Guest Blog: Stephanie Kokenos & Andre of Amberfield Farm
To love something wholeheartedly always comes with the risk of losing it.
To love something wholeheartedly always comes with the risk of losing it. If you’re anything like me, your horse is an important part of your life & family. With that notion instinctively comes the desire to protect and preserve them for as long as possible. When you truly look at our relationships with horses, the time we are given with them is limited. They have a generally shorter lifespan in comparison to ours, even when they make it to an older age, and there are numerous scenarios in which we can lose them to disease, accidents, and colic, shortening that time even more significantly. With this thought in my head, I accept that there is so much out of our control, but any variables that I can control and influence positively I do.
I have created an environment where I have tried to minimize potential threats to the health of the horses in my care through adequate turnout, high quality forage, non-invasive therapies, and feed with supplements and medications as needed. Still, when I go to sleep at night there is a window of time that I don’t know what’s happening with my horse. While knowing he’s in the safest space possible helps me rest, there was a time about 1.5 years ago that the worry was not about just normal concerns.
When I went to turn in, my 26 year old horse Andre was acting abnormally with a heightened respiration and pulse and a low body temperature. Given his state of distress, I called the vet out immediately. The vet thought perhaps he had a mild colic and administered Banamine and fluids. He did not improve, and through a cardiac specialist and further diagnostics it was determined that he had suffered from a diaphragmatic hernia. At that time I also learned that he had heart abnormalities including murmurs and enlargement. The only option to address the hernia was surgery, but he was not a good candidate for surgery given his age and the circumstances surrounding this type of injury. We prepared for the worst.
I was presented two options: The first was to put him down immediately. The alternative was to modify his diet to see if it alleviated any pressure on his diaphragm and watch him closely. I opted for the second option as I could not bear to say goodbye to him yet. I had many sleepless nights as I attempted to help him recover from his injury and survive. On my stall camera I would check him and was able to see that he would alter his weight or start breathing heavily at times. It was a stressful time wondering if any of those times would be the last time for him.
Out of sheer luck (or call it fate), I came across a post that a friend shared regarding something I had never heard of called the Nightwatch halter. I immediately investigated it through their website and social media, and thought the technology and mission of the company was amazing. I was lucky enough to get a halter shortly after I first saw the post. The company was still very new and as soon as it was able to be constructed it was shipped out. Once it arrived, I set it up and began using it on Andre overnight. The halter immediately showed me his current vitals, and that in conjunction with being able to check on him if anything was above a normal range was that much more comforting. The halter took a week or two of using it consistently to calculate my horse’s “normal.” I love this technology - given my horse was already in a state of fragility, if it had been pre-programmed to a factory set of norms, it would be going off unnecessarily.
Now that he has made it through the critical time of his hernia, his vitals have adjusted yet again to his new norm, but given his heart conditions I am thankful that I still have the ability to monitor him while I sleep. Using this now for over a year and a half with Andre, it has provided me with much relief and comfort when I go to bed at night that should he need me, I will be woken up and be able to be there to help him as best I can. I also love that I can go back through the information that is stored in the history. If there is a morning that I go out and he seems a little cranky or tired, I can see where his respiration and pulse were overnight to see if it is correlated.
I have recently renovated my private barn, Amberfield Farm, and on May 15, 2022 opened as a rehabilitation, layup, and retirement facility. I hope to be able to use the technology of the Nightwatch halter in any specialized cases that come in to provide the vet and I better insight into treatment, and to give us (and the owner) a greater peace of mind!
By Guest Author: Stephanie Kokenos
Amberfield Farm is a private rehabilitation, layup, and retirement facility located in Newtown, Connecticut.
Stephanie and Andre were nominated by a friend during a holiday promotion in December 2020 and were gifted a smart halter. Owners like Stephanie and stories of their horses, like Andre’s, are why the NIGHTWATCH team continue our work to revolutionize equine healthcare and improve outcomes for horses of all breeds and disciplines. Thank you, Stephanie!