When Dana Hart Callanan traveled to Europe to do some horse shopping for a client, she was surprised to also fall in love with a horse for herself. The horse that stole her heart was the then 7-year-old grey gelding, Czantis.

But there was a problem. A major, potentially life-threatening problem, and an extremely rare one at that: the horse was missing almost his entire coffin bone.

Czantis was successfully competing in the Young Riders and 1.40m throughout Europe when Dana tried him for purchase. He was a great match for Dana, so she proceeded with a pre-purchase veterinary exam, including some routine radiographs.

The veterinarians were stunned to see only 30% of a coffin bone on the x-ray. Believing that the bizarre findings had to be a mistake, they used three different x-ray machines to satisfy their disbelief. Despite the pleas of her vet at home not to import the horse, Dana followed her gut and brought Czantis to the United States.

“Just because a vetting says something, doesn’t mean the horse isn’t capable of going and doing what it needs to do.”

A rare condition in the horse world, Czantis is one in a million. According to Dana’s vet, Dr. Jan Henriksen of B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, most horses wouldn’t be able to function without their coffin bone, and most definitely wouldn’t be competing. But how does a condition like this even evolve?

“It’s most likely one of three things. He was either born with some sort of deformity, had some sort of traumatic event, or had some sort of surgery to remove a keratoma,” explains Dr. Henriksen. “When you look at his feet, the affected foot is about 30-percent bigger than the other. It looks like two totally different horses when you look at him.”

Since being under Dana’s care, Czantis is fully fulfilling his duties from an equitation finals mount to an easygoing adult hunter. To say he goes around the ring happily would be an understatement.

“Now we’re four years into having him and he packs around the 2’6” adult hunters—he stays happy and pretty sound,” says Dana. “We have a home for him, forever.

It would be wrong to say that Czantis’ condition doesn’t come with challenges. Through trial and error, Dana and her team of vets, farriers, and grooms developed a program to keep Czantis thriving and sound.

“It’s a shoeing and a maintenance nightmare. The left front hoof throws a lot of quarter cracks. But we call the blacksmith to fix the shoe, and he’s good to go again,” explains Dana who is quick to credit her team in keeping Czantis sound. “Their routine, the blacksmith, the program—it’s a whole village. You hear it all the time at the higher levels. You should know what your horse feels like, just listen to them.”

Czantis’ blacksmith, Jason Getto, has crafted a special, one-of-a-kind shoe to provide support and cushion to Czantis’ every step.

“The shoe is raised using degree pads applied to either side of the hoof on the pillars,” said Jason. “That creates about 3/4 of an inch of space between the shoe and the hoof that is filled with a silicone based material to act as a huge cushion.”

“CZ has been the most challenging horse of my entire career,” Jason continued. “I put more time and energy into him than any other horse because I want him to live.”

For a horse that’s missing a major weight-bearing structure in his leg, Czantis holds up remarkably well according to Dr. Henriksen. Dana credits it to Czantis’ heart and work ethic.

“Some horses have a heart of gold and want to do their job. This horse doesn’t know any better. In his opinion, he should be ridden and enjoys his job,” says Dana. “That’s a big lesson people need to start understanding—they’re not machines. Just because a vetting says something, doesn’t mean the horse isn’t capable of going and doing what it needs to do.”

Photos courtesy of Dana.