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On August 23, 2015, County of San Diego Department of Animal Services seized 18 horses from a property in Jacumba. At the time of the rescue, the horses ranged from severely emaciated to moderately emaciated. In the group was a young filly and a nine month old gelding. Animal Services staff named the filly Lilo and the gelding Stitch. Given their ages, Animal Services was optimistic both would be adopted. Lilo did find a home of her own fairly quickly. Stitch, however, did not pass a pre-purchase exam when a potential adopter had her veterinary examine him at the shelter. He was diagnosed with a variety of conformational issues that would severely limit his athletic career. In spite of this evaluation, Stitch succeeded in stealing the heart of the adopter and soon found himself in a new home.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after his adoption, Stitch was returned to the shelter when the adopter suspected a cleft pallet based on food particles visible in his nasal discharge. Animal Services took Sweeney to East County Large Animal Practice so that he could be scoped to confirm the cleft pallet. Unfortunately it was determined that Sweeny has a hypoplastic soft pallet, not a cleft pallet. This condition cannot be cured or treated. It put this young gelding at a very high risk for aspiration pneumonia. In fact, most foals born with this condition are humanely euthanized early in life to save them the suffering of chronic aspiration pneumonia. But at nine months of age, this colt had already survived longer than expected, especially considering the neglectful situation he was born into.
Clearly, this fellow had already defied the odds. So, after careful consultation with Animal Services and our veterinary team, we decided to give this bright eyed, friendly fellow a chance at a life with Horses of Tir Na Nog. His hypoplastic pallet means he will never have the lung capacity to carry a rider. It has also stunted his growth, giving him the appearance of a pony. However, it doesn’t slow him down when it comes to kicking up his heals or greeting anyone who walks by his corral.
Once he was at Horses of Tir Na nog, “Stitch” without Lilo didn’t make a lot of sense. Name suggestions were collected from our donors and Sweeney was chosen. As an Irish first name, Sweeney means “little hero” which is perfect for this gelding who defied the odds and continues to thrive in spite of his hypoplastic pallet.