Wisp thin but strong, 19-year-old Alyssa Hammond toughened up early in life.
Just 11-years-old when she lost her father Scott to brain cancer, the young Texas girl turned to horses to shore up her defenses. As she pressed on with her education, and other obligations, grief that could rush at her with dizzying force, could also be out run with the help of a red dun Quarter Horse named Will; the first of three she would treasure and love.
On him she flew over fields and ditches as she embraced the Eventing discipline. And at school where she excelled in math, she eventually entered college to study accounting. Her goal an MBA, and ultimately, a solid job in the oil and gas industry.
Throughout her young life, she maintained her levelheaded academic pursuits, and in no small part, because a horse was there when she needed him most.
Eight years after enduring the battle her 48-year-old father lost to cancer, the young woman of nearly 20 has had another health crisis emerge.
Only this time, it involved a young Thoroughbred who needed her as desperately as she once needed that Quarter Horse.
Sire: Tough Game
Foal date: May 3, 2011So many people told Hammond to euthanize her 3-year-old Thoroughbred Tough West when he developed Pleuropneumonia just a week after arriving at her Texas farm from California. He was a gift from a Golden Gate trainer; and seemed to be the perfect horse to train for Eventing as she eased her other two horses into retirement.
But soon after stepping off the shipping van Sept. 7, Tough West went off his feed, and a week later was rushed to Bravos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas. “The vets said he had one of the worst cases of pleuropneumonia they’d seen,” she says. “Both lungs were filled with fluid and he had a 103.8 temperature.”
He was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 13, and what followed was a costly, confusing, exhausting battle to combat a Penicillin-resistant bacterial infection.
Chest drains were placed into Tough West’s beautiful hide to clear the fluid, and new antibiotics were tried when Penicillin failed. As each procedure was tried, a new complication would arise.
“His lungs were so weak they were leaking, so he had air in his body where there shouldn’t be any,” she says, noting that even the IV needles triggered an alarming blood clotting reaction that made the veins in his face swell like balloons.
“There were times I stood in his stall with him, hugged his head, and my tears would just roll down his face,” she says. “People told me I should put him down. I’m a part-time riding instructor and full-time student, and his bills doubled from the original number I expected. But the vet said he acts like a fighter, and I just couldn’t give up on him after coming all this way.”
Though her veterinary bills began to exceed $10,000, a big burden on the young student, Hammond could not in good conscience let a fighter go to his grave when he seemed so determined to hang on.
“He’s just such a sweet horse. He’s only 3, but he was always so calm. He would let me wrap my arms around his head and hug him. And when I walked away, he’d watch me like he was waiting for me to come back,” she says. “When I started off with all this, I thought his medical bills would be around $5,000, and I thought I could handle that. But, they’ve nearly doubled.”
Even after he was released back into her care last week, he has required constant attention and care. He is on a regimen of Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that is working against his infection and which she administers four times a day. And his front feet, which have begun to grow warm, now require additional measures to stave off the dreaded Laminitis.
It’s all become something of a battle for both horse and human, but they each refuse to give in to illness, and fight like hell so that Tough West can live another day.
“I could not tell a horse who was a fighter, who is expected to make a full recovery, that this is the end,” Hammond says.
As she hopes against hope that his infection will clear and his feet will resist developing Laminitis, she is filling out a payment plan application with the veterinary hospital, and has also created a Go Fund Me account to raise money to offset his care. Recognizing that the horse’s care is ultimately her responsibility, she has been cheered by recent donations.
To date, Spring Creek Feed in Magnolia, Texas donated 12 bags of Equine Senior Feed and Charlottes Saddlery in Tomball, Texas donated a lightweight turnout blanket. In addition, some $600 has been donated toward a fundraiser. To donate to Tough West’s care, please visit www.gofundme.com/ToughWest.
13 responses to “After big life loss, she gives all to save her t’bred”
[…] Anyone who has owned or been around horses knows the incredible bond humans and horses can share. Alyssa Hammond, who at a young age lost her father to brain cancer, turned to horses for healing. Eight years later, she was given a young thoroughbred named Tough West. Soon after Alyssa got Tough West he became extremely sick with Pleuropneumonia. Alyssa was then given the chance to care for and help save this horse as horses had once saved her. Read the full story here. […]
I just spoke to Alyssa and, unfortunately, Tough West has crossed over that rainbow bridge. Laminitis set into his feet and they were fighting to keep him from rotating. The pain was to much for him. Godspeed Tough West.
Terrible news. Thank you for telling me. Poor Alyssa.
Oh I am so, so sorry. But remember all the good times Alyssa…they will always overshadow the bad. You were the best thing to ever happen to Tough West. You were the definition of a “friend”…one who loved him enough to let him go. God Bless both of you!
I have a Gone West Grand baby and they are fighters! I wish you all the best in this fight, you are a strong young lady and he will love you for many years and be extremely loyal after this struggle. I will keep you in my thoughts healing vibes being sent to you and him.
I’d say you’re both pretty tough but it sounds you both of you are getting the support and love you need. Thanks for letting us know how we can help, Susan.
Gail Hirt at Beyond the Roses has offered to accept donations and supply receipts for Tough West. She has a certified 501 (c) 3 nonprofit. So that’s another option. And I know she has reached out to try to find other prospective donors.
Hugs to you and Tough West Alyssa….coming from New Mexico. Follow your heart young lady. I have had many trials and tribulations with my horses and at the decision point it was my heart (with some help from my brain) that showed me the way to go.
Wishing you and Tough West all the best. Isn’t it wonderful strange how sometimes names are prophetic….he is tough and will make it. And I hope many step up to help you both.
Wow, I am amazed at Alyssa’s resilience at such a young age! She has gone through so much in life but hasn’t given up. She is a fighter as well as is Tough West. I will donate and I hope to hear a follow-up story soon that Tough West has come through this. Hang in there Alyssa!!
Alyssa, such a great story an it looks promising for you and your horse. Can remember when I lived at Eagle Lake and you would run over to our house and come on in and say HI!!! Those are still good memories for me. I still have horses 3 Peruvian paso’s Estrella, Selena and Tessie. No showing just pleasure riding.
This article has hit home with all the problems we had with our “Portfolio”. If there is anyone out there that would donate to help Alyssa with her horse and would like a donation receipt for it…they can donate to her through our rescue and we WILL get it to her. Donations for Alyssa can be made to Beyond The Roses Equine Rescue’s paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make a note at the bottom that it is for “Tough West”.
I know I tell you this everyday, but I am so proud of you! It takes a special kind of person to do all that you done and continue to do!! Love you!