The Heartbreak of HWSS - up close and personal.

I just wanted to tell you Kathy's story.

Her story is not untypical of the stories that I have heard.

Because of her experience she has gelded her stallion and got out of breeding.  So she has not only had to deal with this terrible disease, we have lost a wonderful breeder.

But can you blame her for taking this action?

With no support until recently, she was led to believe she had an isolated case of 'something' no one could explain the source of; poison, contaminated soil, bad feed maybe.
To get the best care for her ponies Kathy would drive all three of her affected ponies from where she lived all the way to Rood and Riddle (on of the top veterinary hospitals in the USA)
Kathy had 4 fillies with this issue but one was euthanized earlier..

Maybe you can start understanding, why the group is so passionate about this issue, because most of US have stories just like Kathy.   

And even though I've been through this myself, I cry every time I read her story.   

So the group asked for permission to print it here on the blog.  We offered to remove names to ensure her privacy, however she declined this offer and asked us to publish this verbatim.

Hi Jocelyn,
    I have been back for a few days and thinking about this, actually I've not stopped thinking about this.  I have looked at the blog and facebook page and I am so impressed and grateful to you and Sheila, and everyone involved in getting those two projects accomplished.  I would like to do anything that will bring attention and perhaps some empathy for the ponies that suffer from this condition and the owners that love them.  I would be pleased to have Callen's letter on the blog and I want her name attached to it. I would also have no problem with putting my name on the letter.  My feeling is that it will make it more real if there is an owner's name.  Seems like we have had some criticism for not being open about our members.
Please let me know if I can do anything.  I am still trying to deal with Callen's loss.

Hi Group,
    It has been a very difficult week.  My youngest affected filly was euthanized today.  I have copied the email I sent to Dr. Finno.  I wanted her to know a little about Callen as Callen has so generously provided the study with her feet.  I would also like all of you to know a little about her.   
Hi Carrie,
    By now Callen is gone and her feet are probably being prepared for shipment.  Attached is a photo of her shortly after her birth a little over a year ago.  For some reason, I feel I need to let you know a little bit about her life as for me it is significant. 
    She was perfectly normal when she was born but within a few days I noticed her feet looked ragged like an early version of the other three Connemaras I have/had with HWSS.  When she was two weeks old she became very ill with pneumonia and bacterial infections from Salmonella, E. Coli and Enterococcus.  All this is in the records I sent to you last week but they don't describe her struggle to survive.  She was hospitalized for a month and during most of that time she had terrible diarrhea and fever.  She and her dam were in isolation for weeks.  When I would go to visit her I would need to put on a gown, gloves, tall plastic booties that had to be dunked in a soak before going into isolation, into her stall and when preparing to leave.  During the worst of it, she would be lying down when I arrived and she didn't have the strength to rise. I would rub her body and feel the heat, so much heat from her.  Her temperature was up to 106 degrees at times.  I was so afraid she wouldn't be coming home.  She had not been named by the time she was hospitalized so while she was struggling to survive, I searched for a name that would match her spirit.  I found the name "Callen".  The origin is Gaelic and it means "mighty in battle"  which was incredibly appropriate for her. 
    When Callen was brought into the hospital I asked Dr. Brackenhoff to look at the condition of her feet and told him I had three others with similar hoof problems.  I knew at that time that I was going to have a struggle on my hands to keep her hoof-healthy...we just needed to find the cause so I would know how to treat it.  Maybe with one so young I could get an early start and she would not have to go through the pain that her siblings experienced.  Dr. Brackenhoff took photos of her feet (which he has agreed to forward to you) and sent them to Rood and Riddle and others.  They felt it was a fungal infection so while she was at Oakridge they gave her several CleanTrax treatments...she was such a trooper.  A few weeks after bringing her home she became strong enough to rejoin the herd and with the exception of one small respiratory set-back in March of this year, she has been perfect in all areas other than her feet. 
    What made this difficult is that she was so perfect in all ways but her feet.  She was very good-natured, curious, intelligent, beautiful.  The perfect dun coloring, straight legs, good conformation, soft eyes, affectionate.  When you don't have good feet though, everything else can be perfect but it's not enough.  Her feet were falling apart so severely that John Muldoon, the farrier, and Dr. Brackenhoff felt it would be best to euthanize her.  In my heart I had known this was coming as I could see the deterioration of her feet on a daily basis.  As much as I hoped there was something more that could be done (we already had her in shoes, on supplements and keratex), I did not want her to suffer. 
    The most unusual thing about this is that four weeks ago I didn't know about your study.  I had been researching on the internet but was searching under fungal infections and water and soil contamination.  Since I had four foals from two separate broodmares with the same problem, it never occurred to me that it could be genetic.  I came so close to losing the information she can provide you, if Jocelyn had not contacted me four weeks ago.  It's as if Callen survived as long as she could so she could be in your gives me comfort.  Please remember her when you examine her feet.  I hope that you can derive a wealth of information from her feet and her blood samples and that this information will help prevent other "perfect" ponies from suffering.
Thank you,
Kathy Fowler