Nestled in the beautiful countryside of central Virginia is an equine hospital aptly named Serenity Equine. What’s different about this hospital has nothing to do with its superb facilities and everything to do with the work that is being done there. Much of it funded by the nonprofit organization Cashvan Family Memorial Equine Fund (CFMEF).
The hospital is the creation of Dr. Andrea Floyd, who has predicated her career on the value that every horse is worth saving. Within these walls you’ll find horses declared to be ”hopeless” laminitis cases now running freely in their turn outs, even amputees with devastating leg injuries fitted with prostheses.
What led to you deciding to devote your career to cases that almost anyone would declare ”hopeless”'
As a new graduate from veterinary school, I was as confused as most people by the lack of successful treatment regimens for the laminitic horse. I felt that if we were living in this great age of technology and advancement . . . why were we unable to save these horses' My determination to make a difference was propelled by the stubborn belief that it was possible.
What services are available on site at Serenity Equine'
The services available at Serenity Equine are those tailored strictly for the leg and hoof. A hospital tour is available on our website (www.serenityequine.com). We have a full laboratory with ancillary diagnostic services. The surgical suite is complete with an overhead rail that allows for standing sling-assisted surgery, as well as aiding horses to the recovery stall or for assistance should the horse not be able to walk from the trailer to the hospital.
Diagnostics such as radiography, venography, ultrasonagraphy and thermography are available. Therapeutic treatments include deep heat ultrasound, cryo sequential compression, myofascial massage and laser therapy. All stalls are equipped with video cameras and IV lines.
The stalls have maximum lighting and deep bed capability. A separate suite of two stalls and a work area are separate from the main ICU and these stalls can be air conditioned for the seriously injured or down horse. Rubber footing is found in all of the stalls, halls and work areas.
How did the CFMEF come into being'
I had received too many phone calls that always ended with a pause and an ”I will call you back” after discussing prices and procedures. I knew that when I heard the person fade, that their chances to save their horse were fading as well, and it was always an economic issue.
Most people would rather make the sacrifice of giving their beloved horse away and saving its life than put it to sleep because they could not afford treatment. A friend of mine overheard one of these conversations and saw the distress that it caused me. It was through her generous gift from her father’s American Equine Fund that the Cashvan Family Memorial Equine Fund was born.
What happens to horses that are donated'
All horses that CFMEF receives are rehabilitated and then adopted to new owners. Special cases, such as our amputees, become the property of CFMEF and live in leisure at Serenity Equine.
What types of cases do you treat'
All types of cases including but not limited to laminitis, club foot, navicular syndrome, devastating lower-leg injuries, tendon injuries, puncture wounds of the foot, amputations and prosthetics.
How did the prostheses for horses that have had partial leg amputations become developed' How do they work'
Dr. Barrie Grant was the first researcher of equine prosthetics in our recent era. Dr. Ric Redden became extremely interested in them and has led the field for some time. The development of the prosthetic device itself depends on the level of amputation and the dynamics of the limb.
A prosthetic device works by supplying the horse with the needed stability of body and leg to ground surface. The prosthesis should be lightweight, agile and very strong. It should not allow for compression of any area of the amputation or stump that is enclosed within the socket of the prosthesis.
Lower-limb (below the fetlock) prostheses should be moderately flexible to allow for continued mobility of the fetlock joint. The more weightbearing the horse does with the amputated leg, the healthier all the bones and joints will be. If you lock a joint in a rigid manner within a prosthetic socket, the joint will degrade from disuse and the likelihood of fracture occurs.
What is the most difficult laminitis case you have treated'
They are all difficult because no two cases are the same. One must be ever vigilant for changes that spell impending disaster . . . you can never go to sleep on a laminitic case. The worst cases are those that develop septic joints from acute renal failure and emboli migration. I would say the worst cases are mares that have had a retained placenta that was not discovered until it went to endometritis and endotoxemia and acute renal failure. These are extremely sick horses.
