Paso Fino Horse to be Released after Recovering from Gunshot Wounds

May 12, 2010

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Tara Pettinato

NORTH GRAFTON, Mass. — “Picaro,” the horse from Spencer shot twice in the head in January, will be released from medical care and rehabilitation Thursday morning after recovering from his wounds.

The 14-year-old stallion is being adopted by Anni Howell of Riverview Paso Farms, a Mount Jackson, Virginia breeding facility for Paso Finos.

“We are very proud to welcome Picaro into our family of Paso Finos,” said Mrs. Howell. “Paso Finos are known for a number of special characteristics, especially their uncommon gait. Picaro’s story of survival and determination against all odds makes him a very special horse, and we will help him carry on his unique bloodline.”

After a series of surgeries at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Hospital for Large Animals, Picaro has been recovering at Ross Haven Farm, an equine rehabilitation facility in Sturbridge, Mass., run by Dr. Carl Kirker-Head and his wife, Romona, both of whom also work at the Cummings School. Members of the media and the general public are welcome to attend Picaro’s send-off on Thursday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. at the facility, located at 188 Shepard Road in Sturbridge.

In January, Picaro had several surgeries to remove bullet fragments, his badly damaged right eye, as well as parts of the hyoid apparatus, the system of bones that forms the base of his tongue. Surgeons, led by Dr. Kirker-Head, also implanted 3 large metal pins as part of an external fixation device to secure his badly damaged right jawbone.

“When we first saw Pic, he had sustained major injuries to the head and lost his right eye and the ability to swallow,” said Dr. Kirker-Head. “He nonetheless showed tremendous grit and a determination to recover. Thanks to the special care provided by the dedicated team of people working in Picaro’s best interests at Tufts, our rehab center and beyond, I can tell you he’s now able to eat normally and do everything a horse likes to do – admittedly with a reduced visual field on his right hand side.”

Throughout his medical care, Dr. Kirker-Head and others at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine have worked closely with Picaro’s custodian, Kelley Small of West Boylston, Mass., to make decisions about his medical care and review applicants for his new adoptive home. For Small, the horse’s recovery has been nothing short of inspirational.

“There have been times throughout this that his prognosis looked bleak—and I didn’t know if I was saying goodbye for the last time,” said Small. “He is a tough horse, and he has been surrounded by the best caretakers imaginable. I can’t say enough about the students, staff and faculty at the Cummings School, and especially Dr. Kirker-Head. To have supervised Picaro’s care, led his surgery, and opened up his rehab farm to this special horse shows deep compassion for this great case.”

Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Ross Haven Farm took on Picaro’s case at their own expense. Expenses for the horse’s care have surpassed $20,000. To date, community members have come forward with about $3,000 in honor of his remarkable recovery. Those wanting to join the effort may contact the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University or Ross Haven Farm.

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals and two clinics that combined see more than 80,000 cases each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health. The Hospital for Large Animals, known for advancements in surgical, sports medicine, respiratory, and internal medicine, treated more than 1,800 cases last year.

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