Fans of Amigo, the Arabian horse given only a 2 per cent chance of survival following a terrible impaling injury, has marked the third anniversary since that fateful day.
Amigo’s owner, Gary Sanderson, of Luttrell, Tennessee, has spoken emotionally of the journey since Amigo, an accomplished endurance horse, suffered the injury on the night of January 16, 2010 in his 110-acre pasture.
Amigo had somehow been impaled by a five-centimetre wide branch, which entered his left side, snapped two ribs and penetrated his chest cavity, coming to rest against a lung.
Sanderson was told that the odds were stacked against Amigo, but he wanted to give his beloved horse a shot at life.
“I’m willing to go into debt for him. He wants to live. I am not going to give up on him,” he told Horsetalk at the time. He took on extra work to help pay the bills.
Sanderson said he was putting his faith in God, and was prepared to go without in order to meet his horse’s medical bills, which began to climb dramatically. “It will be a setback, but we’ll deal with it.”
Word of Amigo’s plight spread, and supporters rallied to donate generously towards his mounting veterinary bills and follow his progress.
To this day, 10,500 people still follow Amigo’s Facebook page.
Amigo got his chance at life 45 minutes from home, at the Large Animal Clinic at the University of Tennessee.
Amigo was a seriously ill horse. “His gums were already blue,” recalls Sanderson. “His breath was toxic.”
He recounted how Amigo loaded on his horse trailer for the drive to the clinic, and even managed to eat some hay on the way.
Amigo unloaded and made his way to the clinic under his own steam, where he was given a local anesthetic and underwent surgery to remove the 90-centimetre long branch.
Amigo stood through an hour or so of surgery, during which vets not only removed the stick, but excised damaged and rotting tissue from the wound.
“His left lung collapsed during surgery, but they were able to reinflate it,” Sanderson recalls.
Amigo was given only a 2 per cent chance of survival after the surgery, with a bacterial infection proving a life-threatening hurdle.
But Amigo fought back. He overcame hurdle after hurdle, including a blood clot to his brain, before the day came where he could return home to begin his long convalescence.
“He is putting up the good fight,” Sanderson noted a month after the injury. “He is one amazing boy with one amazing will to live!”
As the third anniversary approached, Sanderson acknowledged how Amigo’s injury had changed his outlook on life.
“On many a day I look out and see our nine ‘pasture-children’ as they graze, roll or give chase to one another. So many of those days Amigo is just one of the herd and I don’t think on his past injury.
“Yet there are times, especially on cold and dreary mornings, as I take my coffee on to the front porch that I do remember how awful it was, how bad it hurt, how improbable was his survival and how mountainous were the expenses of his injury.
“Given a 2 per cent chance to live, almost dying twice, actually passing from the world of the living on one other occasion … it makes me pause and take a deep breath.
“However terrible the experience, I must add that it changed my life … and the event transformed my heart and the way I think about things, and people.”
He said Amigo’s legion of fans had touched his life and transformed his spirit.
“By getting through the accident and the following four months and becoming associated with all of Amigo’s fans, I became a far better person than I was before.”
He spoke warmly of his partner, Kara Disbrow, and her part in his life.
“I was missing a certain appreciation for humanity prior to Amigo’s injury,” he says.
“His struggle to live and your support for that struggle changed me. Today, I am a bit less skeptical when I see worthy causes, a bit more caring and appreciative of my fellow man … and animal.
“His struggle for life changed Amigo, as well,” Sanderson said.
“He has always been a friendly horse even prior to the accident, but now he softens even more around young children and is much more appreciative of human beings than he used to be. There are times when our other eight horses are elsewhere yet Amigo stands at the fence, near the driveway, to be nearer to Kara and I rather than them.
“There are other times, when he is alone in a back pasture, looking far away as if absorbed in his own thoughts, and is late for a meal.
“Times like those are a bit scary for me, for they bring his injury to the forefront of my memory immediately and I desperately search until he is found. Perhaps I’m over-protective, but with what he’s been through, I think not.
“There were so many wonderful things that stemmed from his injury: I’ve made lifelong friends who I never would have met otherwise. Kara and I, along with many of you, have had a positive change of heart toward our fellow man. Amigo’s Fund, at the University of Tennessee was born.
“Amigo’s facebook page has become a focal point for other critically injured horses, so, on the evening of January 17, I’ll be taking a moment to give thanks! My hope is that you do the same, as together we remember how awful, yet inspiring was Amigo’s story which began three years ago.”
Sanderson says Amigo is rideable and has been out on several occasions.
“Kara rides him when she goes on trail rides with less experienced horses. I’ve ridden him on rides of 12, 14, 16 miles and he’s done fine.
“We are a bit reluctant to allow him to compete again. His typical competition ‘modus operandi’ was to go up front, be competitive, and stay there. That gives me a moment of pause. I fear that he still has the heart of a champion, but not the physical tools any more.
“I don’t know. My fear, I guess, is that he will attempt to win! It may be too much for him and I don’t want to let him have the reins so to speak.”
Sanderson bought Amigo in a deal that cost him a slice of cheesecake and a glass of softdrink at a fast-food restaurant. Today, his horse is priceless.
Readers can follow Amigo via his Facebook page.