Horse saved from slaughter with wire deep in his leg to help veterans in bright future

  • A horse saved from slaughter with a wire embedded deep in his leg, thought to have been put there intentionally months before, has become a favourite among those who rescued him.

    Ezekiel, or Zeke, was one of six Belgian draught horses destined for slaughter after a “life of neglect”, who were taken in by Baby Girl Horse Rescue and Veteran Therapy Ranch in Fellsmere, Florida, in February.

    Zeke was very lame, with a “severely swollen, actively infected, and draining wound on his left front leg”, but rescue organiser Van Demars said he still had “spirit in his eyes”.

    “I insisted on buying him even if it was only to give him some care and then have to put him down humanely,”he said. “I just did not want him to have to make the long, hard trip past the border to die a scary death.”

    Vet Karie Vander Werf X-rayed the leg, to find a “grim picture”.

    “The radiographs showed a metal wire had been wrapped around Zeke’s pastern bone, deeply embedded through the soft tissue and into the bone,” a spokesman for the rescue said.

    Zeke was referred to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where surgeon Weston Davies and Sidney Chanutin took more X-rays.

    “The radiographs confirmed a metal object was circumferentially wrapped around the mid-pastern bone, embedded into the soft tissue and remodelled the bone itself,” Dr Chanutin said.

    On February 24, Zeke was put under standing sedation, given a local nerve block, and the wire was extracted by Dr Davis.

    “Had the wire not been removed when it was, the infection would have continued to proliferate,” said Dr. Chanutin. “The infection and invasion of the wire into the soft tissue and pastern bone could potentially have cut Zeke’s life short.”

    It is thought, from the location of the wire and the way it was twisted, that it had been placed there intentionally.

    “ It was clear the wire had been embedded into Zeke’s pastern for months, based on the level of bone remodelling that had taken place,” the spokesman said.

    Zeke stayed at the clinic for less than 48 hours, then went to Dr Vander Werf’s farm for aftercare.

    Mr DeMars said: “He’s been a sweet boy through all of this, but only a day or two after the surgery, we really got to see his personality. He’s just a mischievous boy, who even busted into Dr Vander Werf’s feed room, and is best friends with a little mini pony.

    “We know he must have been in intense pain because he has become a completely different horse now.”

    In April, Zeke was able to move to the rescue and therapy ranch, where the group of horses he was rescued with have become known as the Titans.

    They are to become part of the Titan Project, which offers equine therapy to veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder and other related issues.

    “Zeke is quite famous now, especially among the veterans,” Mr DeMars said.

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    “People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are able to derive strength through Zeke’s story and many have been reaching out through social media asking when he’s coming home so they can come see him. So, his future job is just to be groomed and taken care of. He’s going into retirement to be spoiled.”

    The spokesman thanked the clinic.

    “Through swift action by the rescue and expert veterinary and surgical care, Zeke now has a new purpose and will live out his days in a safe, healthy environment,” he said.

    “In the wake of Zeke’s immense suffering, he is now miraculously on the path to paying it forward by providing veterans and first responders the relief and support they need.”

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