After being impaled by a tree branch, Amigo the Arabian horse has a will to live

By Helin Jung
March 31, 2010 11:45 AM

The Tennessee rain had finally subsided late in the afternoon of Jan. 17 when Gary Sanderson went out to his barn and saw one of his Arabian horses standing at the gate.

“What are you doing there by yourself?” Sanderson asked the 10-year-old championship endurance horse, named Amigo, and Amigo neighed.

When Sanderson observed that Amigo wasn’t moving, he inspected his gentle, stoic horse and found that Amigo had been impaled through the chest by a sharp tree branch, 2 inches thick and 3 feet long. The horse’s gums had turned blue and he was near death.

Sanderson’s vet thought the most realistic next step was euthanasia, but Sanderson needed another option, so he put Amigo in a trailer and drove for 40 minutes to the University of Tennessee, where doctors removed the branch after applying local anesthesia.

Toxicology tests showed that Amigo had waited over 10 hours for Sanderson to find him.

The UT Large Animal Clinic staff gave Amigo a 2 percent chance of survival. He had broken two ribs, and after surgery, his left lung collapsed. Doctors were later performing a rib restructuring surgery when they lost him on the operation table.

“I called my brother crying to tell him I had to let go of my youngest son,” Sanderson says.

But somehow Amigo miraculously recovered, and “got his legs back under him.” Two days later, he was out eating grass.

He has received 7 liters of blood platelets from another horse and plasma from two other donors, and Amigo’s chances have gone from 2 to 25 percent, to 50 percent. Though his wound is still significant, he may be able to go back home next week.

Sanderson took out a credit card loan, and with the help of donations from Amigo fans, has raised nearly $30,000 to pay for the cost of all of Amigo’s procedures.

“Over 20 years, I’ve never seen anything like that, the way he comes back,” Sanderson says. “He’s just got a will to live. I don’t think he wants to leave.”

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