Any horse owner’s worst nightmare is realized when their mount begins to show the dreaded signs of colic. For Jody Stoudenmier, a Wellington, FL, resident and avid dressage rider and horse owner, she knows the symptoms all too well.
Stoudenmier owns an 11-year-old American-bred Dutch Warmblood mare that joined her string at the end of 2016 and has competed through the Intermediate II level. Sidelined by a suspensory injury last year, Beatrix was prescribed stall rest to aid in her recovery by Dr. Robert Scott of Scott Equine Services based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. An unfortunate but common side effect of the necessary stall rest was colic. Beatrix suffered from six bouts of colic that were resolved without surgery when Dr. Scott referred Stoudenmier and Beatrix to Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC).
“She is such a wonderful mare; a nice mover, very athletic, sweet, sensitive, and easy to handle in the barn,” said Stoudenmier of the mare that regularly competes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, FL, during the winter season. “When she was recovering from her injury we tried everything to prevent her from colicking – diet, medications, hand walking – but, nothing seemed to be working.”
It was then that PBEC’s own board-certified surgeon, Dr. Weston Davis, suggested a laparoscopic surgical approach.
“Her colic had never progressed so far that we needed to do surgery before,” explained Stoudenmier. “But, at that point, I was open to anything! After speaking with Dr. Davis, I immediately had a positive feeling about it.”
Beatrix ready to return to work. Photo courtesy of Jody Stoudenmier
The procedure that Dr. Davis suggested was an endoscopic ablation of nephrosplenic space. In layman’s terms, as a result of Beatrix’s colic, her colon was essentially getting caught or entrapped over the nephrosplenic ligament, which connects the left kidney to the spleen. When the colon is entrapped in this position, its contents cannot move through it and the colon becomes distended, causing the horse considerable pain, and the inevitable colic.
Dr. Davis’ solution was to close or perform an ablation of the nephrosplenic space to prevent further entrapment. The procedure can be conducted endoscopically where the horse does not have to be anesthetized, but undergoes a standing surgery with sedation and local anesthesia. A small incision is made in the left flank and the laparoscope is inserted through a smaller incision close by. The nephrosplenic space is then sutured closed so that the trough that forms the space between the kidney and spleen is obliterated and can no longer entrap the colon.
On October 9, 2017, Beatrix underwent a successful ablation of the nephrosplenic space at the hands of Dr. Davis.
“In the past, I have had several horses undergo surgery where they had to be anesthetized and it was very difficult to get them standing again after surgery,” said Stoudenmier. “We did not have that worry with Beatrix and the approach absolutely made a difference in her recovery.”
Beatrix remained at PBEC for a week and a half after surgery to jump-start her recovery before returning home to Stoudenmier, who has managed her post-surgery care with the help of both Dr. Davis and Dr. Scott.
“Dr. Davis was absolutely wonderful to work with,” said Stoudenmier of her experience at PBEC. “He listened to my concerns, was patient, and kept his mind open.”
Dr. Davis paid a visit to Beatrix in mid-November to perform an ultrasound and together with Dr. Scott approved the mare to return to work. Stoudenmier has begun to introduce trot work into Beatrix’s routine and is optimistically expecting a full recovery, saying, “She looks super and everything looks good for the next two months. My goal by the end of the season is to get her back in the show ring!”