Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Memory of Chester

On June 24, our little 3 year old Chester was humanely euthanized. Chester was enjoying a lush summer pasture at a foster home on a large pasture when he took an unfortunate misstep and fractured a bone. Our veterinarian, after treating Chester for 3 weeks, took another x-ray yesterday and determined that his prognosis for recovery was unlikely , and that Chester was in extreme pain . The fracture had completely separated and a large piece of bone was now floating in his hoof. The Coffin bone was also infected.

Chester came to Serenity February of 2008 as one of the horses rescued from PEC. He was a malnourished baby with parasites, lice, overgrown and cracked hooves and in need of a lot of health care, love and attention. After several months Chester started to grow and fill out. He became healthy and trusting. His beautiful coat, shining like a new copper penny in the sun, and his kind loving temperament always drew people to him. We at Serenity adored him and he will be sorely missed.

The following articles are shared to help our readers better understand the complications of fracture in horse’s legs. Though we will miss Chester, we are proud of the fact that the life he lead at Serenity was one of healing and growth and love. If you would like to contribute to our veterinary fund to help offset the cost of Chester’s treatment, please send your checks to Serenity and note "Chester" in the memo line make checks payable to Mt. Rainier Equine.

Why a Broken Leg Is Bad News for a Horse- Can't we all just sign Barbaro's cast?
By Daniel Engber

Barbaro's veterinarians say the champion racehorse has a 50 percent chance of survival after breaking his leg at the start of the Preakness. He may not recover even after a successful five-hour surgery on Sunday, during which he had almost two dozen screws implanted to stabilize his bones. Why is a broken leg so dangerous for a horse?

There's a high risk of infection, and the horse may not sit still long enough for the bone to heal. Infections are most likely when the animal suffers a compound fracture, in which the bones tear through the skin of the leg. In this case, dirt from the track will grind into and contaminate the wound. To make matters worse, there isn't much blood circulation in the lower part of a horse's leg. (There's very little muscle, either.) A nasty break below the knee could easily destroy these fragile vessels and deprive the animal of its full immune response at the site of the injury.

Barbaro was lucky enough (or smart enough) to pull up after breaking his leg. If he'd kept running—as some horses do—he might have driven sharp bits of bone into his soft tissue and torn open the skin of his leg. Though his skin remained intact, he still faces the possibility of infection; any soft-tissue damage at all can cut off blood flow and create a safe haven for bacteria.
It's not easy to treat a horse with antibiotics, either. Since the animals are so big, you have to pump in lots of drugs to get the necessary effect. But if you use too many antibiotics, you'll destroy the natural flora of its intestinal tract, which can lead to life-threatening, infectious diarrhea. You also have to worry about how the antibiotics will interact with large doses of painkillers, which can themselves cause ulcers.

If the horse manages to avoid early infection, he might not make it through the recovery. First, he must wake up from anesthesia without reinjuring himself. Doctors revived Barbaro by means of "water recovery." That means they suspended him in a warm swimming pool in a quiet room and then kept him there for as long as possible. Not all horses are willing to sit around in a sling, and the antsy ones can thrash about and break their limbs all over again. (In 1975, the filly Ruffian managed to break a second, healthy leg in the process.)

If Barbaro starts favoring his wounded leg post-surgery, he may overload his other legs, causing a condition known as "laminitis." If that happens, the hooves on the other legs will start to separate from the bone, and his weight will be driven into the soft flesh of the feet. He may also develop life-threatening constipation as a side effect of the anesthetic.

Doctors will often put down a horse that develops a nasty infection, reinjures its broken leg, or develops laminitis in its other hooves. (A horse that's unable to stand will develop nasty sores and can be expected to die a slow and painful death.) A few horses have had broken legs amputated and replaced with metal, but the equine prostheses don't have a great track record.
Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Rick Arthur of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and Carl Kirker-Head of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

This next article is from the Ultimate Horse Site

Why are horses killed if they break a leg?Racehorses break legs and are euthanized; why are they put down?
By Annamaria Tadlock

Horses may not be "shot" when they break a leg, like in old westerns, but today their fate is often still the same: A broken leg is still usually a death sentence for a horse.

