After nearly a year of showing lethargy and fevers and odd symptoms that no-one could piece together, it was a trip to Rood & Riddle veterinary hospital in Wellington, Florida, that saved the life of nine-year-old jumper Caracas.
When the holsteiner gelding arrived the the hospital in February, his only symptom was a low grade fever and unusual interactions with his stablemate. The previous month, his temperature had hit 103. At random times while competing he would occasionally put in an unusual jump, as if his back legs didn’t want to leave the ground.
Caracas (Corrado I / Caretino), owned by Jim Hagman of Elvenstar Farm, was bright, alert, responsive, and showing no signs of discomfort when he arrived at the hospital.
Two procedures were performed in order to determine what was causing the unusual behavior. The first was an abdominal ultrasound followed by a peritoneal fluid tap. A large mass was indicated by the ultrasound and peritoneal fluid analysis.
With the results of these two tests, a team of five veterinarians determined that an exploratory celiotomy was needed to be performed to further diagnose the origin of the mass and its possible removal.
Trainer Kay Altheuser describes her feelings at the time the decision had to be made. “We wanted to try to save Caracas as he is really such a good show horse and very special to us, however, we were not willing to compromise him or make him suffer. Those were very hard conversations to have, and the doctors were so helpful.”
The prognosis had been bleak, with veterinarians giving only a 5% chance of a good outcome, and the horse’s insurance company recommended euthanasia.
But after more than seven hours of surgery, veterinarians successfully removed an artifact tumour, weighing in at 27 pounds and larger in size than a basketball, that was found attached to the base of the cecum.
When he returned to California after his surgery he started his rehab in Moorpark. The work that his trainers, Altheuser and Hagman, did with him was slow and cautious at first, but he seemed so comfortable without the mass, they were able to slowly increase the work as Caracas continued to improve. He then moved to Elvenstar Orange County to continue his rehab with Hailey Link and Halie Robinson.
When he was imported from Germany in 2015, Caracas was showjumping at 1.4m level, but Hagman figured he would make a pretty good equitation horse. He wasn’t wrong, and right from the start of his new vocation Caracas helped several riders to top placings.
After several months of recovery, Caracas was ready to start on the road back to the show ring. With steady progress and the love of his young rider, Hailey Link, Caracas made his post-surgical debut at the Blenheim June Classic in San Juan Capistrano, California show. As the season continued, he regained his stamina and strength. By September he was back to pre-surgery form, and Halie Robinson rode him to the champion title in the USEF Talent Search Finals West at the Blenheim International Jumping Festival where he also won the best horse of the competition award.
Caracas also competed on the East Coast in the USEF Talent Search Finals East with rider Taylor Griffiths and earned third place in Gladstone, New Jersey.