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Horse Field Emergency, Part Three

Published: 11/25/2012
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Editor’s Note: I met Lauren Fraser last year at the Mane Event in Red Deer, Alberta. Since then, we’ve kept in touch and I recently learned of this crisis with one of her geldings. She kindly agreed to write about it for NickerNews. What follows is the first of a three-part series. She runs Good Horsemanship from her home in British Columbia, Canada. For a few Canadian phrases, the American equivalent is in parentheses.

Read Part I
Read Part II

By Lauren Fraser

Our neighbor showed up shortly after, with the supplies we would need to drop Cal and suture the vessel. But Dave was reluctant to perform the surgery if we could get by without it.
Dropping Cal had its own complications, and if we could keep him quiet, we might be able to avoid it.
So we waited. And waited. And waited…OK, I was paranoid, and ended up keeping him immobile for five hours before I was convinced the clot would hold. Late in the afternoon I walked him the short trip to a small paddock for the night, with a neighbor horse for company to keep him calm.
I didn’t sleep well that night, even after a few post-accident fingers of single malt whiskey. Visions of the clot not holding, and Cal bleeding out while I slept had me up throughout the night. By morning I was convinced that it was safe to haul him to my vet three hours away for a recheck to make sure all of the stick was out.
I loaded up my mare for company, and put the wobbly and weak Cal in behind her. I’ll admit it – that trip was the only time I’ve ever coveted those in-trailer video cameras, but truth be told, had he started bleeding again there would be little I could do by myself on the side of the highway.

I got to the clinic and unloaded. My vet took blood before we sedated him, to find out if his blood loss was significant enough to require a transfusion. His packed cell volume (a measure of his red blood cells) was low enough that he did, but he was eating and drinking well, and I had brought a mare along instead of a gelding. (Horses of the same gender are better donors.)
My vet sedated Cal, and got the ultrasound probe on the wound. They couldn’t visualize the end of the puncture, as it ran deep between the fascia and his muscle, well beyond the distance the ultrasound could image. From what they could see they were fairly sure that no stick remained. They flushed the wound, gave him a tetanus injection, and sent us home on antibiotics.
Cal was weak for about 10 days post-accident, but the wound healed well, and he was soon back to normal. Although I’ve worked within the veterinary field for most of my life, being “the client” briefly caused me to forget my skills and training in the middle of a life-and-death emergency involving one of my own. Although I’ve worked within the veterinary field for most of my life, being “the client” briefly caused me to forget all of my skills and training in the middle of a life-and-death emergency that involved one of my own.
If I could share the reminders I apparently needed to review with fellow horse owners before the next potential horse emergency, they would be this:
         1.    Stop. Breathe. Assess the situation. Proceed calmly. Horses pick up on our emotional state, and a frightened prey animal doesn’t respond well to a frightened predator trying to grab him.
         2.    Take a horse specific first aid course, and build a first aid kit. Although Cal’s laceration was in an area we couldn’t apply a pressure bandage, we did have on hand diapers and bandages for such situations. A horse first aid kit doesn’t need to be costly, and could save your horse’s life.
        3.    Having a hay string in your pocket at all times isn’t such a bad thing.
        4.    Horses from Idaho don’t take well to having toques shoved into their groins.


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11/26/2012 Judy Yeager
So happy that everything turned out well. I love the lesson you give about breathing and remaining calm. Just what I would not do well.

   
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