Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Horses Are Born To Commit Suicide"

I read that once. Although, for the life of me, I cannot remember where.

No, we didn't have any horses commit suicide today. But it certainly wasn't for lack of effort.

In this post, I introduced Ellie, the newest member of our equine family. Three days after her arrival, she managed to injure the deep digital flexor tendon in her left hind leg. This has required stall rest, and wraps on her hind legs, as seen in this picture:

Over the past two weeks the leg has shown significant improvement. Her behavior, on the other hand, left room for improvement. She was getting very barn sour. The weather was beautiful today, making it an ideal time to turn to turn her out so she could stretch her legs. We put her in a paddock next to Dozer, our rascally Paint gelding. Dozer wasn't gelded until he was nearly four years old, which is a bit late, and he clearly never got the memo that that his testicles were taken away by a veterinarian. As soon as Ellie arrived, he perked right up, his face clearly saying "Hey, Baby". She went over to him, they nosed each other briefly, and then young man gave her a "love bite" on the shoulder. This did not go over well. Ellie turned her ass on him, and fired both barrels.

This is when things went horribly wrong. The paddocks are separated by two strands of electric fence (thankfully it was turned off today). When her legs came down, they were on the wrong side of the fence. When she went to walk away, she discovered she was trapped.

A horse that feels trapped reverts to instant flight mode. Ten alarm panic. They will struggle to get out of the situation regardless of self inflicted injury. She struggled against the wire until it broke free, then ran. Mrs. BR ran into the paddock, got a lead rope on her, and calmed her down. Then we saw the injury.

It's difficult to discern from the above picture, but in the center is the common digital extensor tendon, at the joint, on the left hindlimb. Fortunately, the tendon was not injured, which would have compounded the problem immensely. We contacted our vet, who was willing to make an emergency farm call.

In order to stitch the injury, it was necessary to anesthetize her, and lay her down. The use of anesthesia in horses is a risky venture. As I understand it, the equine nervous system is poorly understood, and while most horses recover without any effect, some experience respiratory and/or cardiac arrest, and die. Needless to say, it's a bit nerve wracking, albeit necessary.

The vet injected her with the anesthetic. She slowly became drowsy, and then went down. Despite the best efforts to guide her down, she ended up on the wrong side.

This, of course, required two of us to grab her legs, and roll her over, whilst a third person guided her head. A friend helped me turn her, and in a moment of comic relief, he said "they always call me to turn the drunk girls over." Everyone laughed, which helped break the tension. Then the vet set to work sewing up the injury.

Her remained half open, and we were constantly watching for the next inhalation. It was always a huge relief to see her ribcage expand and her nostrils flare. Tell me she doesn't look dead.

Finally, the wound was sewn up.

We all cleared out, and waited for her to wake up. After what seemed an eternity, she suddenly raised her head, and looked around. She then struggled to her feet, resting in this position for about a minute.

Finally, she was up on all fours, albeit a tad woozy.

In order to prevent infection, she required an injection of penicillin, which, unfortunately, the vet did not have on hand in the van. I followed him up to his clinic, where he provided me with two syringes, each filled with 25cc of penicillin, one for today, the next on Wednesday. Upon returning, I waste little time administering the injection, preferring to do so whilst she was still under the influence.

When giving an injection of this size, it is necessary to inject approximately half of the quantity, then pull the needle halfway out, and reposition it. Fortunately, their are no nerves in the muscle tissue, so the horse does not feel this. The shot went off without a hitch.

She's going to be on stall rest for quite a while. The inury looks far worse than it is, although being right at the joint will complicate the healing somewhat. She is now up and moving around, favoring the injured leg only slightly. I will keep you posted on her recovery.


Anonymous said...

What an awful day this has been! You did a great job with that needle today hon! J

Christina LMT said...

Oh, my goodness! I'm sorry this happened, but I'm very glad it wasn't worse. I hope Ellie gets better quickly.

Michelle H. said...

Incredible. I'm glad everything worked out although wished it never had to happen. I'm glad you included pictures. I would have had no idea what or where a "common digital extensor tendon was.

Those love bites can get you good.

alison said...

Whoah that must have been pretty scary. You seem nice and calm throughout as I guess you would need to be but that injury must have been a bit of a scare. Glad she is going to be okay.

Becky said...

Poor baby! I'm glad she is going to be OK.

Bag Blog said...

Like kids, some horses are more accident prone than others. There was a vet in Southern CO who did not work out of a building. He prefered to work in the field. His view was that horses are more likely to react well in their own enviroment rather than a sterile horse hospital.

Laura said...

Great photos by the way.

Buck said...

Wow. I'm sorry this happened, but am grateful for the outcome, positive as it seems, and both the pics and narrative accompanying this post.

My condolences to both you and Ellie, Buckskins. It's good to read the update above this post. More power to you both.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Guys! Ellie is in good spirits tonight despite being stalled. It seems that she knows she is in trouble and needs to be good. Our horse family mean so much to us, each as individuals, they are amazing. Ellie is no exception even though we have had her for such a short time. I just have to keep visualizing her and I becoming an amazing team! Again, thanks for your support!

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