H.O.R.S.E. saves Fiona's life

Fiona was left for dead, but she fought to live.

Perhaps it has been her royal bloodline.

A great-granddaughter of the iconic Secretariat, Fiona is also an ex-racehorse, and with a winning record.

The similarities between the two end there.

While Secretariat went to stud and lived out his days on a farm in Kentucky, Fiona was abandoned and starved before being rescued by the Humane Organization Representing Suffering Equines (H.O.R.S.E.) of Connecticut.

"When she first got here, we weren't sure she'd survive," said Patty Wahlers, president of H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut, who has rescued more than 650 horses over the last 30 years.

"She was one of the worst starvation cases I've ever seen," she said. "She barely had the strength to hold her head up so that she could eat. We also discovered that she has a serious lung disease."

Fiona, who came to the farm more than 300 pounds underweight, has Multinodular Pulmonary Fibrosis.

According to Dr. Gabe Cook of New England Equine Practice (NEEP) in Patterson, N.Y., who is treating Fiona, little is known about the disease and the long-term prognosis for affected horses is bleak.

However, with medication and an army of dedicated volunteers at H.O.R.S.E., Fiona is thriving.

"It's been a long road back to recovery for Fiona, so we decided to throw her a birthday party," Wahlers said. "She turned age 8 on March 27... she's such a special girl that we want to celebrate her life."

Fiona's birthday coincided with the organization's annual Volunteer Day, on which those attending help clean up the farm, fix fencing and groom and walk horses.

"We are so honored to have rescued a true champion," said Nancy Cackowski of New Milford, a member of the organization's board of directors, who sponsors Fiona. "She is a one-of-a-kind champion who has been through tough times and survived."

H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut is located at 43 Wilbur Road in Washington.

To make a donation, visit www.horseofct.org/donationsnmembership.html < http://www.horseofct.org/donationsnmembership.html#!donate/c12dl.

For more information, call 860-868-1960.