Paraplegic Foal Update: Lucky at Home

VIDEO | About a month ago, The Horse brought you the story of Lucky, a five-month-old Quarter Horse foal who was rendered paraplegic by a spinal cord abscess at two weeks of age. Since his unique treatment at North Carolina State University, he has been slowly recovering mobility, and a few days ago we checked out his progress at home.

During our five-hour visit, Lucky played with his owner Anita Powell, her niece Andrea, and a visiting veterinarian, walked out to his turnout pen for about an hour of grazing and exercise, took a couple of hour-long naps, had lunch, and watched Animal Planet. It was a typical, busy day.

His owner Anita Powell says he's doing noticeably better since our last visit. "We've seen him take a few trotting steps, not just shuffling or tripping," she reports. "He keeps showing us things where you say, 'Oh, that was perfect!' So then you say, 'OK, are you going to start having more of these perfect moments?' "

Lucky's walk isn't always normal; particularly when he gets tired, the cadence of his footfalls becomes momentarily irregular and his hind end might wander to the side. But Anita says he falls far less often than before, and she has a hard time remembering his last really bad day (when he would fall multiple times and not want to get back up). She hopes that more work on an aquatic treadmill will help him get even stronger.

"If we didn't think he was getting better, we wouldn't be able to do this," says Anita's niece Andrea, who helps take care of Lucky and watch over him at night. He's only allowed to lie down to sleep for an hour or so at a time, as the Powells have found that if he stays down much longer, he seems to have significantly more trouble getting up afterward.

Lucky is getting to his feet with very little help, although he does tend to wait for a human cue to get up as if he's learned that's the way it's supposed to be. Various strategies have been suggested to teach him differently, and the Powells are confident that soon, one of them will work.

"If he's happy and things are still going in a positive direction, and he's not in any pain, we'll just keep going," says Anita. "I'm not ready to quit yet, and I don't think NC State's ready to quit."

More information:

Paraplegic Foal Update: Lucky grazing

Lucky gets an hour or more to exercise and graze twice daily in a small pen.

Paraplegic Foal Update: Lucky playing with Anita's zipper

Lucky was happy to show off his zipper trick, where he grabs the zipper pull of Anita's smock in his teeth and zips it quickly up and down.

Paraplegic Foal Update: Lucky's enclosure in his owner's kennel

Lucky's indoor home is a large enclosure within Anita Powell's climate-controlled canine boarding and grooming facility. A TV complete with video games helps keep him and his caretakers entertained.

Paraplegic Foal Update: Anita keeping an eye on Lucky via TV

Anita keeps an eye on Lucky even when she's working on clients' dogs, using a camera and TV system.


About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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