New Bolton Center Client Stories

'Santa' Snickers, the Mini-Horse

By Louisa Shepard

Penn Vet, New Bolton Center, SnickersSnickers the miniature horse is giving back, having just recovered from life-saving surgery at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center. Wearing a Santa hat and standing next to the distinctive Salvation Army red kettle outside a Maryland grocery store, this two-year-old darling is boosting donations for those in need. 

“This is a great way to show how animals and people can work together,” said Kelly Reiter, whose family rescued Snickers and brought him to live at their Flying Duck Farm Horse Sanctuary near Randallstown, Maryland.

Snickers made his first appearance with the kettle at the Safeway in Eldersburg, Maryland, in early December, and then again on the two Saturdays before Christmas.

“It’s definitely making a difference. People really enjoyed having him there,” said Janice Veney, Director of the Salvation Army’s Carroll County Service Center, noting that the kettle brought in more than expected when Snickers was there.

Reiter calls Snickers her “little miracle mini.” She rescued Snickers last year. The previous owner, who was keeping him in a garden shed, was going to euthanize him because he had locking stifles, which causes horses to drag their back legs. The Reiter’s local vet performed corrective surgery and the family was able to bring Snickers back to health.

One day in September, Snickers was sluggish, refused to eat, and later started rolling around, obviously in pain. Their local veterinarian was dealing with a family emergency, Reiter said, and other vets did not want to take on an emergency colic case. Snickers the minihorse at New Bolton Center

“I told my husband that we had to get him to New Bolton Center,” Reiter said.

“When Snickers arrived at New Bolton, he was very quiet and persistently showed signs of colic, including trying to roll,” said Sarah Peters, VMD, an intern in the New Bolton Center Department of Clinical Studies. “His abdomen was tremendously distended, which also indicated a problem in his gastrointestinal tract.

Pain relievers and sedation did not resolve Snicker’s colic symptoms. Surgery was recommended and the Reiters agreed. Janet Johnston, DVM, performed the surgery, which revealed Snickers’ colon was impacted with a tremendous amount of hair, as well as hay and feed.

The hairball weighed 32 pounds. “It was a lot, even for a regular-sized horse,” Dr. Peters said, noting that Snickers weighed in at 200 pounds when he arrived. 

Reiter explained that Snickers loves to “groom” his horse companions. Dr. Peters cautioned Reiter to limit Snickers’ ingestion of hair. As a result, she separates him from the other horses when needed and also is blanketing them.

“His prognosis is good. As long as he stops eating hair he should be just fine,” Dr. Peters said.

Snickers, now noticeably slimmer, is fully recovered and ready for duty at the Salvation Army kettle.

“He is just amazing. Everything healed wonderfully,” Reiter said. “I am extremely pleased with how everything was handled. The vets took extremely good care of him. They listened to me. I really love New Bolton Center.”