Danielle Ammeson rides her American Warmblood dressage horse, Casino Royale, during the U.S. Dressage Federation Regional Competition in October.

In 2016, Casino Royale, an American Warmblood horse, was down on his luck. 

Shortly after he and his owner, Danielle Ammeson, learned they had qualified for the U.S. Dressage Foundation 2016 Regional Championships, Casino Royale contracted a bacterial infection in his right hind leg. 

Ammeson still isn’t exactly sure what happened to the horse, who they commonly refer to as Royal, whose competition name is Casino Royale. All she knows is that he somehow punctured the bone, leading to an infection. 

Ammeson said Royal was running around with another horse, and when she went to check on him, she noticed something was wrong.

“When I went to go get him, he was just kind of standing there motionless on three feet,” she said. 

At first Ammeson said she wasn’t too concerned about it, and it looked like it had only punctured the skin. But after a week of watching the wound and having their local vet visit Royal daily, they started to realize the wound was getting worse and that he needed more intensive care. 

Ammeson then decided to have Royal treated at the UF Large Animal Hospital in August 2016. 

After completing an initial exam of Royal at the hospital, emergency surgery was scheduled the following day. 

Dr. Alison Morton, clinical associate professor and Chief of Large Animal Surgery, performed a surgery on Royal that removed areas of the affected bone. 

Morton wrote in an email that while she has seen cases similar to Royal’s, she’s never seen one progress as quickly as his. The infection caused damage to the tendon and bone quicker than a typical case. 

In the intensive care unit, Royal wasn’t improving or responding to antibiotics. Throughout it all, Morton said he remained positive. 

“We discussed euthanasia a couple of times, because of the severity of the infection and lack of response to treatment,” Morton wrote. “But Royal never complained and had such a great will that kept us trying.”

Ammeson ultimately decided to bring Royal back to their home in Sarasota to live out the rest of his days. While there, he was put on a new, stronger antibiotic. At first, Ammeson said she didn’t think it was helping. Months went by before she saw improvement, but slowly Royal started to get better. 

In January 2018, Ammeson was able to ride Royal again. In October 2019, Royal’s story came full circle and he was able to compete at the regional competition he had missed three years earlier. 

Royal ended 2019 with six new medals: three from the U.S. Dressage Foundation and three in the American Warmblood Society and Sporthouse Registry. 

Contact Alyssa Feliciano at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @alyssashantelle.