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Prized Horse on the Mend

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 11, 2009

One of the Equine Center's most popular horses is recovering from surgery after being sidelined by a rare form of colic.

Brenda Hess-McAskill had to make a tough decision after being at UNH less than a year. One of the horses in the equine program was gravely ill; he needed surgery. And she had to give the okay.

Hess-McAskill is the equine facility manager in the farm department of the Equine Center.

On Dec. 28 after his morning feeding, Cooper, a 16-year-old Paint/Shire cross, appeared to be in great pain. Dr. Irving Salkovitz from Wadleigh Falls Veterinary Clinic examined him and knew he needed further evaluation.

Cooper was taken to the New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Dover where it was determined his ileum was caught in a small space between the liver, portal vein and the pancreas, causing a rare type of colic that most horses don’t survive.

Without surgery, he wouldn’t.

So, the vets at New England Equine Medical performed emergency surgery, removing eight feet of Cooper’s intestine.

“It’s been years since a big surgery like that has been needed here,” says Hess-McAskill. “If we hadn’t been able to get him referred right away, he wouldn’t have made it. We’re lucky to have New England Equine so close.”

Cooper is recovering beautifully, she adds. The stitches and staples have been removed and he is being turned out in a small paddock for exercise. From there he will go to a large paddock and by April, Cooper will be “back in commission.”

The decision to save Cooper was a difficult one financially, Hess-McAskill says, but he has many uses at UNH, including by students in two and four year degree programs.

Cooper is also used for riding lessons and for students to practice body clipping and leg wrapping but his main talent is teaching students the art of dressage. He has been the high point champion at several Intercollegiate Dressage Association competitions.

“It’s not so easy just to go out and buy another horse,” Hess-McAskill says. “The horses here are really valuable. Cooper is safe to handle by students and the staff. He has a good personality and there’s not a mean bone in his body. Some trainers don’t use horses in their lesson programs that are under 13 years old.”

The UNH equine program has about 28 horses, all donated by generous individuals in our community. The animals are accepted on a 30-day trial basis because not all of them are a good fit, Hess-McAskill says. Some are too young (Cooper is considered middle age), some have too many injuries, and some aren’t good with people.

Cooper had surgery on a Sunday. That Monday, a mother and daughter who often frequent the UNH horse barns came by and asked about him.

“People remember him. Visitors are fond of him,” Hess-McAskill says. “He’s a really good horse.”

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