How can these horses with severe laminitis, amputations and sometimes critical illnesses be transported humanely and safely' Isn’t the stress and pain too much for them'
With special handling and proper medicating, horses arrive in excellent condition to the facility. An air ride trailer with a large heavily bedded box stall will allow for complete freedom and comfort for the horse.
What is your favorite success story'
They are all my favorites! Every horse that walks soundly and happily out of my hospital with a smiling owner holding the lead rope is my favorite. I get teary-eyed every time I watch one leave.
I am so fortunate to be doing work in my life that thrills me, inspires me, lets me use all of my mind and my inspiration and imagination, and allows me to help so many beloved horses and their compassionate owners. I have met so many wonderful people and loved their horses as much as they do.
Sometimes the rescues are really adventures. One time we drove to New Jersey in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, creeping down a six-lane interstate at 35 mph, while tractor trailers slid off the road all around us in slow motion. This is how I first met Jack . . . a yearling miniature Sicilian donkey with an injury to the pastern area of the left hind leg .
Jack had been rescued by a wonderful couple. Jack was underweight and had never lost his baby fur, which was all matted and dirty. We put Jack in a large horse sling and proceeded to amputate the leg in a standing sedated position with the leg blocked locally and regionally.
You couldn’t see the poor little donkey for the sling. After we were finished and had a temporary prosthesis applied, little Jack was so much happier and almost ran back to his stall. It was so cold that we literally took the polar fleece jacket off the 16-year-old daughter of the owner of the clinic to put on little Jack to keep him warm. It was a very heart warming (and bone chilling) experience for us all.
Please describe for our readers what happens after a horse arrives.
When a horse arrives at Serenity Equine for the first time, it is immediately taken to radiology for x-rays of the feet. The team jumps into action and within 30 minutes the horse has had its feet set with temporary appliances, blood drawn, had a critical physiologic assessment, medications given and is back in its stall to relax.
We let the horses recover from the trip for at least 24 hours after the initial assessment. Video cameras in the stall allow us to watch them without their knowing they are being watched. A great deal of critical knowledge is gained through the use of these cameras, as horses do not act the same when they know they are being watched. For example, they may show different lameness cycles, or they may bite at a bandage signifying a problem that we might not observe under normal circumstances.
Once the horse is recovered from the journey, other diagnostic tools are used to further assess the horse’s needs including venograms, ultrasonagraphy of the tendons, ligaments and joints and further radiography is done. If surgery is necessary it is done at this time to correct the digital alignment and start the recovery process. Cryo sequential compression is started immediately, to control inflammation, reduce edema and encourage good circulation.
Once the recovery process is in full swing, it is very common to have seromas or abscesses erupt from the coronary band. Partial hoof-wall resections may be necessary at this time followed by daily foot baths and special bandaging. Prolapsing of the margin of the coffin bone at the sole is also common and requires special shoeing alignments to relieve that pressure.
Complete blood work performed at the time of admission allows for the assessment of infection, a view of all vital organs and muscle damage, and whether dietary needs commensurate with equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease will be needed. Balancing glucose and insulin levels through proper dietary management is a large part of our work.
What advice would you give to owners of horses with acute laminitis, to prevent it turning into these chronic deformities'
Take immediate first-aid steps to stop the disease process. Laminitis can have many causes, such as infections, severe gut disturbances, drugs/vaccines and underlying hormonal problems like Cushing’s or insulin resistance. Identifying and correcting the cause is the first step.
For the first 72 hours, soaking in ice water, NSAIDs and elevating the heels to 10 degrees will stop many acute cases from becoming extreme cases. X-rays to determine the degree of rotation and guide the farrier in performing a corrective trim are critical.
How can people donate to CFMEF and is it tax deductible'
CFMEF tax-deductible donations can be made by mail to our address (CFMEF, 2954 Evington Rd. Evington, VA 24550-4156) or through our website: www.serenityequine.com. 434-525-2244.