By Rebecca Roy, Founder of Draft Gratitude
When you rescue an animal, you have no idea what you are getting.
We were asked if we could make room for an aged Belgian gelding because he was out of time.
We said yes because he deserved to be safe.
We said yes because he needed us.
We said yes because we knew our supporters would want us to.
And so Samuel got his second chance.
He arrived fairly thin, with great manners, very gentle, and with soft eyes. He also arrived with
canker in all four hooves. Canker refers to an inflamed, ulcerated sore in the underside of a
horse’s hoof. It begins near the frog but may spread to the sole or heel bulbs. The wound has a
foul odor, bleeds easily, and has the appearance of proud flesh. Canker can be treated by
removing infected tissue and applying various medications, but it is hard to cure and has a
tendency to recur. Although more common in drafts, it is still a fairly rare disease with many
Samuel has been an expensive and exhausting case… but I wouldn’t change a thing. He deserves
to have quality veterinary care and has earned the right to be safe.
We rarely know any past history on the drafts that join us. Sometimes I wish we knew more,
other times I’m happy that we don’t. Many have not been treated well.
Although Samuel has impeccable manners, he also has fear. When you move too fast by his
head or reach too fast to pet him, he gets scared: His body tenses, he trembles, and clearly, he
expects the worst.
Yet somehow, Samuel still manages to be incredibly brave.
Throughout the time that Samuel has been here, he has continued to amaze me with his
gentleness and willingness to cooperate. For each and every bandage change, he marches over to
the stocks with a spring in his step and his head held high. He steps right into place without any
hesitation, almost without being asked.
I think he knows we are helping him.
This process has been an incredible learning experience for Samuel, for me, for our
veterinarians, and for our followers. We’ve all had to experience patience, disappointment,
excitement, fear, and exhaustion. We have learned a lot about this mystifying disease including
that what worked on one horse may not work on another horse. Our vet says that diseases
having numerous treatment plans often indicate that nothing works consistently. Scary thought,
We also learned to make a set of stocks our friend. We learned how to use them as safely as
possible. We learned how to keep Samuel comfortable in them. We learned how to work as
fast as we could as a team to limit the amount of time he was under sedation. We learned how to
make wrapping hooves look easy. Which by the way, it does get easier!
All in all, we are moving in the right direction. Samuel is officially sick of us handling his feet
(who could blame him), but he still cooperates and we have finally turned the corner and feel that
we will successfully beat this disease. He is a very lucky horse.
Dr. Rose McWilliams of Hess McWilliams Veterinary Services in Amherst, MA has been an
incredible asset to our team. She dove in and learned as much as she could about Canker and
how to help Samuel. We were incredibly blessed to have Dr. Stacey Golub from Connecticut
Draft Horse Rescue lead the way on this case. Dr. Golub has successfully treated several canker
cases and donated her time to Samuel and to all of us here at Draft Gratitude to educate our team
and put us on a path of success. We are very grateful to have the support of these two amazing
and dedicated veterinarians.
Draft Gratitude, established in 2014, is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to
saving the lives of unwanted draft horses. Once rescued, the draft horses are rehabilitated and
will either be available for adoption or stay in sanctuary.
Draft Gratitude hosts open barn visiting days on the first Saturday of each month from 10am –
Learn more about Draft Gratitude, its mission and opportunities to help rescued horses at
www.draftgratitude.com or call 603-762-3266.