Miracle Milton's Story
*DISCLAIMER – Milton’s leg issues are a result of him being born too early and the vets have confirmed that they are NOT a genetic issue.
Make sure you check out the VIDEO at the very bottom of the page!
Milton’s story starts (even before he was conceived) with Mindy, his mom. Mindy was an excellent show horse of mine for years before I attempted to breed her for the first time in the spring of 2015. Mindy didn’t catch through two attempts with frozen AI and I was obviously disappointed as it was a dream of mine for Mindy to have a foal and it was expensive! Instead of saving to rebreed her the next year, I started wondering if I wanted to have my own stallion......and along came Finn. As soon as I started working with him spring of 2016 as a two year old, I knew he had stud potential written all over him and I needed to purchase him!
Fast forward to spring of 2018 and Finn got to be a show horse first, a stallion second and I could finally risk live covering mares to him. Mindy was bred May of 2018, but she didn’t catch the first time. She was proving to be a tough maiden mare to get in foal! She came back into heat right when Finn and I were headed to an out of town show so she didn’t get bred beginning of June. Then I got the call; Mindy had hurt her leg really bad on the bottom of a gate while Finn and I were away in Alberta. Due to the severity of her injury she stopped cycling completely for almost 2 months! If you are curious as to what her leg looked like and how it healed please see the gallery of Mindy’s injury!
Finally at the end of July, the vets were successful in getting Mindy to cycle again to be bred. I didn’t want to skip a year as she was 11 years old and still a maiden mare....I figured it would be better late than never! We bred Mindy at the end of July to Finn and pregnancy checked her 17 days later.....but the vet couldn’t give me an answer as to whether she was pregnant or not?!! Her uterus was not toned enough but she had this floating 8mm dot in her uterus (an embryo should have been 15mm). We put her on regumate for 2 weeks and checked her again.........there was a heartbeat, meaning that it was a viable pregnancy! Since the vet figured she was a higher risk mare, we put her on regumate until Dec 2018. Below is a video of Milton's heart beat!
So as you can see, Milton was a bit of a miracle from the start!
At the end of May 2019, Mindy’s udder was starting to heavily bag up. I was concerned about her as she wasn’t due until July 3rd, but not knowing what her normal gestation length was, I figured she could be a mare that typically goes early. A foal is called premature if they are born before 320 days of gestation. Milton was born at 330 days on a stormy June 23rd morning which is 10 days early from a typical QH mare. Milton is what we call dysmature as he was not born before 320 days but he was born before he had developed completely. Milton just loved life so much he wanted to start right away! The delivery was easy on his maiden mom and I even jinxed him when I said to my good friend Lainy (that was also present) that he had nice straight legs! That was until he stood up! He could barely stand due to the extreme laxity of his tendons and ligaments in all of his limbs and was very crooked EVERYWHERE. That didn’t stop him from getting up and nursing however! He had a small birth weight, silky coat with barely any mane......many signs that he was dysmature. Learning lesson for me, as a relatively new breeder, I missed these signs. I had a vet out to check him at less than 1 day of age and she also missed the signs. The major issue with dysmature foals? The potential to have incomplete ossification of their bones (meaning that their bones are still too soft and not completely formed making them highly susceptible to crushing). I was told from the vet at the time to just keep an eye on him for the first couple of weeks and if he hadn’t straightened out then to contact them.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and Milton’s hind end was getting stronger but his front legs really had not improved and he was started to look sore if he ran around too much. I took him up to the vet at 18 days old for xrays of his knees. Once again the incomplete ossification of his carpal (knee) bones was missed. I was told not to splint him as it would weaken his already lax tendons and ligaments and leave him and his mom locked up in a 12 x 24 stall 24/7. The plan was to check him again in a couple of weeks.
A week went by and I was frustrated that my Milton was not looking any better and still looked sore and I was feeling helpless by not being able to do anything for him. I called my current vet and didn’t get any further answers so went looking for a 2nd opinion and I switched vets. The new vet saw him at 30 days old. Her recommendation was to tube cast him but the problem was that his front legs were no longer straight when not weight bearing. At an early age his legs did straighten completely when he was lying down. But we had missed the window to tube cast him so we tried a different option: special shoes that would be glued to his front feet to help him break over differently and hopefully help to straighten him. It was worth a try!
Picture of his special shoes
We tried the special shoes for 2 weeks with no improvement. Lainy also helped me figure out a way to KT tape Milton to try and help support him. By August 12th, my vet now recommended that surgery was the only option for my colt. Surgery was going to be expensive ($4500) but if it would fix him, why not? We got updated xrays of his front knees and we started sending them out to different surgeons in western Canada. I was already not looking forward to the 10+ hour trip to get to one of those clinics as balancing in the trailer for a short trip was already so hard for little Milton!
Then came the bad news: in the xrays, the surgeons all saw crushed carpal (knee) bone in the lateral (outside) aspect of both front knees. That meant two things: the surgery might not prove to be as effective because the growth plate in the lateral (outside) aspect of his knee might be too damaged AND even with a successful surgery, Milton will be prone to early onset arthritis and a life full of pain. After talking to my local vet and 5 specialized surgeons the option they recommended was to put Milton down.
Ok we will let that sink in a minute. I was going to lose Milton. Mindy’s first foal. Finn’s first colt. The product of my two favourite horses! Now having to save up for a $4500 surgery didn’t seem so bad! I don’t think I have ever cried so much as I made the appointment on August 22nd to put my little buddy down. I had never met a foal before with such a zest for life and yet he wasn’t going to get to live it!
August 19th – Here is video of my little guy wanting to play! So much life in him, how can I do this?
August 20th – My friend, Sharon, came over to take some professional photos of Milton playing in the field.
