By Sarah Carey
An American Drum Horse stallion named Mariah’s Boon was a model patient at the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital between 2008 and 2009, when he received two surgeries and numerous checkups for an abdominal abscess caused by a small wire that had penetrated his stomach.
Now, quite literally, and at only 6 years of age, he’s in the process of becoming a true model horse.
Mariah’s Boon — known affectionately to his owner, Laura Moon, as Boon — has been chosen as the 2012 Celebration Breyer Horse. The Breyer Animal Creations Company, a subsidiary of Reeves International, manufactures plastic, porcelain and resin model horses. As many children who love horses know, these models are carried in toy stores and tack shops and begin as artist’s sculptures. Each year, the company holds BreyerFest, the largest model horse show in the country.
The event draws model horse collectors and enthusiasts to Lexington, Ky. In July 2012, BreyerFest will showcase British breeds, including Dales Ponies, Hackneys, Cleveland Bays, Shires, Gypsy Vanners and the Drum Horse, which is a heavy riding horse that includes Clydesdale, Gypsy Horse and Shire bloodlines.
Moon learned last summer that Breyer was looking for a Drum Horse with show experience and its own Drum outfit. Boon met the criteria: After his health problems resolved, he’s been busy in the show ring, winning such accolades as Grand Champion Stallion at the Florida State Fair for two years in a row and just receiving Grand Champion Drum, Grand Champion Performance Drum and Grand Champion High Point Drum from the Feathered Horse Classic in Georgia.
“I am so proud of him and so pleased with everyone at UF,” Moon said.
Although many a horse owner might covet being selected as the Celebration Breyer Horse, for Moon — although she says she is honored by the designation — the real prize is Boon’s life, which she credits UF’s large animal veterinarians and other staff for saving.
After learning about the American Drum breed, Moon brought Boon home from the farm where he was bred when he was just a year old and began showing him at halter and in showmanship classes at her local equestrian center. After one show, Moon noticed Boon had a fever. Despite a course of antibiotics, the horse’s fever persisted, and her veterinarian recommended a trip to the UF Large Animal Hospital.
UF veterinarians Chris Sanchez and Laura Javsicas found a basketball-sized abscess in Boon’s abdomen. He also had pericarditis, an infection of the sac surrounding his heart. Because of the location of the abscess and involvement of the heart, veterinarians suspected that Boon ate something that penetrated the wall of his stomach and into his chest — they just couldn’t find the culprit.
Boon improved initially, but the abscess returned after antibiotics were discontinued. Boon received a second surgery at UF, during which Dr. Ali Morton created a portal from the abscess to Boon’s skin, a technique called marsupialization. This allowed improved drainage of the abscess after surgery. Even after Boon went home from the hospital, Moon had to clean and flush the abscess twice a day, using a plastic catheter.
Eventually, the hole shrank to the size of a straw. Then one day during a cleaning, Moon saw something dark in the catheter. She pulled out a piece of metal.
“I thought it must have come from the ground, but it didn’t,” she said. “It was in the tube itself.”
A few days later, more metal came out. The culprits were found and the abscess continued to shrink in size. Within five months, the basketball-sized abscess was the size of a golf ball; after a year, it was the size of a grape and Boon looked like he had never been sick.
The syndrome, called “hardware disease,” is common in cattle but quite rare in horses.
The size of Boon’s abscess was monitored with repeated ultrasound exams at the UF Large Animal Hospital.
“I still carry those pieces of metal around in my truck,” she said. “It was a miracle. I am so thankful the UF veterinarians never gave up. They came across an obstacle, put their heads together and came up with a new plan. There was nothing in the books they could follow for what Boon had.”