LaKota was part of the July 1996 Bureau of Land Management round-up of wild horses in Nevada. The horses were rounded up to be sold at auction, and if they were not healthy, a worse fate awaited them. Annie and her friend stepped in to help bottle feed and care for the over 100 foals that had been brought in. They were all between only one and three days old. The babies had to be bottle-fed, round the clock, for the first weeks of their lives.
LaKota was one of the sickest foals there. Annie could not bear the thought of a young, defenseless, and ill baby horse being euthanized, so she adopted her.
Kota had severe diarrhea, a huge umbilical hernia, and an ulcerated eye – injuries that likely came from being birthed on the run during the round-up. We don’t know if she hit her eye on a rock or exactly what happened. We do know that she arrived without her mama, not having had the chance to nurse and get the immunity that comes with the mother’s milk.
It took 6 months for the diarrhea to clear up. She was not gaining hardly any weight during that time. The hernia could not be repaired because she was not strong enough to undergo the operation. Annie took a year of dedicated effort to manually press the hernia back up into the correct position, three times a day, so that the muscles and tissues could gradually grow around it and protect it and keep it in its proper place. Finally Kota began to grow and was able to play and enjoy life.
When Kota was about 3 years old, she trotted a few steps one day, and then couldn’t put weight on her leg. It turns out she had broken the second digit in her leg. Often, horses are euthanized right away if their leg is broken. But Annie wouldn’t hear of it, so Kota received the operation to put in a screw to repair the leg. The vet told Annie that if Kota was able to accept the cast, then she could have 5 good years before they might have to freeze the joint, or the before onset of ring bone, or need to euthanize her. Kota did accept the cast! After the cast came off, she needed a special shoe with a bar to support the hoof, with an adjustment every other week to gradually lower the bar until the hoof could be in its normal position. But an error on the part of the farrier caused the screw to break, so after 3 months of recovery, Kota was back to square one. Annie took matters into her own hands at that point, and worked intensively with Kota to help her heal – leg wraps 12 hours on, then 12 hours off. Leg soaks three times a day. Every day! And a long regime of anti-inflammatories. It took a whole year of this TLC for Kota to recover.
July 2012 – now 16 years old, she has full range of her leg, and is just now showing signs of ring bone (13 years later). Looks like she beat all the odds!