Beaten Arkansas Horse Recovering

Puddin, the Arkansas Quarter Horse filly who in August along with her pasture-mate was viciously beaten while restrained in her paddock, underwent surgery Nov. 13 at Oklahoma State University/Stillwater. The surgery was an attempt to relieve scapular nerve pressure so severe it caused disfiguring shoulder muscle atrophy and left her incapable of walking normally.

Puddin's 90-minute procedure and subsequent assisted recovery went well, according to Dustin Devine, DVM, who led the surgical team that included Hank Jann, DVM. "She's hanging in there and is bright, alert, and reactive," he said.

The procedure, a scapular nerve decompression, creates a cradle in which the affected nerve and tendon lie. Devine and Jann isolated the nerve by making an incision, then attempted to remove fibrotic tissue from it.

Using an air-powered rotary fitted with a burr, Devine removed a small (1.5-2.5 cm-sized) piece of bone wedge in the front of Puddin's left scapula, close to the nerve and tendon band. They then lowered the nerve into the notch.

Owner Patrice Swan said Puddin' received the assistance of nearly 15 people while in recovery to keep her weakened shoulder from breaking or sustaining further damage. Swan said once Puddin' was back in her stall, she was looking for food.

Devine said a prognosis is difficult to offer so soon after the surgery. He said the procedure has two goals--to restore Puddin's normal gait without a marked subluxation or slip of her shoulder; and to restore muscle mass and tone. "There have been horses that have needed a year to regain function and appearance, and some never regain musculature, even if they regain their gait," Devine said. "The biggest immediate concern with this procedure is the likelihood of a scapular fracture because the integrity of the horse's skeletal structure is compromised."

Denervation muscle atrophy such as Puddin's occurs in the absence of muscle stimulation by tiny electrical impulses emitted by the nerve.

During her expected six-day convalescence at OSU/Stillwater, Puddin' will be on a course of intravenous antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs followed by a 10- to 14-day course of the same medications given orally.

Swan's other horse, Fat Girl, a Quarter Horse mare which sustained nearly identical injuries, has been recovering and is not a candidate for surgery at this time, according to Devine. Surgery might be indicated at a later. She was being examined by neurologists for a lump over her healing skull fractures.

Donations to help pay for surgical treatment and recovery for Puddin' can be sent to: Bank of America, "Puddin' and Fat Girl Recovery Fund," 719 Harkrider, Conway, Ariz. 72032; 501/336-6829. PayPal Donations can be sent to or go to and scroll to the story to make an online donation.


About the Author

Meg Cicciarella

Meg Cicciarella is a freelance journalist who lives and writes in Homer, on Alaska's banana belt, the Kenai Peninsula. Her articles have appeared in local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines.

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