Carol Statton and the Sisters community have helped Grace survive and begin to thrive. photo by Katy Yoder
Carol Statton and the Sisters community have helped Grace survive and begin to thrive. photo by Katy Yoder

Stories abound of mustangs who are captured, gentled, trained and emerge as fantastic riding horses. But that isn't possible for mustangs who've been injured. Last spring a life-or-death story was unfolding for a struggling mustang named Grace. Rescued by Ochoco mustang advocate Carol Statton, the bay mare was born into the Ochoco Big Summit herd.

When Grace was captured during a PZP birth control round-up, the Forest Service approved Statton's adoption request and safely separated and transferred Grace directly from the wild to her new life. Statton took her home and did all she could to make her comfortable despite a fractured ankle and calcified hocks.

Grace's new life was going well. Her initial injuries were stabilized and Statton thought the quickly trusting mare would live out her life as a companion for her other rescued mustangs. Then Grace started having trouble breathing. Her nose had a persistent discharge that was getting worse. After many veterinary visits, she learned Grace needed specialized medical treatment.

Local veterinarian and surgeon Wayne Schmotzer has been a partner and advocate for Grace's recovery. His clinic, Bend Equine Medical Center, was equipped to help Grace recover from a complicated and debilitating illness

"Wayne did a great job explaining what was going on with Grace. He was sensitive to the financial implications and gave me time to think when we discussed treatment options," said Statton.

Statton knew treatment would require long-term care and more money than she had to spend, but she would do whatever it took to save Grace.

"I told Wayne I was 100 percent in! I appreciated that he was fully committed to her well-being, too," said Statton.

Grace was diagnosed with congenital osseous cystic tumors in three sinus compartments. Two bone flap procedures accessed the sinuses to remove obstructive masses and drain her sinus cavities. The surgeries relieved her sinus pressure and allowed her to finally breathe freely. Both surgeries were tough on Grace.

"The second bone flap procedure had more complications, I only brought her home for one night and had to take her back to Bend Equine," said Statton.

Post-operative care was extensive and often required visits and overnights at Bend Equine. Grace had tubes coming out of her face and an IV in her neck. Statton cared for the bandaged mare daily, flushed Grace's sinuses, handled wound-care and administered medication.

"It was our life for a few months," said Statton. "That was my whole focus... just trying to keep her OK. Sometimes Grace couldn't resist rubbing her wounds until they opened. Other times, the tube would come partially out ... she did what horses do."

Statton knew the flushing was very uncomfortable.

"There had to be a lot of fear based on what we had to do to her. She was wild two years before, but still trusted me and her veterinary team at a level that was really extraordinary."

Statton was always amazed when Grace willingly walked into the trailer and then into Bend Equine.

"I wondered how she found the courage to go back in there," she said.

All the difficult days are paying off. Grace has an excellent prognosis and the chance for a decent life even with her lameness.

"I want her to be with me as long as she can be comfortable. That was important for the decision-making process. With Dr. Schmotzer's optimistic projection we knew it would all be worth it," said Statton.

Unforeseen complications raised the cost for Grace's surgeries. The original GoFundMe goal for Grace's surgery and recovery was $5,000.

"When I set up the fundraising page, I wanted to make sure it wasn't just about getting other people to pay for this. I wanted to express gratitude for people who helped Grace and my family offset a tremendous financial burden. If anyone wants to still contribute there's still a need, but we're just grateful for the help we've had. The GoFundMe is on-going and there's still a way to offset Grace's medical bills," she said.

Although there are still financial obligations that need to be met, Carol chooses to focus on everything she has to be grateful for. Her horse is healing and healthy and she has a very optimistic future.

"Grace is able to breathe easily for the first time in a very long time. She can have a life she has never had before because of what they did for her. Every day she shows me how good she feels. She has a whole new life," said Statton.

A very important point for Statton is how easy it was for some people to devalue Grace because she was not a ridable horse.

"Wayne appreciated that I valued her despite her handicap," Statton said. "I think we humans need to be reminded that animals don't have to be perfect to be incredibly valuable and loved. I am so grateful for the help we've received. It's wonderful that we've developed ways to help each other. We're not alone in our struggles."