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

Abi and her beloved The Finding Nemo (Nemo)

bitofbritain-Week1

Yesterday we brought you Part one of the heart wrenching story of British eventer Abi Munks and her rescue horse Nemo. While trying to do a good thing and give  a neglected horse a new lease with a caring owner, while unloading him from the trailer at his new home he fell because he was so weakened by malnutrition. When he fell he split open both knees and severed off a huge portion of his hoof.

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.

 

There were so many thoughts racing through Abi’s mind. The odds didn’t seem to favor Nemo. Mead had removed half of the hoof wall this in concert with the chipped pedal bone, the open wound inside of his foot and the strong possibility of infection, didn’t make for a promising future.

It was a stressful time for Nemo. He found himself in a new environment, with strange people and being confined within a stall was a new experience. Mead gave Abi pain medication to administer to Nemo during those first 24 hours. Nemo would lay down in the stall that first night, with Abi keeping him company, something she would do every night for the next three weeks.

The veterinarian returned early the following afternoon, and went over the possibilities with Abi. Mead was pleased that there was no infection. There was the question as to whether or not Nemo was going to be strong enough to recover. He was so malnourished and weak, and now on top of that he had the challenge of staying alive, after experiencing psychological, physical and emotional stress that would create discomfiture in even the most healthy and stable being. Nemo wasn’t eating, so there was concern as to whether or not he would be able to reproduce the blood he had lost.

“He was so weak that if you would have sneezed near him, you would have knocked him over,” said Abi.

Mead said that Nemo faced a challenging future, and that horses are only capable of reproducing the coronet band while in the womb of the mare. The prognosis was less than promising.

“We were on a miracle basis,” said Abi. “If he didn’t reproduce the coronet band, we would have to euthanize him. It’s the coronet band that grows the hoof down. If he didn’t reproduce the coronet band, he would never reproduce the hoof.”

There were positives associated after the first 24 hours. There was no infection, but the probability that Nemo would never regenerate growth to produce a hoof, appeared to be the most likely outcome.

Three days had passed and it was during those 72 hours that Mead showed Abi how to bandage the hoof, and provided the former jockey with a shopping list to make taking care of Nemo as affordable as possible.

“We used Huggies napkins to make it the same size as the other foot because it was exactly half a foot,” said Abi. “We would have to pack it out. He couldn’t stand on it because he would fall over.”

Even though it seemed Nemo was improving, he faced a fate of uncertainty, with the idea of euthanasia pulling with a great deal of gravity. What was about to revealed would alter the lives of everyone involved with Nemo. Abi’s mother had driven more than 160 miles, in the event Nemo was going to be euthanized.

“When she (Mead) took the bandage off, it looked like a growth or tumor had began to grow, when she cut it away, it began to bleed,” said Abi. “She lifted it up, and then she began screaming and jumping around the yard. She said, ‘He did it.’ Nemo was growing his coronet band.”

The horse that was purchased for only 200 pounds was making a miraculous recovery. However, expenses were mounting. Mead only charged 1000 pounds for the procedure, not knowing whether or not she would be able to save Nemo.

“She thought we were going to lose him in the 24 hours, regardless,” said Abi. “So, she didn’t want to give us a big bill. He actually only had pain relief for the first 72 hours, and he was never lame, even though he had cut half his foot off. He wasn’t lame on that foot. He was lame on the other back foot. It was an abscess from the previous owner.”

The Irish Sport Horse had to endure a series of new experiences, not having ever been kept in a stall previous to Oct. 20, 2012, and now he would find himself confined in one for the next three months.

The bone was growing, so it was paramount to keep the area bandaged and protected. As his foot began to grow it became harder. However, it was a natural ingredient that had a healing effect that would save Nemo’s life. “We were applying manuka honey to the damaged area, 72 hours after the injury,” said Abi.

“He hadn’t been allowed out in case it got infected or the boot ripped,” said Abi. “On the 20th of January, he reproduced his coronet band. He went for his first walk in the field. He was very good. He went out in his head collar and had a good look around. He was trying to stuff his face full of grass.”

“He could go out into the field, in a head collar and walk around,” said Abi. Nemo was initially only allowed out in the schooling area, on the rubber surface.

