Senior Senator has been called “one of the craziest horses that ever looked through a bridle.”
But a serious accident in May 2017 temporarily dampened some of the eight-year-old gelding’s fiery, unique personality, nearly ending his racing career. While defending his 2016 Maryland Hunt Cup title at the 2017 race, the Thoroughbred and jockey Eric Poretz tumbled at the third fence in the notoriously challenging four-mile timber course.
Veterinarian Dr. Cooper Williams, VMD, diagnosed a serious fracture of the neck and emailed the images to Dr. Dean Richardson, Charles W. Raker Professor of Equine Surgery, at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, to discuss surgical repair.
Richardson reviewed Williams’ referral x-rays, which showed a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebra. “This was a horrible crash, really horrific,” recalled Richardson. “But I saw a more than reasonable chance of successfully repairing the injury with surgery.”
Senior Senator traveled to New Bolton Center, where Richardson used the School’s robotics-controlled computed tomography (CT) system to obtain the precise details of the break. Penn Vet is the first veterinary teaching hospital in the world to use the revolutionary equipment that enables clinicians to examine an awake, moving, and weight-bearing horse.
“Providing 3-D images, this technology offers us tremendous advantages over traditional x-ray and other imaging options,” said Richardson. “And we can evaluate our patient and plan for surgery without having to put the horse under anesthesia, which is a big deal.”
To repair the fracture, Richardson and the surgical team used screws and a stainless-steel compression plate to stabilize and secure the fourth and fifth vertebrae.
After a successful surgery, Senior Senator was placed into Penn Vet’s landmark recovery pool, part of New Bolton Center’s surgical suite in the C. Mahlon Kline Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Center, to carefully wake from anesthetization. The team then moved him into a recovery stall for recuperation.
“His aftercare recovery could not have gone better. Senior Senator was a perfect patient. He acted like he knew we were helping him and didn’t fight us at all,” said Richardson.
“This surgery saved Senior Senator’s life,” said Vicki Crawford, who owns the horse with her husband, Irvin “Skip” Crawford.
Over the course of 12 months, Senior Senator’s recovery progressed under the watchful eyes of Richardson, Williams, the Crawfords, and trainer Joe Davies. And a year after his terrible accident, in a brilliant comeback, the champ took home the 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup.