Originally posted, October 2010…
I first came in contact with the term “wry mouth” in 2003 when HORSE AND MAN interviewed HOPE FOR HORSES in North Carolina. They had a horse there with an unusual disability – wry mouth or wry nose, as it is sometimes called.
Dollface, at that time, was a beautiful, young Arab mare. As we set up to film her, we really wouldn’t have known anything was odd about her. From my angle, she looked gorgeous. Her white coat was glistening, her mane was flowing, she was prancing and snaking her neck. She seemed like a normal, high spirited horse.
I guess there were a few tell-tale signs. She was alone. She sounded like a locomotive and she kept turning her face at an odd angle.
Yup. It wasn’t until you got up close that you saw it. Wow. And then you thought to yourself, “how does she eat or drink?”
HOW DOES SHE EAT?
She eats and drinks quite well, thank you. Miraculously, Dollface can even graze! Actually, all the wry mouthed horses that I have researched, can graze. And, they can chew. It may be at odd angles, but they can.
A wry mouth is when one side of the jaw grows more than the other. Wry bites appear as triangular defects in the incisor area. Some of the incisors will meet their opposing counterparts, while others will not.
Wry mouth is an inherited defect.
The problem initially, is that it is very difficult for a wry mouthed baby to nurse. If they survive that, they have difficulty breathing when exerting lots of energy. And, since they cannot run and play as vigorously as the others, the herd tends to give them the cold shoulder. They pick on wry mouthed horses. Kinda like humans pick on those that are different… Or at least that is what happened to Dollface.
Dollface was born and it was obvious. Immediately, the owners called the vet and the vet suggested euthanasia. Luckily for Dollface, it was also suggested that she be brought to HOPE FOR HORSES, an equine rescue facility. Dollface arrived 6 hours later.
Quickly, Whitney at Hope for Horses fashioned a nipple onto a bottle and put Dollface’s mother’s warm milk into it. Dollface thrived. You see, it was much easier for Dollface to grasp the manufactured nipple than the real one. So, she grew. There were a few hiccups along the way like when she contracted pneumonia. But, she healed like any normal foal (after a strong dose of antibiotics) and continued maturing.
There were talks of surgeries but no equine hospital or teaching college stepped up. So, Dollface continues to live at Hope for Horses. She is a happy, healthy and beautiful 10 year old mare. All the volunteers love her. She’s kinda spoiled… She certainly doesn’t think she has a disability. And, to be honest, she has that, “Look At Me!” attitude. Believe me, Dollface, they will look at you and they do!
Aaleyah Belle was born with a wry mouth several years later in 2008. Sadly, her owners didn’t want her or her mother and were going to shoot them… Luckily, BHFER heard about this and took both the dam and baby immediately.
Here is their story as told by Theresa at Beauty’s Haven Farm and Equine Rescue:
Aaleyah Belle and Momma Sue arrived on May 3rd, 2008. Momma Sue is a 16-year-old TB mare that gave birth to a baby on Kentucky Derby day — the day that Eight Belles gave her all at the derby, including her life. We named the baby Aaleyah Belle to honor Eight Belles.
After the baby was born, she was going to be shot because she had a wry nose and her mom wasn’t wanted. We were notified of the situation and picked both up that day.
Aaleyah Belle was only a few hours old.Momma Sue was very thin, and neglect was obvious. We had the vet out right away to flush her out and put her on some meds to help make sure she didn’t get an infection. Neither the baby nor mom had vet care after the baby was born. Momma Sue is a good mom and loves Aaleyah Belle. She’s come a long way in a short time. She and Aaleyah went to University of Florida for Aaleyah to have surgery to correct her wry nose.
Aaleyah was lucky. Time had passed since Dollface was a filly and veterinarian surgeons were more willing to donate the necessary surgery. As you can see, it worked!
Aaleyah made it through surgery and recovery. She grew and her scars healed. She eats, drinks and grazes. Her breathing is far less labored and she is not shunned by the crowd! In fact, she is one of the gang!
Aaleyah has grown into a very happy young mare with a new job! BHFER sent her into training and it is going very, very well!
Isn’t it amazing what time will do? 7 years ago, they were going to automatically put Dollface to sleep. Now, the surgery is well known and successful.
When I was researching for this post, I came across this article about Diego and little girl, Maddison. Funny, those names sound so American but I read this news story from the UK. Here is the link.
It seems that Diego is the luckiest so far, even though from this angle it looks the worse, in that he can suckle from him Momma. I know they are raising the money for his surgery. And now, even more time has passed since Aaleyah’s successful surgery so things are looking up for Diego and his little human caretaker!
WRY MOUTH OR WRY NOSE is not a death sentence.
It is a bump in the highway of equine life…
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