Meet Kingsley. This sweet and special horse belongs to my daughter, Dakota. He has quite a story, one that isn't over yet. Kingsley became a member of the Redbird Farm family in July of this year. But his story begins much earlier than that. To do it justice, I must go back to January.
WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES!
I first met Kingsley in January of 2020 on a trip to Rockin' G Equine Sanctuary with my friend Laura to pick up a horse she was adopting named Teddy. She had told me about another horse there named Big Sugar High who she thought would be a good lesson horse for me. Laura, who happens to be a veterinarian and a very experienced rider, had ridden him and said he was sound and a really nice ride. The only issue he had was a bone chip in his jaw had been removed and the area was still healing and had some drainage.
We arrived at Rockin' G and it was bay thoroughbred heaven! I am so partial to bay thoroughbreds because of my first horse, Roy! Big Sugar lived in the same pasture with Teddy. I liked him a lot. He was sweet and quiet, and he looked well built and sound.
Back at home, I told Dakota about him. She looked on Rockin' G's Facebook page and found pictures and videos, and pretty much fell head over heels for him without even meeting face to face. After much discussion with my husband, I called Deb, the wonderful lady who runs the rescue, and discussed adopting with her. She was so excited to have a potential adopter. This poor horse had been through a lot. He'd won over $100,000 and then wound up in the kill pen, half starved. He went to Rockin' G where Deb got him healthy, and was adopted, only to be neglected yet again. He ended up back at the rescue, thin and sickly and with swelling on the side of his face. Somehow, he'd gotten a bone chip in his jaw. It was removed in the fall of 2019, and he was healthy again and ready for a new home.
Now, it was March. We had the adoption application filled out and we were approved! I got the money together and we were set to adopt, and then I got a call. Poor Big Sugar needed another surgery.
The Waiting Game
In early April, Big Sugar had his second surgery. This time he had to have a tooth removed. Since no one knew what had originally happened to his jaw to cause the bone chip, it was also unknown if the bad tooth was a result of the same injury that caused the bone chip. It was the second tooth from the back in his lower jaw, which is not an easy one to get out, and has to be done from the outside. So it was a long recovery and we weren't going to be able to bring him home for awhile. Meanwhile, Covid-19 had caused me to have to shut down my lesson program and spend the adoption fee money on feed for the rest of our horses.
Dakota's birthday was in May, and we surprised her with a visit to the rescue to meet him in person. It was love at first sight! They were meant for each other. He was healing well, and it looked like he would be ready to be adopted. He had a vet appointment in June and we were hopeful that we would hear good news.
In July, we finally had the money together and the vet had said that Big Sugar was going to be okay. So we made another trip to Oklahoma, this time to finally bring home Dakota's new partner. And of course, I'm a sucker and couldn't resist bringing home a prospective lesson horse as well, so we returned with two horses. Yep, another thoroughbred, Don Miguel aka Mickey, caught a ride to Kansas as well. And as it turned out, it was a very good thing, because Mickey had to stand in as Dakota's mount for awhile.
More Bad News
Big Sugar, now with the stable name Kingsley, was a perfect match for Dakota. They got along beautifully, both under saddle and on the ground. Sadly, he had only been home for a week when he injured his eye. He had some swelling and drainage, so we loaded him up and hauled him to the vet. I don't mess around when it comes to eye injuries, and sure enough, he had a corneal abrasion, so we were going home with an arsenal of eye medications. Before we left the clinic, the head vet looked at the place on Kingsley's jaw where the tooth had been
removed and said he felt that it needed an x-ray. And that turned our world upside down. 2 hours and 8 views later, we were leaving the clinic with what would be Kingsley's first round of antibiotics and an appointment for another surgery! He had another bad tooth, this time the very back one.
Surgery Number 3
On August 6th, Dakota and I delivered Kingsley to the vet for a surgery to remove his back molar, right next to where the previous tooth had been removed. This one would be even harder to get to than the last, and to complicate things further, the scar tissue from the other surgeries prevented his mouth from opening all the way. It was a tense drive home with the empty trailer, but a few hours after we got home we got the report that he came through just fine and that they had to remove two inches of necrotic bone in addition to the affected tooth! We went to visit him the very next day.
