back his hoof and live a full and sound life

WARNING: Very graphic injury photo at the end of the article


Abi Munks, a former flat racing jockey, who once worked for the legendary Thoroughbred racing trainer Sir Henry Cecil, was in the market to purchase a horse. She didn’t have a great deal of money to invest with only about 1,000 pounds at her disposal. Abi had just moved to a new area  and was driving by a random pasture.  There were about 20 horses in the field and she was immediately drawn to Nemo (named after the adorable Disney computer-animated Tang fish). She recognized they weren’t in great condition, but she wasn’t prepared for what she was about to see when she got up close to the herd.

“Nemo was malnourished, his ribs protruding through his tautly stretched skin, so much so that you could easily count them,” said Abi. Nemo had been mistreated and neglected, having been beaten in Ireland by the previous owner’s husband, mistrusted men and had limited human contact.

“It was a massive neglect case,” said Abi. “His feet were curled off. He had abscesses in both back feet. He had come from Ireland the week before I bought him, and they just shoved him off into the field, lame. They said he isn’t very nice. None of us can catch him.”

This didn’t seem to deter Abi, whose curiosity served as the impetus to take a closer look.

“He was so lame, he couldn’t even walk toward me,” said Abi.

It was an opportunity to give Nemo a better life, rescue him from a dire situation, thought Abi. She purchased Nemo for 200 quid, and knew it would be a work in progress to make him look like a normal four-year-old. But nothing could have prepared Abi for what was about to happen.

The unthinkable occurred, on Oct. 10, 2012, while he was being unloaded. Nemo was weak and unsteady, a result of being malnourished. The decision was made to unload Nemo backwards, being that he had been not been handled much. They did not wanting him to  jump off the horse trailer, recalls Abi. The horsewoman who was helping Abi unload him wasn’t the most knowledgeable. Nemo fell, and could see the fall had left Nemo with bloody knees. Abi told her friend to call the veterinarian.

“I thought that he might need just a few stitches,” said Abi. “I got the rope from her to lead him away, and as I was going away, I felt like somebody had chucked a bucket of ice water on my back. We soon realized, during the fall he had severed half of his back foot off. Every time he took a step, the foot opened up and poured blood out. It covered everybody in the yard.”

Efforts were made to keep him as comfortable as possible, and Abi was doing her best to keep him steady and to tie his leg off. There were two veterinarians on site, but both thought the injury was too severe, and weren’t willing to invest their time and skill set in an attempt at saving Nemo. It was a race against time, the nearest equine hospital, one where they could perform the necessary surgery was 40 minutes away. Abi frantically searched for a veterinarian to help, and her frenetic attempts to find someone paid off. Dr. Allie Mead made her way into the yard at 60 mph.

“She’s the best vet I’ve ever come across,” said Abi.

“It was becoming a dire situation. Nemo had severed the artery, and every time his heart beat, he lost more blood. By rescuing him, I felt I was just literally killed him by bringing him home,” said Abi.

Mead evaluated the situation, pinned the patient against the wall and tied the leg off to reduce the loss of blood, said Abi.

It was then when Mead gave Abi a frank assessment of Nemo’s chances of survival.

“By the time you get him to an equine surgery and we can operate safely, he will have bled to death,” said Abi. “I think Allie could see the look in my face because I was trying to do the right thing by getting him out of a bad situation. He was bleeding to death in front of me.”

The decision was made to operate, and Nemo’s wounds were cleaned and the environment was sterilized.

“This is not a positive situation and you will most likely lose him during the operation, she told me,” said Abi. “I was terribly upset, but agreed to it.”

The decision to operate and the possibility the Irish Sport Horse gelding may survive provided hope, but were those thoughts realistic? Nemo had lost a critical amount of blood. Dr. Mead sterilized the area, cauterized the artery and began to remove the foot. Gluing the foot back together wasn’t an option, said Abi. The foot would be thoroughly scrubbed prior to the procedure.

“He lost about an inch-and-a-half of his coronet band during the process,” said Abi. “He had chipped his pedal bone and lost so much blood during the process. It was touch and go.”

The procedure was performed while Nemo was standing. Mead thought it was best to not give him an anesthetic prior to the operation in fear of the Irish Sport Horse not being strong enough, as a result of the massive blood loss, in the event it compromised his ability to wake from having the sleep-inducer administered. Nemo’s perilous condition would cause some anxious moments when he went to his knees during the operation.

“She managed to cauterize the artery, bandage the leg up, and she said, ‘If he’s still here tomorrow, we’ll make a plan of where we’ll go from here,’” said Abi.

Check back tomorrow at 8:30 am to find out what happened next to Nemo and Abi…

The vet was not optimistic about a horse's ability to recover from such a trauma to the hoof.

The vet was not optimistic about a horse’s ability to recover from such a trauma to the hoof.


Read on to find out how Abi invested her money and time to give this horse a chance to enjoy a healthy and sound life:

Put him down or try and grow back a hoof – the heart wrenching story of Finding the Nemo – Part 2


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