A horse born with a deformed muzzle in the US has undergone life-saving surgery to correct it, with supporters rallying online to fundraise toward the cost of the operation.
Barbara is a straight Egyptian Arabian foal who was born in January 2017 with a rare condition known as wry nose. Her upper jaw was offset from the lower jaw and her left nostril was almost closed.
Barbara’s owner, Martha Carroll-Talley, of Dripping Springs, Texas, found there was just one option that would give Barbara a shot at life beyond weaning.
The answer lay with Dr James Schumacher, from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
Schumacher has crucial experience in correcting the disorder. Indeed, he has even had a scientific paper published on the subject.
Taking that option would be an intensive and costly proposition. The cost of the whole procedure was sure to top $US30,000, and Barbara would have to be relocated from Texas to Tennessee, not to mention the rehabilitation costs.
The situation was made even more complicated by Barbara’s mum refusing to nurse her unless a human was present to ensure the mare stood quietly.
Barbara has needed constant help to nurse and struggled to get enough milk as her sucking mechanism didn’t work correctly because of the shape of her upper jaw. She was supplemented with milk replacer from a bucket.
Unfortunately, she inhaled milk while nursing in her first month which led to pneumonia and more bills.
Martha, on Barbara’s Gofundme page to raise money for the operation, says Barbara is otherwise a very robust and friendly foal.
“She looks to humans daily for help to nurse,” Martha explains.
“Although she doesn’t understand it, she knows that when Mamma is near the humans, she is allowed to nurse. When she’s hungry she calls out to humans within her sight and comes confidently to them, wagging her little tongue; as if to say ‘please may I nurse’.”
Barbara made it through her first months, but her future lay with the surgery to allow her to bite off and eat grass and grain – something that was impossible with her wry nose.
Enter Dr Schumacher, one of only a few veterinarians in the US that can perform the corrective surgery, which carries a very good prognosis for a normal life.
Barbara has now undergone the complex surgery, and is currently breathing through a tracheotomy tube in her throat, which was part of the procedure. A rib was also removed from Barbara’s right side for a bone graft. Her muzzle was successfully straightened and her nostril opened.
All going well, she is expected to be back home in Texas in six weeks.
Keeping Barbara at the college facility will allow specialists to monitor how the bones form and the face heals. It is possible she may need additional surgery on her jaw.
The Gofundme page has set a target of $US39,000 to cover Barbara’s costs. At the time of writing, the page had raised $US29,240.
Discussing the option to commit to the life-saving surgery, Martha told wjhl.com: “What lesson does it teach our children if we just dispose of things because they’re a little different?”
Barbara’s trainer, Allen Pogue, also of Dripping Springs, Texas, said on the fundraising page that the outpouring of concern for the plight of Barbara was truly heartwarming.
“Martha Talley and I thought we were going to have to face this basically alone.
“Even so, it was our collective decision to play the hand we were dealt and not just put an innocent foal down for convenience.
“Mere thanks is hardly enough to express my appreciation for supporting our effort.”