ONE of the kingdom’s leading show jumping horses is recovering from serious burn injuries under the care of one of the Royal Family’s top vets … with the support of the whole equine community and other animal-lovers.
Twister, a stunning Dutch Warmblood standing 18.2hands tall, is proving to be a wonder horse after making incredible strides against the odds after sustaining 65 per cent burns in a freak accident.
He used to compete in the highest show jumping class in the kingdom - the Grand Prix – and GulfWeekly once captured him in all his glory being ridden by Mohammad Al Jaromi in a challenging competition in Saar.
Dr Lidia Bizhenka, a veterinarian at the Royal Stables, said in an exclusive interview with this newspaper: “His burns are healing well right now.”
Other complications, however, have reared their ugly head too. Blood tests revealed that Twister had started to develop liver failure. Intensive supportive liver therapy followed and now his liver function tests are recording normal levels
“It’s critical to catch this problem at its earliest stage because when ‘liver parameters’ in the blood are significantly high, it means that more than 80 per cent of the liver is already dead, at this point it’s so difficult for a horse to recover. We revised his diet and did some changes to provide him with more energy, because horses with burns require a lot of energy to support the healing process,” explained Dr Lidia.
Calamity struck 18-year-old Twister when he got loose from his groom and ran into a smouldering pile of manure. A dry pile had recently been placed on top of the burning waste and when he ran into it, flames suddenly shot up his legs. It spooked him and he fell over on to his side.
In similar circumstances in Bahrain, the horse would likely have been euthanised, but horse lover Jerri Taylor and a friend convinced his owner to allow them to purchase him in an attempt to save his life.
“He definitely has a fighting spirit,” said Jerri, who is well-known on the island’s equestrian scene as GulfWeekly’s former Too Hot To Trot columnist. “Horses will let you know that they want to live. From the first day I saw him after the injury, I knew he had a spark of life in his eyes. He wasn’t ready to give up.
“He is the sweetest horse on the island. I would trust him with a five-year-old beginner. He absolutely loves people. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
“Everyone in the horse community knows Twister and will tell you the same thing. He has so much more to give.”
To prove the point, a fund-raising event was staged to help cover the cost of his treatment at Bahrain Rugby Football Club on Thursday evening.
Supporters wore Help Save Twister T-shirts and manned stalls containing a variety of goodies on sale.
“So many people are getting involved. People I don’t even know have stepped forward to help, it is so humbling,” said Jerri, stable manager and horse riding instructor at Al Maha Stables.
“A lady from the Piece of Cake shop arrived with baked delights and a farrier friend gave me BD100. I shed a few tears today over the kindness shown.
“I believe this is a chance to recognise how kind people really are in this country - how people who don’t even know each other can come together and do something so wonderful. How great is that!”
Rugby club GM Derek McKenzie said: “Our club is at the heart of the community and our members are always ready to help a worthy cause. We’re all great animal lovers too and wanted to do all we could to help Twister get back to full health.”
In just four hours on Thursday supporters of all ages raised BD1,200 by selling a range of homemade cakes and cookies and donations are still coming in.
Treatment is currently costing around BD45 a day for ointments, antibiotics, painkillers and gastro-protective care, plus his livery, wood shavings, special food and supplements. On days when he needs further supportive therapy for his liver the cost increases to BD65.
He will stay with Dr Lidia at the clinic in the Endurance Village in Zallaq until his stance has stabled and his wounds healed, which will probably take between four to seven months, although full recovery could take as long as two years.
His legs are also suffering from pastern dermatitis, a skin reaction that affects the horse’s lower legs, but being diagnosed and treated early, there’s a good chance of full recovery in around a month.
Dr Lidia was born in Brest, Belarus, and for most of her life lived in the Russian port city on the Baltic Sea of St Petersburg before moving to work in Moscow. She first came to the kingdom three years ago to deliver a horse to His Majesty King Hamad, a gift from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Despite its small size, the kingdom punches above its weight in the equine world finding success in the horse-jumping arena and in, particular, on the sport’s endurance field.
Dr Lidia has been working in Bahrain for two years as a new equine clinic, currently under construction, starts to take shape to improve veterinary facilities on the island.
“Equine veterinary medicine is my life,” she said. “I do what I love. When you are saving the life of a horse it’s an amazing feeling, especially during a critical time in intensive care. At the end you are exhausted but so happy.”
She is quietly optimistic about Twister, although there is a long way to go. “Sometimes when horses suffer a big burned area, the healed scars can affect their movement. Plus, with open wounds, there is always the chance of severe systemic infection (sepsis) which can happen at any time.
“I think in the best case scenario he can become a pleasure horse or a companion to another horse in the paddock. Will he ever compete again at such a high standard? I don’t think so. Firstly, you have to consider his age and, secondly, if his hair does not grow up again, tack will harm his naked skin.
“But we’re talking about a horse, often the scenario with them goes vice versa to what we expect. So, time will show if he can do something more.”
Twister is a battler so no-one would rule out this wonder horse from riding high again. “When the power of the horse community and other animal lovers combine we can get a good outcome,” said Dr Lidia. “Times like this, I believe, make people more friendly and cohesive. Such situations, or even worse, can happen with any horse and what the owner and the horse really need is support - sometimes just spiritually, sometimes in a material way as well.
“There have been a lot of success stories, you hear about them all the time. Twister’s story is now up and running because of the enthusiasm and bravery of people such as Jerri.”
Twister is not the first horse Jerri has stepped in to save. She once rescued one being starved to death and he had to be placed on an IV drip for a week. “I didn’t think he would make it,” admitted Jerri. “Colombo was 21-years-old and if you looked at him today, you just wouldn’t believe it was the same horse! He looks amazing, has a wonderful life and he is still with me.”
Stanley Louis Szecowka
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