Service Pony Recovers from Health Crisis

Thanks to the skill and kindness of several Texas veterinarians, a blind woman's assistive guide pony is recuperating from serious illness.

Trixie is a nearly 14-year-old Pony of the Americas mare, and she has been Tabitha Darling's service animal for seven years. Darling is legally blind, and while she can't see well enough to drive a car, she can ride a horse. She uses Trixie to travel around her city, including to her job at the Clifford Street Wal-Mart in Fort Worth. Store management set up a pen behind the store where Trixie relaxes while Darling works in the electronics department.

On March 8 Trixie suddenly became ill while Darling was riding her to work. Local veterinarian Caelli Edmonds, DVM, BS, responded to Darling's call for help. Initially, Edmonds suspected Trixie was suffering from colic. Because her clinic is not set up to do the kind of critical care surgery that would be required, she referred the case to Weatherford Equine Medical Center, about an hour west of Fort Worth.

Tabitha Darling and Trixie, her assistive serive pony.

Tabitha Darling and Trixie

"Tests showed that Trixie was suffering from myositis, an inflammation of the muscles that causes enzymes produced in the horse's system to break down the animal's own muscular cells and tissues," explained Weatherford veterinarian Jason Walter, DVM. Also known as tying-up or azoturia, the causes of myositis are varied, although Walter said he suspects a virus caused Trixie's illness.

While Trixie's myositis resolved within 72 hours, the mare developed respiratory distress and a fever, and she required antibiotic treatment for pneumonia. After a monthlong hospital stay, Trixie returned to her home barn yesterday, where Darling is continuing to administer the antibiotics. Walter said the pony is on the way to a full recovery.

"With myositis we don't normally see long-term damage to the animal," he said. "There may be some minimal permanent damage to one lung from the pneumonia, but Trixie should be quite capable of returning to her regular duties soon."

Employees at the Wal-Mart where Darling works have been collecting donations to help pay for Trixie's expenses at the clinic. Weatherford Equine office manager Betty Hickson said that while the clinic hopes to recoup the cost of drugs, the clinic owners will not charge Darling for her pony's treatment.

Darling said she is "absolutely so happy" to have her best friend, who, until this event, had never seen a veterinarian except for yearly vaccinations, recuperating back at her home barn. She anticipated being able to start riding Trixie to work again in the next week or two, once the antibiotics are finished. She's effusive in her praise for the professionalism and generosity of the team at Weatherford.

"I was prepared to work out a monthly installment plan to pay Trixie's bill, but they told me not to worry about it," she said. "I'm really grateful! Not only do these people care for our animals, but they obviously care about owners, too."

Watch a news story by FOX-DFW, posted on Tabitha Darling's YouTube page.

About the Author

Jodi DeLong

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