Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 5

by | Dec 25, 2022 | Equine Ameloblastoma

This blog post series is purely a record of our journey with Rosie. It is not an in-depth look at the condition, nor are they intended to be used as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. Should your horse be showing signs of, or is diagnosed with, ameloblastoma please consult with your equine vet, surgeon and dentist.

These blog posts contain images that some people may find distressing, however I believe they are a valuable part of understanding the progression of the condition. Please feel free to scroll past the images and only read the text.

Previous Posts
Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 1
Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 2
Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 3
Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 4

The Long Walk Home
The months of March through June 2022 were spent getting the weight back on, and watching and waiting for her to start showing signs she was ready. She never did show any signs of being truly ready, she was tired and sore but not “ready”. 

She had more treatments of various kinds in an effort to keep the rest of her body comfy. The tumour was now very large and very heavy and it was clear to see it was a lot for her carry around. While she wasn’t ready to give up she did start spending more time laying down during the day. This took the weight off her head, neck and shoulders.

In June 2022, the drainage tract opened up and pus started draining once again. Our vets were coming out that week to see Jackson so we added Rosie to the run sheet. X-rays were taken to ensure her mandible was still intact and to see if there were any foreign bodies. She was also placed on a minimum 14 day course of antibiotics and bute when required.

After three weeks of being on antibiotics the amount of infection had reduced but not resolved. Additionally within about 3-4 days of stopping the antibiotics the infection would flare and the pus flow would increase. As with any infection there is also pain so every time the infection flared, so did her pain.

I’ll note here that my wonderful vets were able to dispense an extremely strong pain relief injection just in case the worst should happen and we needed to keep her comfortable while we waited for them to arrive and help her pass.

Amazingly throughout this entire time she never once stopped eating, she had a few days where she didn’t finish her food but to be fair her meal size was larger than it realistically should have been. Her weight had picked up and we were able to play with her meal size to ensure she had enough to maintain weight without needing to force feed her.

Knowing her quality of life was starting to become compromised and for me being on the verge of Torben being away interstate and off grid from the end of August through to the start of November with only a few days at home during that time it was time to make plans for Rosie to leave us.

Given the bond that Rose and Torben shared there was no way I was going to have her leave while he wasn’t home. I’ve always said “a day too soon before a day too late” but that does not make it any easier and in Rosie’s case it was perhaps a week… two weeks… too soon, maybe more, only Rosie knows. What we know is saying goodbye to a horse who is still so willing to live despite being so sick and in constant pain is f@#king hard!

A date was set, the vet was booked, the cremation company was booked and we had to hold it together for the next three weeks.

This gave me time to plan. I’ve been present for far too many horses’ final transition, not all of them mine, not all of them pleasant, however all of them taught me something about their final journey home.

I chose the place in the paddock where she would be laid down. I purchased four bales of straw which I used to make a bed for her to land on. I purchased two bales of lucerne hay which was placed around her bed so the herd would be close but not interested in eating the straw.

On her final day, she came in for breakfast and we brushed her all over, got all the tangles out of her mane and tail and made her feel pretty. I snipped off what mane and tail we needed for the jewellery pieces Torben had already picked out. The herd went back out to spend their final hours together.

About an hour before the vet was due we brought everyone in from the paddock so we could spread the straw to make her bed and lay out the lucerne hay. I also cut large pieces of Rosemary bush and Lavender bush which we placed around the outside of her straw bed.

We called the herd over to the fence and gave everyone liquorice, Rosie especially was given tonnes of liquorice. If there was one thing I was sure of it was that she would leave this world with a mouthful of liquorice and not the taste of pus!

The vet arrived and we led Rose to her bed with the herd following to investigate. It wasn’t long before everyone found the lucerne hay and started munching. Two bales of hay between five horses meant no fighting and nothing to monitor, they all ate calmly and we could be present with Rose.

I ran through with my vet how I wanted the process to unfold and she was on board. A sedation was given to relax Rose and we led her to stand in the straw. The general anaesthesia drugs were given and Rosie opted to go down with the tumour facing up which is what we’d aimed for.

Our vet allowed us time to say our final goodbyes and upon our ok, administered “the green dream”. As if saying goodbye to her so young and knowing it was early wasn’t hard enough, her heart was still so strong and she required a third dose… this was and still is so hard to deal with.

She passed quietly and peacefully but not without letting us know she would have kept going. Her body stayed in the paddock with the herd until the following afternoon so they could smell her, touch her, lick her and heartbreakingly, try to get her up.

Just like us horses need time to say goodbye to the physical body. Time to understand that their friend has gone and is not coming back. Most of our herd have experienced death a few times before but Ruby, our newest family member had not, and Rosie’s passing hit her hard.

The cremation company arrived about 24hrs after Rosie had left her body. They do an amazing job for something that is a logistical nightmare given the size and weight of a horse. 10 days after she left us and on her 13th Birthday Rosie’s ashes came home.

It’s still so hard to look at her photos before the tumour seeing her so vibrant and healthy and wishing it could have been different. I know we could have pushed her to have the surgery but my gut says that even if we had, something else would have happened and she would have left us anyway.

From her dianosis to her passing we had nearly three years with Rose. She almost doubled the vets estimated 12-18 months. While our hearts are heavy and we miss her deeply, we are forever grateful for the years we shared with her.

Sometimes they aren’t here for a long time but they are here to teach us. I know I’ve learnt so much from this not only about ameloblastoma but also about myself, about my husband and about our other horses. And mostly a reminder to cherish every moment of every day with those you love for tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Rosie: 15/08/2009 – 05/08/2022

Special Thanks to the People Who Supported Rosie, Torben, Myself & The Herd

Dr Kirsten Jackson – Dental Vet

Dr Peter Harding – Ascot Equine Vet

Dr Heather Barrett – Heartlands Toodyay Vet

Dr Josette Fretton, Dr Kate McKinnon, Dr Kristen Lloyd – West Coast Vet

Laura Bird – One Spirit Animal Healing

Brenda Tobin – Wellness Matters

Zoe Harmer – Pulse AEC (learn about Pulse here)

Amanda Perkins – The Wholistic Equestrian

Larissa Phelps – Dynamic Health Body Work 

Lawnswood Pet Cremation – Lawnswood


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