Needless to say we were a bit shocked at the size of the hole in his jaw. The last two pictures are the tooth and the piece of jaw that came out with it. The first day or two they had gauze packing in the hole but after that it was left open and flushed daily.
Two days later it was already getting smaller, but as you can see he had a long way to go.
On August 13, Kingsley came home, and then it was up to Dakota and I to do the flushes. I wish I had a video of it. We had to use a tube hooked up to the garden hose and squirt the water into the hole and let it run out of his mouth. This guy was an absolute saint about the whole ordeal! He dealt with that every day for over a month.
September 17th, Dakota finally rode Kingsley again. He was just as nice to ride as he'd been the week we got him. His hole in his jaw was almost closed, still draining a small amount, and it looked like things were improving. He had come back from the vet very thin, and was slowly starting to gain the weight back.
I feel like we did a great job of helping him heal up. Every day after the flush we had to stick granulex up in the hole (kinda got over my squeamishness about that) and then we had to smear petroleum jelly all over the area around it to keep the drainage from irritating his skin. He was practically hairless in places. And we had to use Swat around the edges of the opening to keep flies off. It was quite an ordeal each day.
I had noticed that Kingsley looked a bit puffy around his eye for a couple of days. I'd even
mentioned it to one of the vets at the clinic, and was keeping an eye on it. Two days after Dakota finally got to ride again, we had to go back to the vet again. The eye had swollen to the point where he could barely open it. This time, he did not have a corneal abrasion, and we went home with antibiotics to get rid of any infection that was spreading upward to the eye. But the swelling continued to increase no matter what we did, even when the on call vet came out over the weekend and gave him Lasix. Once again, Kingsley was back at the vet. The whole side of his face was swollen and his eye was draining thick yellow stuff. And the conjunctiva was very red and angry. Things were not looking good.
Surgery Number 4
It was the morning after we dropped him off. I got a call at 8:30 saying Kingsley was being
taken in for emergency surgery and they were not sure they could save his eye. In fact, they were not sure they would be able to save him. There was so much pressure somewhere it was causing his eye to bulge outward. We almost rushed there to see him before surgery, as it might be goodbye, but Dr. Jensen said that it was really better for Dakota not to see him. I guess it was a terrifying sight. So we just clung to each other and cried. We steeled ourselves for the phone call we were dreading. But when the call came, it wasn't the news we'd feared. Kingsley was out of surgery and he still had both eyes! He wasn't out of the woods and they weren't sure of the long term health of his eye. It turns out he had a huge abscess that had walled itself off behind his eye. Antibiotics weren't getting through to it, so it just grew in there. It was bigger than a golf ball! Now the poor guy had two more holes in his head where they drained it.
Next was another week at the vet. We went to see Kingsley nearly every day that he was there. He was getting daily flushes again, this time in the hole under his eye and out the cheek, then switch and go the other way. And of course the Granulex and petroleum jelly. The tricky part was making sure the Granulex didn't get into his eye. It was amazing to see how quickly he healed up this time. I took regular pictures, and going through them now as I write this post, I am impressed with his recovery.
These pictures are in chronological order. The first one was taken September 25, two days after surgery. The last was October 9. Today, you would never know that anything had happened to his eye. He does not seem to have any vision problems or lasting damage. His jaw, however, continues to drain small amounts of thick, yellowish, blood tinged goop. It has a bit of a foul odor. He hasn't been back for a recheck for a bit, because my husband got sick with Covid and was hospitalized, and we are still recovering from that. We have been working on getting set up with an equine hospital near Kansas City that has some equipment that might give us a better look at what might be causing him to continue to have problems with drainage from the surgical site. In the meantime, we just keep it cleaned off every day and leave it open so it drains. He has to be on senior feed, because he has to chew so slowly that he can't get enough hay. He's gaining weight, and looking so much better than he had been. We want to start riding him again soon, but we also want to make sure he's going to get healthy and stay that way.
Kingsley is making progress. His eye looks normal now, just a little drainage from his jaw, and just look at that shiny coat! Stay tuned for updates on this lovely boy as we work to get to the bottom of his troubles. And hopefully soon he'll be back under saddle again.