Since I started this blog several years ago, I’ve learned about many stories of horse owners going to great lengths to help their equine friends. Today, I would like to share another one–this time, the story of Melanie Falls and her 21-year-old gelding, Dakota Brio, or Desario, as he’s more affectionately known as.
Ten years ago, after a long horse hiatus while she was attending college, Melanie began leasing Desario so she could start riding again. Things were going well, but then two years into the lease, Desario somehow managed to fracture his coffin bone.
The gelding was put on nine months stall rest and corrective shoes were used to treat the injury. Subsequent x-rays showed that the fracture had healed, but a bone spur had now formed which pressed against his deep digital flexor tendon. The spur was treated with shockwave therapy and diminished significantly, but nevertheless, Desario remained very lame.
Melanie continued to help care for Desario, but two years later, she offered to buy him.
“I couldn’t ride him when I bought him,” said Melanie. “But I wanted the chance to see if I could come up with a plan that would help him become sound, which of course, I couldn’t really control unless I owned him.”
The first thing Melanie did was pull the corrective shoes and put Desario in a pasture at a new boarding facility. She then began experimenting with different treatments to see if they would help Desario. Theses included acupuncture, chiropractic work, and glucosamine shots. Melanie also experimented with different supplements as well as Previcox (as prescribed by her vet).
Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help though. Desario continued to get lamer and fatter.
In time, Melanie would realize that a big part of the problem was that Desario was insulin resistant and living full time on an irrigated pasture was making things worse.
Desario and Melanie, not long after his injury
“He actually even tore a tendon during this time in the pasture,” said Melanie.
Desario was soon diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), and Melanie moved him out of the pasture and into a stall with a small paddock. She changed his diet to grass hay along with a chromium supplement for the EMS. He began losing weight, but the lameness persisted.
“I had two separate vets telling me I should just give up on trying to help him get sound,” said Melanie. “But I figured I had nothing to lose by keeping on keeping on, so I did.”
Melanie began doing her own research at this point, investing in equine nutrition books and reading articles and product reviews on the internet. She was specifically interested in holistic horse care and wanted to address the whole picture instead of just Desario’s specific issues. She sought to find new products with naturally-derived ingredients.
“I simply took him off all of the supplements and meds. Then I put him on Hyla Sport OTC (a comprehensive joint supplement), went on vacation for three weeks, came back, and my horse was much sounder,” said Melanie.
Melanie also believed his weight loss and the change to a more suitable forage was helping.
Much to Melanie’s delight, Desario continued to improve. She then decided to move him to another boarding facility so he could once again be in a pasture, only without the high sugar grass. She knew the movement and a more natural lifestyle would be good for him both physically and mentally.
After six months at his new boarding facility, eating a diet of 80/20 grass-alfalfa hay along with alfalfa pellets and Hylasport OTC, Desario became 100% sound. Melanie was overjoyed when she could finally able to begin trail riding on him again. The whole process from injury to healing had taken nearly four years.
First trail ride after injury
“I should say that at this point I also did a lot of stretching with him to manage his SI joint issues- carrots stretches, hamstring stretches, belly lifts, etc.” she said.
Melanie has since added Pureform Support One (a vitamin/ mineral supplement) as well as chia seeds to Desario’s diet. The gelding now happily lives in a 15 acre pasture with five other horses during the day time and goes into a dry lot paddock at night. Melanie tries to ride or work with him three times a week.
Mainly, Melanie and Desario trail ride these days, but they also enjoy doing some trick training.
“He’s 21 so I just want him to have a happy, comfortable life and want to keep riding trails,” said Melanie. “I’m mostly just grateful that I can ride him these days.”
Melanie’s experience with Desario is what led her to begin her business, Whole Equine–an online resource for natural horse care products and equipment. Melanie says she wholeheartedly believes that natural supplements and horse care can turn a sad early retirement into many more years of longevity and trail rides.
Hi! I'm Casie, a freelance writer specializing in horse health. I'm certified in equine acupressure and have a great interest in equine nutrition and barefoot hoof care. The Naturally Healthy Horse encompasses all of these things, and I would love to have you follow along!
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This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat horses for any condition. It is meant solely for informational purposes. Please seek veterinary advice for any problematic condition with your horse.