Horrible Hairy Hog, a darkly beautiful OTTB rescued from the slaughter pipeline in September, has been stricken by an illness that caused him to go down.
The 17-year-old Thoroughbred, who was rescued by a team of caring individuals in a collaborative effort that helped him land safely at Our Farm Equine Rescue in New York, took a sudden turn in late October, says Sharon Kress.
Harry, as he is now named, suddenly and without warning, began to sweat, spiked a fever, and his hind leg ballooned up in size, Kress says, noting the onset of troubles began the night before Halloween.
Emergency veterinary care was immediately brought in and treatment began for colitis as doctors considered the possibility that he may have Potomac Horse Fever, Kress says.
“In a nutshell, for the past week and a half, we’ve been treating him for colitis stemming from what we thought was Potomac Horse Fever, which is curable,” Kress says. “And he seemed to be getting better, but then the fever would spike again.”
And then on Saturday, Nov. 7, Harry went down in his field.
Horrible Hairy Hog
Sire: Blushing Stage
Dam: Doc’s Hope
Foal date: March 6, 1998“I was riding another horse at the time, and I looked over and I see him lie down in a field. I figured he was tired, but when I went over to his paddock, I could see he wasn’t looking good,” she says. “So I told him to get up and follow me. He got up and walked with me to the ingate, and as I went to attach the lead rope to his halter, he went down.”
He managed to get back up again and get to his stall, where this time he bobbled and went down hard, Kress says.
When he could finally stand again, he was taken back outside, where he simply collapsed to the ground; his eyes glassy and blank, his mouth slightly agape. “The barn owner thought he was taking his last breath … I thought he was having cardiac arrest,” she says. And the vet, who was fortunately en route for a different matter, began treating Harry for colic while more tests were ordered.
“By Sunday he looked good, but when I took his temperature, I discovered he had a 104.7,” she says. Veterinarians were again called to Harry’s side, and an ultrasound was done, and blood work taken by a team of top vets in the area.
The sudden episode of dropping, combined with a spiked fever came just as Harry was starting to regain his strength after months of rehabilitation, she says.
Though both vets and Kress were stymied by this sudden turn, they offered hopeful news last night, following an afternoon of tests, Kress says. Vets found no evidence of a cancer or bleeding ulcer, and for the first time since the episode began, Harry’s demeanor had changed.
When Kress visited last night, Harry seemed to be returning to his normal self. “This was the first time he has looked like this since he fell ill a week and a half ago. He didn’t hang his head once!” she says. “To look at him, I would say he still has some years left. He has bright eyes. He wants to stay alive, there’s nothing weak-minded about this horse.”
Vets have placed him on a new regimen. He has started on 10 day-course of Baytril, effective for both the intestinal inflammation and for his leg cellulitis, she adds.
Harry’s return to health has been slower than Kress would have liked, even before his latest episode began.
He didn’t gain weight was readily as she would have liked to see.
“He came here with a body score of 1.5 (on the Henneke Body Condition Scale), so he was pretty bad. What we did see, before he got sick, was that he was really enjoying his new life. Right before all this, I had started to lunge him, and he broke into this gorgeous canter he was feeling so good. It was truly stunning. And he was very sound.”
With that glimpse of what could be, Harry has taken his rescuers on a wild, and costly ride.
Harry’s care has climbed to thousands of dollars. Donations to help defray costs can be made via the charity’s general veterinary care fund via a Go Fund Me Account, or through Pay Pal: firstname.lastname@example.org, says Kress.
Kress adds that she is fully prepared to decide when the cost is too high, or when Harry is not ready to go on.
She explains that there is a fundraiser in place to cover the costs already incurred. And if tests were to show the animal requires a very expensive surgery, that the rescue is prepared to call a halt, as he is “not a good surgical candidate.”
“Right now, we still don’t know” what’s wrong. “Obviously for him to be sick this long is not great, but nobody’s ruling out a full recovery either. He sailed through quarantine” after his rescue from a Pennsylvania kill pen “and he was a healthy horse who needed to gain weight. He was on the road to recovery, when he took a turn.”
Harry was rescued in September, with tremendous help from Alice Fulton and Dawn Deams, both of whom gave hours of their time to network and fundraise for the former racehorse.