Sebastian's Battle with Cancer

"The pleasures of owning horses stem from caring and feeding them to riding and handling, however there are equally as many saddening moments that come with this deal. Like humans, horses have an endless list of potential illnesses, injuries and psychological issues they risk developing in their lives. It is uncommon that a single horse is diagnosed with not only 1, but 3 threatening conditions. One condition is seen in less than 10% of horses and the other...I have found only ONE other case...on the other side of the world to me, America. It is exceptionally rare....

It is even less common that this same horse is alive today and thriving. He is lovingly known as ‘Sebastian’ and he has one heck of a story to tell... all because of one simple household herb that’s brought him back to life.

Sebastian as a foal

Sebastian is a 9yo 16.1h QH / TB / Appaloosa. I have owned him for 7 years now and have never had such a close bond with a horse until him. He has black skin, yet somehow has been predisposed to many rare and severe illnesses that are mostly seen in horses with pink skin (must be the hint of appaloosa he has in his blood).

Sebastian's first diagnosis in 2012 was a rapidly growing Squamous Cell Carcinoma on the third eyelid, requiring surgery that same day. He also received X-Rays on his off-fore to determine the inconsistent lameness and repetitive abscessing. He was diagnosed with a Keratoma (mass keratin abnormality with roots attached to the pedal bone - it is benign but will grow).

Hoof Xray of Keratoma

The vet noted that continual abscessing would be likely to permanently damage the Pedal Bone, causing the horse to be unsound and in pain.  Invasive and expensive surgery (costing about $4,000) involving ‘stripping’ the front section of the hoof down to the soft tissue, or euthanasia were the only options for Sebastian. He did not receive this surgery but rather a very extensive care management scheme of keeping the hoof dry.

Any moisture caused a relapse and more abscesses to break down his hoof. His condition became manageable, though his affected hoof became clubby and slightly disfigured from the infection. I was told not to ride him or expect to be able to ride him for a while.

Sebastian began to grow a horn.

In July 2014, Sebastian started to grow a very unusual horn out the side of his head. It seemed to grow drastically outwards in a matter of months. After much debate, I took him for testing.  An ultrasound and a needle biopsy failed to determine what it was, so it was assumed to be an  abscess or a soft tissue infection.

We opted for surgery on the horn due to its malicious expansion rate. As soon as the vet cut open Sebastian, he realised immediately that it was not an abscess, but a very rare and very aggressive Salivary Gland Cancer, with potential to expand to the Lymph Nodes (the cancer required confirmation from a laboratory as it was so rare that the vet had no idea what type it was).

The operation took far longer than it should have due to the cancer’s uncontrolled growth right down Sebastian’s neck, rather than just the local lump itself. The vet is one of the best in the state, yet he had never heard of this form of cancer before. He spoke to 3 other vets all of whom were the same - unaware.

The outcome looked grim; I was left with a horse with a drainage tube stitched into his head, a crippling vet bill and no guarantees of Sebastian’s future. “There has to be another way” was a quote for that time, and yes, there was another way. A little helping hand was offered by a magical herb found in most culinares’ kitchens. It’s the strong smelling yellow powder called Turmeric, and it is...unbelievable.

The wound rapidly healed thanks to the Turmeric.

Determined to try all options, I fed Sebastian turmeric every day (starting with a quarter teaspoon with pepper and olive oil) and was shocked by its effect. Not only did his surgical incision heal unbelievably fast, but as time passed, I noticed drastic changes in his new hoof growth. His hooves that were once flared and gristly - the turmeric had encouraged the new growth to produce a tighter hoof wall. 

Sebastian became full of energy, his clubby hoof returned to a healthy state and, most surprisingly, his coat changed from an Isabella Palomino to a Leopard Appaloosa Palomino. He has also been barefoot since starting turmeric and this is the first time he has remained sound without shoes on. His hoof health overall has drastically improved. I told that same vet a while ago that I feed him turmeric every day. He scoffed and said "Magic fairy dust? Nice one."

It is coming up to two years since he had his operation. I was told that my horse was 'probably stuffed'. The vet told me that if the cancer had expanded into the Lymph Nodes, which it had a high chance of doing, then there was no hope for him. He would probably have less than 6 months to live in any case.


Since being on turmeric, I have been able to ride him daily (as he has not been sick every two minutes!) He is athletic, fit, opinionated, obnoxious and incredible. His education has improved drastically and he has now gone from a novice level competitor to having established laterals, 3 time flying changes and extensions. We are working on half steps, which is the first step towards piaffe and passage. My EA Membership will be renewed very soon so I can compete again!

Don't let anyone discourage your beliefs. Even vets aren't always right. Turmeric REALLY does work. It's so easy to make and use and the results are honestly unbelievable. Did it cure him? Who knows? I have never seen him so happy and willing to learn and work. Just do it!"

Story & Images by Heather Paix
(Heather is a Dressage Horse Trainer at Patchwork Park Equestrian Centre)

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