Off to college|’Skinny little horse’ on the mend

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 8, 2009

Today is 4-year-old Cherokee’s first day at college.

Georgia Lynn, director of the Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society, seized the gaited horse on Feb. 12 from behind an abandoned mobile home on Youngton Road. Cherokee was starving, tied up on a dirt plot without water or hay, surrounded by tin and debris and with a wound on her hind leg that veterinarian Eddie Lipscomb estimates she’d had for about six weeks.

“She just didn’t have a chance before the Humane Society,” Lynn said. “She grew up staked out. She never had a pasture to run in, never had a chance to be a horse.”

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Lipscomb, who works at All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Port Gibson, has treated 30 to 35 horses for the society since 2003. He’s been with Cherokee from the beginning.

“She’s come a long way,” Lipscomb said.

After seven weeks at the Humane Society shelter at 6600 U.S. 61 South Cherokee moved to Versatility Ranch, 5920 Fisher Ferry Road, belonging to June Atwood, who has been fostering horses seized by the Humane Society since 2006.

In nearly four months Cherokee has gained about 100 pounds, though she lacks about 400 pounds to be filled in and full grown.

“She’s going to grow for another year because she was so stunted,” Lipscomb said.

The wound on Cherokee’s leg is much improved since February —  when Lynn said it was covered in maggots — but it still isn’t healed.

Granulation tissue has grown over to protect the wound, but as the tissue keeps growing and layering on top of itself, the skin can’t grow over it. To keep the granulation tissue from continuing to grow, Lynn washes and bandages the wound every day.

“I haven’t had a day off since we got her,” Lynn said. “Sometimes I’ll stand back up (from bandaging her) and I’ll bump her in the nose because she’s bending all the way back, looking at what I’m doing. She’s very concerned with her health care.”

When Lynn talked to other veterinarians about Cherokee, they said the wound would take at least a year to heal, and they recommended euthanasia.

Lynn, Lipscomb and Atwood wouldn’t euthanize Cherokee, so the three continued taking care of the mare. Lipscomb made more than 20 visits to treat Cherokee, much of which was pro bono — Jon Ruggles, from the Vicksburg Animal Hospital, and Steve Krapac, from the Animal Medical Clinic, also made a free emergency health call one Sunday when Cherokee went lame.

“We’ve done all that we can to try to give her a second chance,” Lynn said. “She’s just a special little horse.”

No one claimed ownership, so there was no prosecution in Cherokee’s case.

Lipscomb, who graduated from Mississippi State University, contacted his alma mater about having Cherokee treated at the college that U.S. News & World Report ranked among the nation’s top graduate schools for veterinary medicine.

“When I got the notification saying that yes, they would accept her, I felt like I did when I got accepted to Mississippi College,” Lynn said. “Well I am proud — she’s going to college.”

Veterinary students will watch as Cherokee receives a skin graft, in which plugs of skin from her back and shoulders will be inserted in rows in her wound, in hopes that the implanted skin will grow and heal the wound. Since students will be able to learn from the procedure, Cherokee will get the graft — which Lipscomb said usually costs at least $1,500 — for a discounted price.

Just like students, Cherokee had to get her vaccines before she could go to school. Lipscomb vaccinated the mare for strangles, East and West encephalitis, tetanus, rhinopneumonitis, influenza and worms.

Lynn and Atwood are taking Cherokee to MSU today, and will pick her up again in seven to 10 days. When they bring the mare back to Versatility Ranch, Lynn will have to continue to bandage the leg as Cherokee heals.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re supposed to do until the skin grows back over,” Lynn said. “And then she’ll be up for adoption.”

Cherokee will need to be stalled up for a while, so Lynn and Atwood are asking for bedding, hay and sweet feed donations.

Cherokee goes through 100 pounds of feed — $30 worth — every 10 days. So far, about half of Cherokee’s supplies have come from donations. Her eight bandages were donated, but when they run out Lynn has to take the pile home and wash them herself.

It will take at least two months, Lipscomb said, before Cherokee can be adopted, but Lynn said hundreds of people have already shown interest in the mare.

“Georgia’s going to add another room to her house (for Cherokee),” Lipscomb teased.

Although Lynn admits she’s grown attached to the horse she’s bandaged every day for more than 16 weeks, she said she can’t take her home.

“I want to ride her one time before we adopt her out — just one time,” Lynn said. “She’s just a skinny little horse right now with a big heart.”


Contact Andrea Vasquez at