Elmer Bandit Necropsy Performed at Kansas State

"We are looking for what was right with Elmer, not what was wrong," said Lucy Hirsch, DVM, friend of Elmer Bandit, as she accompanied owner Mary Anna Wood on Elmer's final journey, which was, fittingly, to a veterinary teaching hospital for a thorough necropsy. Were there special factors contributing to Elmer's amazing, active longevity?

Elmer Bandit, pictured at age 35

Elmer in 2005 at the Three Barns Competitive Trail Ride.

Jerome Nietfeld, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, associate professor in Kansas State's Department of Diagnostic Medicine, performed the necropsy on the 38-year-old lifetime competitive trail mileage record holder.

One of the first items Nietfeld noted was the lack of pathology. Elmer was found to be carrying adequate body fat despite severely deteriorated and missing teeth. With only one bottom tooth remaining, Wood's practice of soaking feed and frequent feedings aided Elmer's consumption of calories.

Wood was curious about the condition of the ligaments in Elmer's knees and stifles, as she had suspected their deterioration caused his problems getting up in the pasture. Nietfeld reported they were in good condition but did observe some wear in the left stifle and noted a little arthritis.

Still, Nietfeld said he was impressed with Elmer's overall condition for a 38-year-old horse, noting "His stifles looked much better than a 15-year-old horse recently (necropsied)."

Elmer's heart was normal in size and appearance.

Nietfeld noted a few scars on Elmer's lungs, and surmised Elmer had experienced pleuritis (inflammation within the chest cavity) at some point in his life, but recovered.

Both Wood and Hirsch felt the necropsy was a fitting ending to Elmer's life, which had been extended and enjoyed by a balanced scientific and emotional approach to his care. They departed from K-State, feeling satisfied many things about Elmer had been "right."

"I really enjoyed working with them," Nietfeld said of his experience answering Wood's and Hirsch's many questions. "At least some good came from his death."

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About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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