Jason Stewart was certain Stevie was going to die.
“He did everything but die, I tell you that,” said the Bristow bulldogger of his 13-year-old bay quarter horse.
Last summer, Stevie lost more than 500 pounds, the result of a snakebite and an allergic reaction to the medicine that was supposed to heal him.
Stewart had first thought Stevie's face was swollen because of an abscessed tooth, so he waited a couple of days before visiting a veterinarian. But Stevie's face kept swelling, and the horse almost stopped breathing.
A vet then gave Stevie medicine that resulted in intestinal complications.
“He had holes in his intestine and holes in his colon,” Stewart said. “He filled up with his own fluid and carried that fluid around for four to five weeks. His body was like ripples. If you touched him, it looked like you were pushing on a water bed.”
Stewart has won a lot of checks on Stevie in the six years he has owned him. So has Walt Sherry of Atwood, a fellow bulldogger who also rides Stevie in steer wrestling events.
Stevie was given to Stewart by a buddy who couldn't get along with the horse. Stevie kept bucking off his previous owner.
He didn't care much for Stewart either, in the beginning, but they eventually came to an understanding. Stewart figured out Stevie is like the guy who needs a good cup of coffee in the morning before getting the day started.
“We have kind of come to an agreement,” Stewart said. “You don't jump on him when he is fresh, and you just kind of ease him around for awhile, and then he is ready to go.”
Stewart said Stevie was bitten by the snake either in his pasture or at his pond.
“We don't know what kind of snake it was, whether it was a copperhead or a water moccasin,” he said.
A horse that weighed 1,100 pounds was so sick that it dropped to almost 500 pounds. Two veterinarians tried to treat Stevie without success. Stewart thought Stevie was nearing the end.
In one last attempt to save him, Stewart took his bulldogging horse to Oklahoma State University and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
There, they ran tests on Stevie and prescribed some “people medicine,” as Stewart called it.
“We had to crush pills up in applesauce and put it in a syringe and shoot it in his mouth four times a day,” Stewart said. “We did that for 130 days. He got real tired of that.”
But the medicine worked this time. By late November, Stevie was strong enough to chase steers again, and Stewart rode Stevie in a rodeo at Kellyville for the first time since his illness.
Stevie has now regained most of the weight, and both Stewart and Sherry are riding the horse in the International Finals Rodeo this weekend.
“It might just be me, but he feels stronger than he was before he got sick,” Stewart said. “He came back strong. Knock on wood.”
Stewart entered Friday night's first round of the IFR at State Fair Arena ninth in the world standings, and Sherry was seventh. Stewart thinks Sherry, who has been riding Stevie for the past two years, would have had a shot at the gold buckle this season if Stevie hadn't been sidelined.
“If he hadn't got bit, we would both be way farther up there (in the world standings) than we are,” Stewart said.
“He is a dandy for sure. I am blessed to have him.”