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Click here to see the videos of Cassie the Miracle Horse - Recovers from a Broken leg and Now Jumping
 
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Sport Horse Snippets

Laura's Miracle Mare - Sometimes the end brings a new beginning.

by Liz Cornell
Nov/Dec 2011 Warmbloods Today

For Dr. Laura Mann of Agoura Hills, California, buying the nine-year-old hunter/jumper Holsteiner mare Cassandra in 2007 was an incredible dream come true. "I thought I had died and gone to heaven that first year I had her," Laura beams. Laura had purchased the bay mare (by Contendor) from Rose Sullivan at SE Farm. "She was so willing to do anything I asked of her. I weigh a mere 90 pounds and she's a big girl! We bonded immediately and I trusted her." Their show records were proof of their relationship, as they easily earned their 2007 year-end Medal finals together.

Their success was cut tragically short in January of 2008 when Cassie had a freak accident. It was routine for Laura to lunge Cassie for a few minutes before hopping on, and as Cassie did her normal playful buck on the lunge line, she somehow landed on her front right leg in just the wrong way. The injured mare suddenly stopped like a statue, wouldn't budge and held her right front leg up in the air. Laura was panic stricken that something very serious had just happened.

Cassie and LauraAfter the veterinarians arrived, they managed to move her closer to the barn for x-rays, and the results were astounding. She had completely shattered her front right pastern "P2" in what appeared to be three fractures. With three vets concurring amongst each other, they didn't hold much hope for Cassie. Laura was devastated waiting for their final prognosis. "There is only one person who can maybe save her," they reported. "Dr. Mark Rick at the Alamo Pintado Equine Hospital in Los Olivos can possibly perform surgery to save her leg."

"After Dr. Rick reviewed the radiographs, he told the vets that, yes, he could save her," says Laura. Remembering Barbaro and other seriously injured horses that never fully recovered, Laura had two conditions. "I told the vets that I would agree to the surgery if they felt Cassie could walk again and if she would not have a life of pain. They told me she would not be a competitive horse again but that, yes, Dr. Rick could meet my two conditions."

Cassie's surgery was successful, with the surgeon reporting that there were so many breaks that he stopped counting at fifteen! She came through the procedure with two new plates and nine screws in her pastern. "As soon as the anesthesia wore off, Cassie hopped up on all fours and whinnied for her food!" Laura says, adding, "And since I'm in the business of producing all natural horse supplements (www.mannformulations.com), I made certain that she received a full regimen of my supplements to help with her recovery."

Cassie and Laura
Laura and Cassie. Photo by Jennifer Tarr

Cassie's recuperation wasn't all smooth sailing. They had a couple of setbacks with a second surgery removing one of the screws that had come loose. Additionally, four and a half months into her recovery she was suddenly very sore on that foot, leaving them baffled as to why, but then luckily Cassie pulled through. All in all, Cassie resided in the hospital for four months and was hand walked daily by Laura when she came home.

"She still had two more months of stall rest and hand walking," Laura continues. "Eventually I moved her to a barn with in-out stalls and small paddocks so that she could walk 24 hours on her own." Also, her blacksmith later discovered that her bad foot had apparently suffered an abscess—a big abscess. "That explains why she became so sore again after I brought her home. She had a terrible abscess and we never even knew it!"

Within a year of the accident, Cassie's leg was deemed "solid" per the vets, and even though the hand walking was boring and tedious, Laura was determined to continue with the plan. Until one day, a friend urged her to hop on her bareback. Laura, who doesn't weigh much, thought, why not? "I decided I'd be very careful and listen to Cassie. She could decide how much or how little she wanted to be ridden," Laura remarks. Surprisingly, Cassie appeared eager for a little more exercise and looked forward to their bareback hacks around the property. "However, it wasn't long before she wanted to trot and canter, and riding bareback trying to sit her big gaits was too much of a challenge. It was time to put the saddle back on. To me, it was a miracle that I was on her at all!" And over time, to everyone's surprise, Cassie's soundness steadily improved.

Since Cassie's jumping days are history, Laura decided to take some very basic dressage lessons for the first time with local trainer, Verena Sonstenes-Mahin. "Cassie became very crooked from the injury and she needed straightening exercises. She also needed more strength in her hind end to help balance and shift some weight off her forehand. Verena helped us tremendously. I can feel the dressage work has made a big difference."

Today it's been over three years since Cassie's life-threatening injury and her gaits are nearly perfect. Laura is quick to express gratitude for the many friends, professionals and family members who supported and encouraged her through what most considered the impossible. She particularly wants to thank her dear friend and animal communicator Maia Kincaid. "But mostly, I thank Cassie for her heart, her love and her determination to not just live, but to return to work. She really wanted her job back," says Laura among tears of joy. "She's my miracle mare with the bionic leg. She's my once-in-a-lifetime."


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