In the wild, a horse with a broken leg becomes dinner for a predator pretty quick. But when someone's pet-- or a champion racehorse-- breaks a leg, owners will what they can to try and save them. The reality is that most horses with a bad break won't recover-- due to costs, the time involved in healing, the horse's anatomy and behavior, and other issues.

- Success depends on the severity of the injuryWhen breaks are minor, such as small fractures,or when they are in young or small horses, the chances for recovery are higher. A foal with a broken leg may have a much better chance at recovery because they are still young and growing, and their bodies are lighter.Incomplete fractures are when a bone under stress cracks but doesn't break, and those tend to be much easier to heal. This type of injury is more common in performance horses and usually heals, leaving the horse able to perform and function normally.

Complete fractures mean the bone is completely broken through. This generally occurs in a sudden traumatic incident, such as when a racehorse breaks down or trips, or horses kick each other, causing the bone to shatter and break into pieces. Bones that come through the skin may be full of dirt or grass and greatly contaminated.

This type is much more difficult to heal for many reasons and generally is fatal to a horse. In cases of bad breaks, an animal is quickly humanely euthanized because there simply are no treatment options (such as Eight Belles, who shattered two legs at the fetlock and cannon bone).

  • Horse legs aren't designed to heal--All horses are big, heavy animals on small legs and feet, and each foot has to support roughly 250 pounds. When one breaks, it is difficult for the other legs to handle that weight. Even after a successful surgery to repair a damaged leg, the other legs may develop laminitis or abscesses because they have to carry extra weight on their other legs (this is what ultimately killed Barbaro, 8 months after successful surgery). There is no muscle below the knee or hock joint, meaning those leg injuries do not receive the same amount of support or blood flow.This can lead to complications in healing. The large bones of a horse also take a long time to heal. Fractures that break the skin often contact dirt, grass, or manure, making the risk of infection very high.
  • Horses don't like to be still --Horses are active creatures. They are designed to run from predators (or today, on the racetrack) and love to move about and play. Keeping a horse from re injuring itself is a big problem in recovery. They can step on themselves, get excited and try to move around, or simply get bored of being in a stall and try to get out.
    Many horses simply won't comply with treatment procedures. Ruffian's surgery to repair her broken leg was successful, but she continued to thrash and ended up injuring herself badly and had to be euthanized. Nureyev broke his leg while free in his pasture when he was 10 years old, and he was saved because he tolerated slings and stall rest so well.
    When the ex-racehorse Alydar broke his leg at the age of 15, he underwent surgery, but two days later he broke the leg again moving about on it and had to be euthanized.
  • Can't they use slings? Slings are used to help bear weight, but they can't be a long-term option because they do cause other problems, such as bed sores and discomfort to the horse. Some weight is needed to be on the injured leg to ensure it recovers the strength needed to support the horse. The other legs can develop laminitis or abscesses, and the horse may object to being in a sling and struggle, injuring itself further.
  • Pain Management--Having a broken bone is painful, and drugs are administered to control pain-- but if you give too little, the animal suffers, and if you give too much, they feel fine and want to gallop around. When horses are on pain medication they may re injure themselves moving around.
  • Huge Expenses & Few Vets--Treatment options are also very expensive; the average horse owner cannot afford the thousands of dollars it can take to recover, or provide the care needed. When you hear about horses being rehabilitated, it is usually an expensive racehorse, not an average racehorse or a riding horse. There are success stories, but they are the exception.When Barbaro fractured his hind leg (in more than 20 places) his owners went to great expense to attempt to save him. Surgically implanted steel plates, specially designed horse swimming pools, constant monitoring and pain management were all a part of his recovery attempt. They had the resources to provide the best care available. But they kept fighting with abscesses and painful laminitis that developed and he was euthanized 8 months after the initial injury.Even if an owner has the money to try to rehabilitate a horse with a broken leg, which most do not, there are few vets and facilities that can handle that situation. While racehorses may have the benefit of being surrounded by vets and other professionals, few horse owners live anywhere near equine vets or facilities that can handle injuries.
  • Humane Euthanasia --The amount of pain and time that the horse has to be locked up in a small space to recover from a bad break is considered by many to be inhumane. If the horse is kept off the leg, the injury may heal, but the other legs can develop complications, as was the case with Barbaro. Often the only humane option is to euthanize a horse when they break a leg. Sometimes, it is the only choice, when a break is so severe or multiple legs are broken ( such as the case with Eight Belles).
Rarely, a horse can have a break and be rehabilitated. There are success stories, but they are the exception. Whether a horse can be saved depends on the severity of the injury, the horse's attitude, the owner's financial ability, and the physical condition of the horse.

