Horseback Riding After Health Threats

How one mare beat navicular syndrome and pigeon fever to make to to the Wrangler Nationals Finals Rodeo.

From America's Horse

In 2010, when Mulberry Canyon Moon won three rounds at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with barrel racer Angie Meadors, it was a triumph for the mare, who had struggled with severe heel pain, something commonly described as navicular syndrome.

She spent some time in wooden rocking horseshoes, and she ran in special shoes – eggbar wedges with aluminum pads. Now owner Matt Dunn says, “She’s really more sound than she has ever been.”

But shortly after the 2010 NFR, her happy ending became threatened. After the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, “Mulberry” came down with pigeon fever.

“We just about lost her,” Matt says.

Pigeon fever is a bacterial infection often characterized by abscesses and swelling along a horse’s chest and midline, giving the horse a puffed-chest appearance like a pigeon. The disease typically occurs in warmer, more arid places such as the western United States and most commonly appears in the summer and fall months. The bacteria live in the soil, and hot, dry weather tends to accelerate bacterial growth.

If you’re confused about vaccinations, equine nutrition, first aid or anything else relating to horse health, then you need the “Your Horse’s Health” DVD collection. On this three-disk set, veterinarians Dr. Tom Lenz and Dr. Kenton Morgan expertly guide viewers through the basics of keeping your horse in great health.

Angie stayed with Mulberry at the Elgin (Texas) Veterinary Hospital for several weeks, and the mare was in intensive care for 45 days as the infection spread internally, into Mulberry’s lungs. According to a story on America’s Horse Daily, horses with internal abscesses have a 30 to 40 percent mortality rate.

“I would have robbed a bank to save that mare,” says Angie, who loves Mulberry like she was her own and is grateful to Matt and his wife, Bendi, for “doing anything and everything.”

Finally, Mulberry began turning the corner.

“When she finally left there, I asked Dr. (Robert) Lewis, ‘How bad was it?’ ” Matt says. “He said, ‘I’m surprised she left here alive.’ ”

Mulberry spent some time convalescing and had a few embryos pulled, and then Bendi began riding her, to see how she’d do. The Dunns weren’t sure how well the mare’s lungs would function or if she’d be able to perform at her previous level.

Troy Crumrine, who had ridden the mare during her successful futurity career, took her to an AQHA show in Ardmore, Oklahoma, in September, just to see what was there. They placed first out of 14 entries.

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” Matt says. Troy took the mare to the All American Quarter Horse Congress in October and did well, and then Angie broached the idea: what about a return appearance at the NFR?

Angie qualified for the 2011 NFR on Heza Bug Leo, owned by Trip Duperier and trained by Latricia Duke. But barrel racers rarely like to depend on one horse to make all 10 runs as the NFR. And a horse who has been there, done that, like Mulberry, would be a valuable asset.

“Everything was going well,” Matt says, “so we said ‘We’ve got nothing to lose.’ ”

So in December 2011, Mulberry again beat the odds to run down the alley at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. She and Angie finished second in one round, and also took a third and fifth – no easy feat when you’re competing against the top competitors in the world. Plus, Angie only had Mulberry back for about a month prior to the big rodeo.

The “Your Horse’s Health” three-disc set is a must-have for youth groups, aspiring veterinarians and anyone interested in keeping their horses healthy and happy. Even the most veteran horse owner will learn something essential to keeping their horse in great health.

“The horse loves it, and that’s why we’re still running her,” Matt says. “But we’re not going to run her too hard and ask her for too much. We’re thankful that she’s alive and thankful that she’s healthy again … She doesn’t owe us nothing, that horse don’t.”

Angie’s just grateful to see the mare’s return to her usual spunky, sassy self.

“She expects to be fed first, she expects to get the most attention,” Angie says, laughing. “She’s such an amazing horse. It’s an honor to get to ride her.”

Mulberry was bred by Jim Rod and Pamela Gerhart of Merkel, Texas. She is by Marthas Six Moons and is out of the Appendix mare De Streaker.