Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Red Insists that Something is Wrong

One advantage I've found of listening to my horses, and the relationship we have, is that sometimes they have something important to say, and they feel that if they say it, I will listen to them.

Today was my music lesson day, so usually all I do at the barn is check horses, pick feet and pick stalls if needed.  Today I'd also been asked by another owner who couldn't make it to the barn to check her two horses' blankets to see if they were wet or not.

After a quick walk down the aisle - Red was resting in the back of his stall - this isn't unusual - and Pie and Dawn were eating hay.  But Red looked a little . . . concerned - I asked him what was up but he didn't say at that point. I picked Dawn's feet, and then Pie's - this is the usual order.  Then I checked the other owner's horses and blankets - no problem.  While I was in the stall adjacent to Red's, all of a sudden he came up to the stall wall between the stalls - there are cracks between the boards - and started banging on the stall wall with a front foot - very odd.  I thought he might be jealous that I was paying attention to another horse rather than him . . .   Then as I left the other horse's stall and walked in front of Red's stall, he came to the door and started banging on it with a front foot - he was clearly trying to get my attention, and wasn't eating his very nice hay.

I brought him into the aisle, and sure enough, there was a reason for his insistence.  He'd been kicked in the left hind, on the outside of his leg, a couple of inches below the lower hock bone.  His legs were wet and muddy, but it was possible to see that the wound had bled profusely, although it wasn't bleeding much by that point.  The wound was from front to back on the outside of his hind leg, about an inch and a half long centered between front and back, and went through skin and fascia, showing red underneath.  It needed to be cleaned up before I could assess how bad it was, but the good news was that he was walking normally, although he did tend to rest it when standing still.  There was significant swelling below the wound - a big hematoma in process.

One of the major negatives of my barn is that no feels that it is their responsibility to check the horses at bring-in for injuries or lameness.  One of the guys is pretty good at noticing things - he sometimes catches things - but the others are pretty clueless (and I don't think they care or consider it part of their job - I partly blame barn management on this issue).  Red wasn't lame, but he had an obvious cut with profuse bleeding and a large amount of swelling.  The blood was concealed in part because his legs were very wet and somewhat muddy, and dark blood doesn't stand out on a wet chestnut horse.  Nevertheless, I was peeved with the guys for not noticing - they'd already gone but I'll mention it to them tomorrow and I did text the barn owner (who's on vacation).

The first order of business was to get the wound cleaned up so I could see it properly, and to wash it with soap and water and do some cold hosing.  So Red and I went to the wash stall in the main barn.  The wash stall is not one of Red's favorite things, and although we did some work on this last year we're far from where we need to be in terms of his comfort level.  So it did take a while for him to go in - I used Mark's technique of not bracing against him when he wanted to back away, but instead just kept light pressure on the rope to tell him I wanted forward.  So we went back and forth for a bit, but then he just went right in - I had told him that it was very important that we wash his leg and I think he paid attention.  I also was willing to go as slow as necessary and take as long as it took and everything was quiet and calm - I ended up missing my private music lesson, but that was fine.  I cross-tied him and went to work on his leg, first rinsing it well and then soaping it up (with gentle dishwashing soap) a couple of times and rinsing between.  The cut, while deep, didn't look like it needed stitches - it wasn't gaping too much - and I didn't see any "structures" exposed, which was a good sign.  When I pushed on the swollen area below the cut, clear liquid did come out.  Red was very cooperative for it all, letting me scrub the leg well, although he didn't much like the cold hosing - it seemed to be uncomfortable.

I called my vet - she's very willing to consult by phone.  She said the location and description didn't sound too bad as it was less likely to involve a tendon or ligament.  The liquid coming from squeezing the swelling was likely serum, which is clear, rather than synovial fluid, which tends to be cloudy. A splint bone issue is possible, but the fact he's walking normally is a good sign.  And infection is always a concern with a dirty wound like this.