Nemo's first time turned out after injury.

Nemo’s first time turned out after injury.

And as the hoof became harder, and he was able to bear weight, Abi began the breaking process in February. And although he wasn’t completely recovered, Abi knew she had to do something with him, to keep him occupied after spending the past three months in a stall.

Nemo -hoof growth-IMG_1171

“He was well-behaved, but he was bored,” said Abi. “I long reined him for six weeks, just to get the blood flowing into the hoof and encourage growth, making sure we had breaks to get him out of the stable.”

Mead was pleased with Nemo’s progress, and suggested to Abi that she should do a bit more as his recovery seemed to be going forward. Nemo was now wearing shoes on his front feet, and Abi began investigating whether or not plastic foot molds could be made, but the idea was abandoned upon further investigation as the expense made it cost prohibitive.

An indomitable spirit and willingness to live served as the impetus for Nemo’s recovery, and his unfaltering enthusiasm for life helped him through the adversity he had experienced just a short time ago.

“I sat on him at the beginning of March,” said Abi. “We long reined him for the month of February just to make sure he was ok to be ridden.”

IMG_1175

The 25-year-old, who had been a pony clubber and had evented before becoming a jockey, recognized the 17.2 hand gelding’s potential. Nemo and the diminutive Munk were quite a contrast. The horseman is 5’2” and 98 pounds, but bonded quickly with the gentle giant.

“It was like he just let me get on,” said Abi. “He just stood there and let me get on. We did a few bits of walking around. He went for a hack. And within three or four weeks, he was doing, walk, trot, canter, and then doing trotting polls. He was fabulous. He was the best horse I’ve ever broken. He’s a big ginger monster.”

Nemo and Abi participated in a number of unrecognized horse trials in 2014, with the rider not wanting to put any pressure on the equine athlete. The horseman has a six-month old son named Chase.

“I thought when I first bought him, I would be able to produce a nice, happy hack,” said Abi. “After the accident, I thought we were going to end up with a lame, bored, companion horse that just lived out in the field. To go out and compete him in an unaffiliated competition was massive for me. I may as well have been at Badminton.”

Abi and Nemo’s efforts were inspiring. The Irish Sport Horse’s determination and will to live were evident on cross country and in stadium jumping. “I never expected that in a million years. I think it’s because of the fact that I rescued him; to give him a better life,” said an emotional Abi. “I couldn’t give up on him. I felt responsible. Yes, he was malnourished and in poor condition in that field, but I thought it would only be so long before the RFPCA or someone would come along and rescue him. I felt kind of guilty, in trying to give him a better life, I was killing him at the same time.”

And although Abi has done much of the work herself, there have been a number of other people who have played a large role in Nemo’s recovery.

Nemo’s farrier, who is recently qualified, played a critical role in Nemo’s recovery. Charlie James Dando, a point-to-point jockey, made a major difference in Nemo’s progress. “He said we could do this,” said Abi. “We’ll begin with a pony shoe and we’ll work our way up until we get bigger and stronger. Today, he has a normal shoe on, the same as any other horse.”

Abi had taken a break from eventing to pursue her career as a Thoroughbred racing jockey. “Now I have a chance to go and event because of my miracle horse,” said Abi.

It’s a special relationship between the rider and horse, one that has been reciprocal. Abi went to great lengths during Nemo’s recovery to make sure he would survive. This month they competed at their first recognized British Eventing horse trial in the BE100 under his show name The Finding Nemo.

“He’s repaid me by jumping everything he sees and outperforming all of his expectations,” said Abi.

Nemo's hoof today.

Nemo’s hoof today.

Abi and Nemo competing.

Abi and Nemo competing.

Abi would like to thank the following for contributing to Nemo’s recovery:

  • Ali J Mead equine surgeon
  • Charlie Dando  farrier
  • Uniwire ltd
  • Gcinterfinish
  • Galloping geldings
  • NFU mutual

To follow Abi and Nemo’s journey:
[Nemo’s Facebook] [Abi Munks Eventing Facebook]

If you have a rehab story that you would like to share we would love to publish it,  please send us an email

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