Here are our before and after photos of our Chester...

Chester came to us so malnurished that his growth was inhibited, he had worms and lice (left) and was in terrible shape.

He healed inside and out at Serenity and became a sweet gelding who was healthy and happy, and that is how we will remember him. Rest in peace, our sweet friend.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Health and Healing

We are so lucky at Serenity to have the generosity of some of the most talented people in the animal care field to help us rehabilitate our horses.

Some rescues have been injured as a result of abuse or overwork, it is heartbreaking. Our primary vets are Dr. DeWard, Dr. Hannah Evergreen, and Pilchuck Hospital, all of whom have been a tremendous support and advocate for Serenity Farm and our rescues.

At Serenity, we are first and foremost focused on the internal and external health of the horse. All of our rescues receive regular worming, hoof care, shots, and dental care. We wait until we determine that a horse is healthy, sound and emotionally healed before we begin riding or regular training because an unhealthy or unstable horse is not safe for anyone.

On Monday, Dr. Hannah Evergreen and her staff are coming out for a day of healing at Serenity, they will be doing trims and teeth and providing medical care to our rescues. We are really excited for this day of Health and Healing for our rescues.

We recently learned that our sweet paint mare Kat has damage to her suspensories from being ridden and gamed very hard at a very young age. This is her second baby and she is only 4 years old. We do all we can to keep her comfortable as she raises her sweet filly, but we need to help her heal these injuries if she is to live comfortably.

A wonderful Reiki master and a Homeopathic healer is coming out over the next week to work on our horses who need healing- Kat and Kiara with their leg injuries and Promise for her Melanoma. Lakota still suffers from a broken pelvis (he came to us with). All four horses need to heal if they are to lead comfortable lives and we are doing everything we can.

To donate to the medical care of the horses at Serenity, you can use our paypal account ( or mail a check to our farm (address at website: or contact our vets and pay directly to our accounts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Low Cost Gelding Clinic at Serenity

In an effort to help horse owners manage herd populations and breed responsibly, Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation is offering a low cost gelding clinic this summer.

We have secured veterinarians to perform the surgeries and are thrilled about this unique service we are going to provide to our community. Horses will stay overnight on the farm to be monitored after the procedure, liability releases will be required.

Dates and an application will be posted to our blog and website soon.

This clinic relies on the generous donations of our supporters. To give to the Gelding Clinic Fund, please donate at Paypal to our account ( and note that the funds are to be earmarked for the Gelding Clinic.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Farm Rules

One of the things that makes the farm successful is having clear rules. Our board of directors worked hard to set up a list of rules that volunteers (and visitors) must follow.

Our rules are online at our website, but we wanted to share them on our blog in case there are portions that other rescues could use to help organize their farms (or for anyone with a barn). There are quite a few but we've found it imperative to have guidelines in place when you have 30+ volunteers as well as boarders, visitors, etc coming to the farm. These are posted in our grooming stall where everyone can see them. Huge hugs and thanks to our board!

Serenity Farm Rules

for everyone’s safety, well being, and comfort

FARM HOURS – Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation volunteer hours are from 9 am to 5pm unless previously approved by Patricia or Darcy.

RELEASE OF LIABILITY- If you do not have a signed release of liability on file, you are not permitted to be in the barn, arena, or pastures. This rule applies to everyone who comes to SERR, visitors and volunteers. Our liability sign is posted in our barn. If you do not understand it, please ask.

  • SCHEDULE- Before beginning volunteer work, contact our Volunteer Coordinator (Darcy Jayne) to discuss your schedule.

  • VOLUNTEERS MUST SIGN-IN & OUT. Any time you are at the Serenity farm you must sign in. Sign in clipboard is in the tack stall.

