Doki-Miovech Deals With Unexpected Loss of Her Horse
In a span of nine hours, Lynn Doki-Miovech went from the owner and trainer of a seemingly healthy 17-year-old Prix St. George horse to having no horse. Doki-Miovech ran through a Prix St. George test with her Holsteiner Lex Luthor at 10 a.m. the morning of March 31 and by 7 p.m. that evening the horse had died.
A subsequent necropsy showed that there was nothing anyone could have done even if the problem had been diagnosed within an hour of onset.
"It's bizarre," says Doki-Miovech. "At 10 a.m. all systems were go and by 7 p.m. that night no horse."
A necropsy done at NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where Lex Luthor was taken after initial examination by Dr. Tom Daniel of Southern Pines Equine, revealed that Luthor had a herniated diaphragm which tore to the point that his stomach, spleen and portion of large colon entered the chest cavity. The mesenteric vessels tore, causing bleeding into the chest and abdominal cavity. Luthor died before surgery could be performed though surgery would not have saved his life.
It's the first case of a herniated diaphragm, a rare occurrence in a horse, which Dr. Tom Daniel has seen or even heard of in 21 years of equine veterinary practice.
"Things can crash fast with horses. Some problems are not correctable no matter how diligent you are," said Daniel. "Doki-Miovech's diligence meant the horse didn't suffer unnecessarily. Horsemen live with the reality that horses are incredibly resilient and incredibly fragile at the same time."
The Beginning of the End
Luthor or "Luth" as he was called around the barn was at the top of his game. In fact a boarder commented to Doki-Miovech the morning of her last ride that the horse was in the "best physical condition of his life."
Doki-Miovech cut back from her usual 45-minute workout when she noticed that Luth "popped a lather" 15 minutes into the session. It was the only thing out of the ordinary in an ordinary routine. Doki-Miovech put Luthor in his stall after her ride, leaving him eating his hay. She came out at lunch to feed and noticed the horse's respiration and pulse were elevated; he was pawing the ground and biting his flanks. She called Southern Pines Equine, gave the horse 10 cc of banamine and kept an eye on him, assuming she had a mild case of colic. Luth didn't pick up after the banamine. A student of Doki-Miovech's came and walked the horse while Doki-Miovech went to pick up her two daughters from school. By the time she returned at 3 p.m. the horse was clammy and sweating. She called Dr. Daniel who arrived at Doki-Miovech's farm in Aberdeen in 20 minutes.
"When I got there, the horse was in shock," said Daniel. "I knew we were headed seriously in the wrong direction. Daniel initially treated the horse for a common cause of colic -- nephro-splenic entrapment where a piece of bowel can get hung up on the ligament normally between the spleen and kidney in the abdominal cavity.
"I was hoping by the time they got to State that it would self-resolve."
Doki-Miovech arrived at the Veterinary School at 6:30 p.m. with 15 people waiting to treat the horse. Within 20 minutes, they had the blood work done. "Some values said colic and some didn't," Doki-Miovech said. "They tapped Luth's abdomen and got blood. The attending veterinarian said 'You're grave. You have a 5 percent shot of getting off the (surgery) table.' I'm always up for a 'Hail Mary' so I said call in the surgeon."
"It takes a long time to make a Grand Prix horse and even if he wasn't I had the responsibility to take care of him."
Meanwhile, the horse went down in the stocks. Less than a minute later Luth was dead. "I'm not one of those emotional people in a crisis," says Doki-Miovech, who very calmly and coolly described her nightmare experience. Later that evening after returning home from Raleigh, she describes herself as being very "quiet."
Daniel told her, "That is a snake bite. It is extremely unfortunate that you had to experience this."
Some hernias are relatively common in horses. Foals are sometimes born with umbilical hernias, and inguinal hernias are sometimes a problem with young colts.
A herniated diaphragm can be caused by a congenital condition or a traumatic blow.
The necropsy determined there was no evidence of a long-standing condition and there was no evidence of trauma. There was also no underlying gastrointestinal disease.
According to Dr. Daniel, the only symptom one might see in a horse with a chronic condition would be exercise intolerance and increased respiration. Then an ultrasound of the chest would diagnose the problem and there would be an option of having surgery to close the hole. In Luth's case, there was no history of either symptom.
Luth suffered an acute rupture with no known cause according to the necropsy.
"Knowing there is nothing anybody could have done makes you feel a little better," says Doki-Miovech.
Life With Horses Goes On
Luth's stall may be empty but Doki-Miovech has a seven-year old horse named Weinbrand coming along who is currently working at Fourth level.
"It's fun having a young horse with talent and trainability," said Doki-Miovech.
Doki-Miovech, who is originally from West Springfield, Mass., moved to Aberdeen two-and-a-half years ago. She purchased Mona Gardella's farm in Aberdeen where Doki-Miovech runs a boarding and training facility.
Doki-Miovech has been riding since she was 5 years old. She started out in hunter/jumpers and after sustaining a broken neck she decided that Dressage "sounded interesting."
Doki-Miovech, who works with Joe Sandven of Fletcher, earned her silver medal with Luthor.
"Luthor was not that easy of a horse. He was very talented at changes and collected work.
The mediums and laterals were not so much his gift."
She didn't show Weinbrand last year while concentrating on showing Luthor. This year, Weinbrand will be front and center stage.
Having a horse to care for and train is what keeps horse people going through rough times. Horses require 24/7 care no matter what is happening in your life. The rhythm of everyday chores is horsemen's therapy -- it makes looking at an empty stall a little more bearable.
Pat Smith can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story