Last year In May, Commandalena, a 27-year-old quarter horse stallion, fell twice during evaluation for colic by his primary care veterinarian at his home farm. After the second fall, the stallion remained down for about an hour and subsequently was referred to the Equine Medical for emergency evaluation. 

Upon Commandalena’s arrival at the center, it was difficult to fully evaluate him due to obvious acute pain in his hindlimbs and severe lameness. The medicine team caring for Commandalena — Elizabeth MacDonald, clinical instructor of equine medicine; Krista Estell, clinical assistant professor of equine medicine; and medicine resident Dr. Megan Marchitello — felt that the acute pain and severe lameness after his traumatic fall, along with an abnormal rectal palpation, were consistent with a pelvic or spinal fracture.

Although further diagnostic imaging was recommended, Commandalena first needed to be made more comfortable. He was stabilized in a sling and placed in the center’s fully padded, oversized isolation neurologic stall to keep him as comfortable as possible while allowing a callus to develop over his suspected fracture. 

The stallion’s calm acceptance during his hospitalization was essential to his recovery. Receiving 24/7 care, IV fluids, a lidocaine drip, oral antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, as well small, frequent meals of soaked equine senior feed, gave him a chance to heal.

Commandalena’s owner, Dana Grafft of Frederick, Maryland, could not be more pleased with the recovery of her amazing show horse. A winner of $144,000, earning 260 American Quarter Horse Association points in reining and ranch-riding during his career, Commandalena is a sought-after breeding stallion.

The hardest part for Dana during Commandalena’s treatment were COVID-19 visitation restrictions, which prohibited her from being with the horse that she cares for daily. 

“The staff were amazing, providing daily updates and pictures,” Dana said. “They were honest and gave me the worst-case, best-case scenario every day. He had a fractured pelvis with a high break close to an artery, and a wrong movement could sever the artery and be fatal. He was an excellent patient! Years of training, showing, breeding, and handling taught him to be calm and quiet, and he trusted the staff.

“Eventually, he was allowed to come home, with stall rest next to his favorite broodmare; initially hand-walking once a day, then twice a day, round pen turnout, and eventually full turnout.  We followed all the discharge instructions exactly. Fast forward 10 months, and he is back breeding mares, as well loping the paddocks, spinning a 180° on his pivot foot, and running back.   

“Thanks to all the staff that gave him around-the-clock care, he is still here today. He is very special to me. I used to show him and now raise and show his babies in reining and reined-cow horse competitions. He isn't just an old horse. I owe him everything. He has never given up on me, and I would not give up on him. The staff at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center probably thought I was crazy to invest the time and money to save an old horse though they never gave up on him because he had a big heart and wanted to live.”

Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.