According to her instructions, I gave him a dose of Uniprim (2x day for 7 days) mixed with a little feed and some warm water, while I was getting my supplies ready, then brought him into the aisle and put Neosporin on the wound, applied a sterile gauze pad held on with vet wrap, and put a standing bandage over all.  I've never had to do any of these things with Red before, and he was just about perfect - he didn't object to the pressure, or my wrapping (I was kneeling on the barn floor in my non-barn clothes) and didn't even do the hike-up-the-leg thing many horses do when they have wraps applied.  Before I put him back in the stall, he also got a gram of bute, and he'll get one more in the morning. He seemed pretty happy about what I had done, and went right to eating his hay when I put him in the stall, and was even weighting the leg normally - perhaps the pressure of the bandage felt good.

Tomorrow morning, he and Pie will stay in their stalls until I get there at around 7 a.m., and then I'll cold hose, give him his morning Uniprim and bute (the guys are also useless for giving medications), rewrap and then if all is well put him and Pie in a paddock for the day.  No riding until things heal up to the firm scab stage - the good news is the area where the cut is doesn't move much if at all.

Red felt he could tell me about it and trust me to do what was needed - I feel good about that.


  1. Wow, you handled that very well and it's great that you and Red have that kind of connection. Well done. Dan

  2. Thanks, Dan - I think of it as ordinary horse-keeping. And it's nice that you often comment - very few people do so I never know if anyone is reading.

  3. wise horse that Red, knows when he needs to ask for help! hope he heals up well

  4. How did they miss a wound like that? Something small I could understand, but that sounds like quite a kick.

  5. I read, Kate!
    Right now Allan is the "barn attendant" and not being "horsaii" he tends be overly cautious...calling me at school if anything doesn't seem right. His instincts are getting better at judging whether or not he can deal with issues (with direction), so he's certainly way better to have round than someone who's just there to do chores!
    Glad Red knew who to ask for help, and that it doesn't seem to be too big a big deal.

  6. Poor boy! Funny that he wouldn't eat until he had his wound taken care of. All was right in his world then!

  7. A horse who points out his hurts is something to be thankful for. (I have one too :D) Hope Red heals up quick!

    Regarding the comment issue... Your posts are so complete and well thought out, that I find the same comment always comes to mind. "I couldn't agree more!" You can be sure that I read each and every post with enthusiasm. :D

  8. Glad it was mostly superficial and didn't need any specialized care. Good to have all the proper vet supplies on hand.

    Bothersome that that barn crew didn't notice it. Red must have been trying to tell them too. Good thing you know how to listen to him.

    Wishing him a speedy recovery and good healing.

  9. I read most all of your posts, Kate! I don't always have time to comment these days, and like CFS I often feel that any comment I could make would be superfluous, but I am here, reading and enjoying your blog, as always!

  10. I read all of your posts! You get way more comments on your blog than I do on mine! ;)

    I'm also in the camp that a large, profusely bleeding wound should have been noticed by someone.

    1. Unfortunately, the "culture" of the guys at our barn is just not to care - all they care about is getting their narrowly defined jobs done as quickly as possible.

  11. I read every day,,, just don't comment often-as I am a bit shy :)

  12. Wow... I would be beyond pissed off if the stable help didn't see that!! That's one reason the barn owner where I worked loved me is because I checked every single horse every single day and I typically noticed things super early (like colic or choke). I'm also very happy my horse is at home!! I wish you had that option.

    How many horses is Red out with? Do you know who kicked him?

    I'm sorry I'm behind on reading! I'm getting caught up now and I'll try not to disappear again. :)

    1. achieve - unfortunately our barn help just doesn't care and the barn owner doesn't supervise them well or make it clear that this stuff is important.

      Red is in a large herd of younger geldings - lots of running and playing, which is good for him. He is also the boss of the herd and pushes the other horses around a lot, and sometimes he bites another horse on the butt too hard and gets kicked for his trouble - it's happened before.

    2. That's so sad. Was this a wake up call at all for the barn owner or does she still just not really supervise them?

      Ahh that makes sense if he is the boss. It's too bad it happened, but I guess these things just happen with horses. I'm glad the surgery was successful and I'm sending happy, relaxed vibes Red's way so hopefully he will settle into his stall rest okay.


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