August 21st – I went to see a kinesiologist, Cal, that treated Milton’s mom, Mindy, for a strange lump on her forehead a few years back. He has a sixth sense about him. I hadn’t talked to him for about 4 years, yet on Sunday, August 18th, he drove out to my place to see how Mindy and I were doing (I wasn’t home).........do you believe in signs? Cal figured Milton could benefit from some of his herbal mixes so I figured I was game to try something like that. But would a 2 month old colt let me squirt 3 tablespoons of herbs into his mouth every day? Would I just be keeping him alive to torture him?
August 22nd – I cancelled my appointment to put down Milton. I just couldn’t do it. How do you put down something that so clearly loves life and wants to live? I decided right then and there that when Milton decides it’s his time to leave this earth then I will honor his decision but today wasn’t the day!
So what should I do now? I often thought that as I mixed turmeric with golden seal, strontium support, ashwagandha and the little yellow pill in a pot on the stove. I cut it 50% with apple sauce. Milton was such a good boy and let me syringe 60 mls of this into his mouth at least twice a day (I still do this today and although the novelty has wore off he still lets me do it with minimal protest). No more being locked in a stall! He had lived in a stall from 18 days old to almost 2 months old which is no life for him. I turned him out to be a horse. I had all the vets caution me that if I turned him out, he would become more and more crooked and he wouldn’t make weaning age. I guess we were going to have to prove them wrong!
I continued to think outside the box about alternative treatments. The option of surgery hadn’t completely left my mind but I knew the trip was going to be so hard on him and I decided it wasn’t worth putting him through something that may or may not work. After my friend Heather lent me her infrared lights (revitavet) for a while to treat Milton, I decided I needed a set of my own and invested in lights for him. I also asked Cali Brandt about her PEMF treatments and whether she thought they might be beneficial for Milton. She wasn’t sure but was willing to experiment at a VERY reasonable fee.
Since Sept 2019, Milton gets his lights on the outside of his knees every day for 15 minutes. The goal is to help heal the crushed bone and stimulate that growth plate to catch up with the inside. Cali has done 6 treatments on him from Sept to Dec 2019 and we will be continuing treatments into the new year. Milton gets approx 1 tablespoon a day of turmeric as well as a mix of the other herbs mentioned above. I keep up on corrective trimming to ensure he breaks over like he should. I no longer do the KT tape as the weather hasn’t helped it stick to his limbs! Milton has been in with his sisters since mid Oct 2019 and LOVES to play and be the annoying little brother.
Milton made his 6 month old birthday sound and full of life. The snow since then has been hard on the little guys front legs but he doesn’t let much get him down. He is not quite straight and I am still concerned with the left front but he has certainly made it to a point that no one predicted. He runs around and acts like a normal weanling (although he is spoilt and has yet to be weaned from his mom, Mindy). I haven’t gotten updated xrays done yet but sometime in the future I will be getting them done to see what is happening in those knees. The biggest questions are: have I been able to heal crushed bone? Is there arthritis forming already?
We don’t know what the future holds for Milton but he puts a smile on my face each and every day so he is worth keeping around until he is uncomfortable to do so. He loves life and is such a character. He doesn’t know he is disabled but I am sure he knows he is special. I affectionately call him my Stink Stink cause he is such a little stinker. He is smart and has such a nice balance to his lope and has already told me that he would like to be a cowhorse one day. Will he be sound? Will he be rideable? If not then maybe he is going to be a therapy horse, an in hand challenge horse or a mascot? Or just a horse that likes warm hugs every day :)
Milton would like to put a smile on your face too! Lainy came up with #miltonmonday because Milton makes Mondays marvelous :) I am working on having Milton merchandise for everyone to purchase to support Milton’s journey. I will be doing some mass orders of items and am adding items to www.zazzle.ca where you can purchase Milton merchandise directly (use the search phase Milton Monday). A percentage of every sale goes directly towards Milton’s treatments and other costs associated with him. Milton and I cannot thank you all enough for your support: LETS MAKE MILTON FAMOUS!
A GREAT BIG THANKS!
Special thanks to Lainy Procter for everything she has done for Milton! Not only was she there with me when he was born but she also learnt how to treat him while I was away so he wouldn’t have to miss out on his light treatment or his herbal paste. She has attended vet appointments and farrier appointments and has been irreplaceable! I know she loves Milton as much as I do.
Thanks to Sharon Bull for taking some amazing pictures of him in August 2019.
Thanks to Shelagh Stadel, Myrna Thiessen and Sheri Graham for their support in attending some of his vet appointments with me! And again I would like to thank Sheri coming over for a visit and always lending a hug and a shoulder to cry on together as we both love the little stinker so much!
Thanks Dustie Hall for writing a kids story about Milton! (stay tuned for more details about this!)
Thanks to Lisa Chaisson who has inspired her class to do a fundraiser for Milton!
Thanks to Heather Bowing for lending me her revitavet light system for almost 2 weeks until I could get mine.
Thanks to Judy Hyde for all your support, advice and guidance.
Thanks to Cal Wheaton for giving us one last hope!
Thanks to Nicole Runcie for coming out to see Milton and giving some physiotherapy suggestions!
Thanks to Dave deWit for working with special glue on shoes for Milton and fitting him in your busy schedule!
Thanks to Cali Brandt for coming all the way from Vanderhoof to give Milton PEMF treatments! I feel like these treatments have been vital to his success!
Thanks to Jeff for supporting me and not thinking I am completely crazy!
And for all of his current followers! Thank you so much for believing in him!
(sorry if I missed anyone!!!!!!)
Here is Part 1 of Milton's Progress on video. June 23rd to Dec 2019.