Leaving a Legacy: Mary Lou Lane

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For 2 1/2 years, Mary Lou Lane worked tirelessly to save the life of her horse, Cappy. Her effort came not as a result of a life-threatening bout of colic or a traumatic injury, or even an infectious disease such as encephalitis, but because of a minor scrape on Cappy's front fetlock that, despite the best care, eventually cost him his life.

To honor Cappy and his fight, Lane has established Cappy's Equine Dermatology Research fund at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to help support research related to diagnosing equine dermatology problems.

"The special bond we shared with Cappy is one that is understood by all those who love their horses," wrote Lane in a tribute to Cappy. "We never want them to know pain and suffering. Yet, despite their great physical strength, they remain fragile in many ways. With all the enormous advances in veterinary medicine, there are still so many conditions science is unable to conquer."

Lane first met Cappy in 1986 and "adopted" him when he was 9 years old. In 2007, Cappy got a seemingly minor scrap on his front fetlock. Despite prompt and constant care, he developed alopecia and lesions that extended from the fetlock down around the coronary band. Eventually, his foot was compromised and he developed laminitis. His heel, frog (part of a horse's hoof), and hoof slowly stopped growing and the coffin bone began to drop. Despite the best efforts of Lane, her veterinarian, and farrier, Cappy eventually reached the point where he had to be euthanized.

Cappy's lower leg and foot were sent to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in hopes the veterinary pathologists there would be able to determine what organisms caused the dermatitis that led to the infection, and why all treatment was resisted. Pathologists are still trying to determine the underlying cause of the infection, and why it proved so difficult to treat.

"Despite all her efforts, Mary Lou was unable to save Cappy, but wanted to do something to help other horses and their owners," said Dr. Patricia Schultheiss, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, and a veterinary pathologist at the VDL. "What we hope to be able to do through this fund is to improve our equine dermatology diagnostics so that we can determine what a problem is, in order to help veterinarians develop better treatment plans."

Dr. Schultheiss noted that in the equine world, most research is directed at big problems including lameness and colic. Dermatology has not been a focus. Cappy's fund will help researchers further develop the field of equine dermatology by helping to improve diagnostic tools and treatment planning.

"The goal is to provide financial support...for research that will identify the origins of specific equine dermatologic conditions and their possible connection to laminitis," wrote Lane. "Veterinarians will be able to prescribe appropriate treatments which will stimulate healing to stave off dermatitis. Donations to this fund will ensure resources will continually be available to assist in the fight against the debilitating and sometimes fatal consequences of dermatitis and laminitis, which can strike any equine at any time."