By Nicole Fink
It was an extremely cold day in February of 2021. It had been a month since I had lost my purebred Arabian gelding, Beau. I was leaning on my half-Arabian mare, FVF Seakhret Always+, affectionately known as Lola, for love and support. When I went out for chores that morning, it was shocking to learn that it was she that needed to lean on me that day.
Born in 2015, Lola is my dream horse, a cross of Arabian and Friesian. She was, and still is, everything I have ever wanted in an equine partner. I jokingly say that she and I share the same identity because we are so similar to one another. We have been together since she was five months old, and have rarely spent more than a day apart. We connect in a way that I have never shared with another horse – or human for that matter. She is just incredibly special.
When I came across her down in her stall that morning, unable to get up, it broke my heart. What was wrong with my horse? When she did gain enough strength to get up, it was obvious; we’d been hit by the crippling, awful disease of laminitis. Immediately we called the vet and our farrier to get her comfortable. We quickly came up with a plan that involved styrofoam clogs, diapers, duct tape, blood work, anti-inflammatories, and cypress oil (which increases circulation and blood flow) to keep her comfortable while we waited for her lab results to return.
The results came back from Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, and revealed that Lola was insulin resistant. She immediately went on an emergency diet and medication to help lower her insulin and glucose levels. It was an attack that came out of nowhere. Lola never showed any signs of being insulin resistant, and she was a healthy, active show horse. The winter proved to be detrimental due to the time off, and not having any training or work sessions. Exercise is imperative to an insulin resistant horse, as it helps increase blood flow throughout the body, and improves insulin sensitivity. Exercise had been the only thing keeping her condition dormant prior. If we didn’t get this under control, she was not going to make it.
Weeks turned into months and Lola, thankfully, by the grace of God, made a full recovery. She was cleared by her vets to slowly come back into work after more radiographs showed that she had improved. We were able to show Intro Level dressage later that same summer under the guidance of our coach, Stacia Allen. We couldn’t canter just yet. Lola was unsure of herself, and it took us a while to make a complete return to work and competition.
2022 turned out to be a great season for us. We continued to take lessons with Stacia, and the occasional lesson with Jennifer Kotylo, to help us continue on our dressage path. Lola is now a First Level horse, schooling Second Level with hopes of going Grand Prix. Her love of being the only one in the sandbox is very clear – she is happiest when it’s just her and I.
In 2022, she acquired multiple blue ribbons, Regional Reserve Champion titles, and one Regional Championship on the Arabian show circuit. We also made the trip to the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals at the World Equestrian Center in Ohio, landing just outside of the top ten in a couple of our classes. Lola was awarded her Legion of Honor from the Arabian Horse Association, the only registry to add distinguished punctuation that permanently changes their name and shows prestige from a good show record.
Life after laminitis has been a tricky one. Everything that Lola consumes is monitored. A very strict diet and soaked hay is her daily dining, along with daily medication of Insulinwise to help maintain her insulin levels. Her exercise has increased, but she is a horse who is happy to work. Quick intervention and knowledge is what saved Lola’s life. Her battle was courageous, and her fighting spirit kept her alive.
In my research (I have more knowledge now on laminitis and insulin resistance than I care to admit), I found that the majority of horses who experience laminitis do not make a return to the show ring. I am very thankful for the team in our corner who were able to bring Lola back. As for Lola and I, our relationship is strong and we continue to pursue our goals together. We plan to attend more dressage shows in 2023 for Arabians, and we also plan to attend the Sport Horse Nationals at the World Equestrian Center (WEC) in Wilmington, OH in September. We will continue to share our story with hopes it will save another horse’s life, and to show other owners they are not alone.
There is Life after Laminitis.