The last few months at SpiritHorse have tested us, pushed us, and exhausted us both mentally and financially.
​On Saturday, January 29th, we welcomed a new mini horse, named Taco, onto the ranch. He was ridden over the weekend, and we quickly knew he was perfect for us. With his patience, good mind, and adorable spots, we all fell in love with him. Later that week, we noticed he was showing signs of soreness in both stifle joints. Our vet was already scheduled to come visit our new Napa facility, so we added him to the list of horses to be seen.
Meeting Taco for the 1st time
Charlotte with Diva and Trielle with Queenie, walking into the Napa barn together for the 1st time
On Sunday, February 6th, we hauled our first group of horses up to Napa. Zee, Rev, Taco, Diva, and Queenie (who we picked up on the way). We gallantly played with them all over the new place…well, except Taco. He stayed in his stall since he was sore. Poor dude.

By the next morning, Diva began showing signs of being really sick. She had a gnarly deep hacking cough and a green snotty dripping nose. Lucky for us, the vet was already scheduled to come the next day.
On Tuesday, our vet came out for some dental procedures, x-rayed Taco and diagnosed him with small patellas, and swabbed Diva’s nose, just like how we’ve been swabbing ours for COVID tests for years.

By Friday, we received the horrible news. The news brought us to our knees in disbelief! The outcome was unforeseeable and hard to grasp! Diva was diagnosed with Strangles. We were baffled!

Strangles is a very contagious bacterial disease caused by Streptococcus Equi. It is characterized by the swelling of the lymph nodes and the formation of abscesses mostly in the head and neck areas. It’s gross.

We quickly implemented strict quarantine protocols and procedures. Not only were we concerned for our horses, but we were even more concerned about everyone else’s. Napa was a brand new location for us, and we were walking into that place with 7 horses already boarded there. We could not get our new friends sick! We tested all of our horses in both locations, shut down lessons for a weekend to decontaminate everything in American Canyon, and prepared ourselves for a battle.
Our Napa Facility
Diva cycled through a pretty bad case of it. Rev and Queenie got through it with mild symptoms that were still gross enough. Zee never got it. And Taco, well…Taco was labeled as a quiet carrier. Unbeknownst to us, he came carrying the sickness without any symptoms. There was no way for us to know that he had it. There was also no way of knowing what was going to happen. With the Napa horses all on the upswing, we thought we were on the home stretch and almost done…

​Then, at the beginning of April, the unthinkable happened. Dually, our stoic, gorgeous, kind draft horse began acting lethargic. Then, the runny nose came. We thought, “no way can he have it! We’ve done everything right! How did he get it so many weeks after the others??”

Coincidently at the same time, Goose was having signs of a urinary tract infection or something similar because he was having trouble emptying his bladder. His urine and blood samples were normal. Our vet was scheduled to come out to examine him closer, so we added Dually to the list to be seen.

Our vet checking Goose out for his urinating problem
While our vet was examining Goose, we noticed his nose was unusually snotty. So she swabbed both of the boys, and left with nose swabs from Goose and Dually. Goose’s pee problem…well, that’s still a mystery…

A few days later, we received more devastating news. They were both positive for Strangles. The vet suspected that Dually was exposed when Taco was here, held the bacteria, and was now being effected by it. Strangles is an ancient and weird sickness.

We took the sick boys and put them in the farthest pasture from the others, but we knew all of the horses on the property were already exposed based on the proximity of the horses to one another. We decided to bring Taco and Diva back down to American Canyon. This freed up our Napa location to be thoroughly cleaned, sterilized, and deemed as clean. We again prepared ourselves for battle, but weren’t as concerned because we thought we knew what to expect. Thankfully, all of the horses at the American Canyon location are ours, so we weren’t worried about getting other people’s horses sick too.

Days turned to weeks. Dually and Goose were showing very little improvement. Diva and Taco were still testing positive, even though they were very much not visibly sick. We did blood tests and nasal swabs on our other horses, which showed they were exposed, but would not get it. We began to realize our case was not normal.

Our vet made the tough call after Goose’s neck began to swell all way down to his shoulder, he was losing too much weight, and he was getting wobbly as he walked…Goose had a severe enough case. He needed to go to the horse hospital at UC Davis. Diva and Taco also had to begin treatment to flush out their guttural pouches, since they appeared to now be chronic carriers, having testing positive for months. This procedure, done at UC Davis, is designed to flush out the bacteria so that they can no longer infect others. If the procedure is not done, then they carry the bacteria forever and can infect other horses at any time. So off they went…
Charlotte and Goose arriving at UC Davis
Goose at UC Davis
Goose stayed at UC Davis for a few days and was on IV antibiotics. He improved well enough to come home, but will remain on oral antibiotics for 3-4 months. UC Davis said he was one of the worst cases.

​While he was there, his bladder problem seemed to resolve itself. We thank the heavy round of antibiotics!

A few days later, Dually began to decline. He was on the next trailer up to UC Davis. His case was worse, he could not walk a straight line and was barely able to stand

Dually was diagnosed with a strain of Strangles nicknamed Bastard Strangles. He not only has the usual abscesses with this sickness, but he also has them in his liver and possibly encapsulated in his sinuses. On top of that, he might have IMM (Immune Mediated Myositis). Sadly, we still do not know if Dually is going to make it. His appetite remains low. His case is now being studied by doctors and students at UC Davis. They have never seen one like this before. 

Dually and the minis heading to UC Davis. Dually is leaning on the partition because he could barely stand
Yesterday, May 11, Dually came home. He seems to be responding to treatment, but is fighting for his life. The plan is to take him back to UC Davis in 10 days for some blood work and more tests as long as he keeps on improving. Goose, Taco, and Diva will also make the trip up to UC Davis 2-4 more times for more guttural pouch flushing until they are cleared.

Typically Strangles cases last 3-4 weeks. Our outcome is super rare. Vets across the country have requested our horses blood for medical trials.

Dually at UC Davis receiving IV meds and antibiotics
We’ve not spoken publicly about this because we had no idea it would get to this point.

​We are now desperate…for prayers, thoughts, and frankly, money. Vet visits, nasal swab tests, bleach, medical supplies, trailer hauls, overnight stays, antibiotics, IV fluids…we’ve spent over $20,000 since February and anticipate, at least, another $10,000 in expenses.

To be in this waiting, not knowing if Dually is going to make it, watching Goose still suffer and feel lousy, the minis still testing positive and needing flushes…we are desperate for some hope, some words of encouragement, to continue doing the next right thing…to endure this until it’s over…

So friends, we ask for help. Would you send us something? Words, thoughts, money…they are all powerful in this healing journey.

We have a few ways you can donate: Venmo (@spirithorseacnapa), Cash, Check, or through the Facebook Fundraiser (Click HERE).

Thank you. We could not make it through this season without your encouragement and your help. We will keep you posted on our journey.