  • AGE LIMITS - Because of the potentially dangerous nature of rescue horses, Serenity Equine Rescue wishes to protect all volunteers, horses, and staff. Volunteers 14 years of age and up must have parental approval and may come unaccompanied once approved by Patricia or Darcy.Volunteers 9- 14 years of age must work with parent at farm, supervised at all times. We regret that we are unable to allow children less than 9 years of age to volunteer.

  • PETS - Please do not bring pets to Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation.

  • KEEP CLEAN - Keep our barn clean and the aisles clear. If you get it out, put it away. Trash goes into marked trash bins only, don’t forget your beverage containers. Sweep up hair, hoof dirt and other debris when you are done grooming.

  • MAIN GATE. Always close and secure (chain) the main gate behind you coming in or going out.

  • DOORS/GATES Check stall doors, sliding doors, and gates. The gates should remain closed at all times, unless all horses are turned in for the night. Tack Room and Feed/Medicine Room doors must be closed and latched at all times!

  • NO SMOKING, ALCOHOL, DRUGS or firearms on the grounds at any time. Do not come to Serenity Equine Rescue if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • SAFETY/RESPECT- Do not climb on gates, fences, stalls, etc. No yelling, profanity or drama.

  • POSTING ONLINE – We have a volunteer who manages promotions, please e-mail if you are interested in posting an advertisement for Serenity or any of the horses as we have pre-written text approved by our board that we use. The best way to help us advertise is to post flyers at local businesses. Printed flyers are available at the barn or can be downloaded from our website


  • Tack- Only use items designated for SERR. Our farm is also home to boarders with personal tack and property on site.

  • Medicine Stall- Do not take or use supplies from the medicine/feed stall without permission from Patricia.

  • SHAMPOOS, DETANGLERS, ETC- Please use only what you need and close the items so that they do not leak out and put them away when finished. If you break an item, please let an officer know.


  • CAUTION - there will be no running, yelling, teasing, throwing items, swinging items or teasing horses (and other animals). Be thoughtful and respectful to all.

  • SAFETY/HEALTH OF HORSES – this is our #1 priority, no restraint devices are to be used on the horses. When in doubt, ask or wait to do it until you get permission please. Do not bring whips, riding crops, spurs, hobbles, or tie downs to use on SERR rescues. If you are concerned about a health or physical issue with a horse, report it to Patricia immediately and do not exercise or ride the horse.

  • SUPERVISION- When you take a horse out of a stall or pasture, supervise them at all times. Do not leave a horse unattended.

  • TREATS – Do not give treats to the horses or the pigs. If you feel you must bring treats, put them in the feed room and they will be added to the horses’ evening grain.

  • NEW HORSES will usually have a “Quarantine” sign on their stall or paddock- please read this sign for restrictions and only handle to bring in/out - they may require medication, sanitizing, etc.

  • STALL CLEANING- Do not go in and clean a stall with a horse in it, and do not dump in shavings with a horse in the stall.

  • TIED HORSES must always have a quick release on one end of rope (to halter or tied end). Use the grooming and wash stalls whenever available. If a horse is tied in the aisle do not go behind him/her without asking.

  • RIDING RESCUES: All volunteers wanting to ride must meet with Patricia for an evaluation before riding any horse. Only ride horses you have been assigned to. Do not handle horses over your handling level. If at any time you feel unsafe or afraid, let a staff person or officer know. This is for the safety of you and the horses.

  • RIDING GEAR- All riders are required to wear a shoe or boot with a heal, and we recommend wearing a helmet. No open toed shoes allowed in barn, arena or when working with horses.

  • SAFETY CHECK – All riders must perform a safety check on tack before mounting. Check all buckles, screws, cinch, stirrups, leathers, stitching, etc. to make sure they are in good working order and are properly adjusted.

  • RIDING COURTESY- Be courteous by not riding close behind other horses, and always announce when you are passing. (Example “Passing on the rail” or “Passing on the inside”.

SERR Officers:
Volunteer Coordinator : Darcy
Director: Patricia (425) 432-9697
Board/Website: Susan

We maintain a happy, safe, and serene environment for the horses and those who are interested in helping our rescues, as well as our boarders. If you find that you cannot adhere to these rules, then Serenity Equine Rescue is not the place for you.