Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Horses Play Rough

My friend's horse Mags got kicked yesterday out in the pasture and fractured a front leg above the knee.

The report came in yesterday afternoon that he had been hurt somehow and was on three legs. They managed to get the horse back into the barn, an operation that took an hour or more, as Mags hopped along, unable to put any weight at all on the injured leg.

At first, everyone was relieved because they thought it was his knee that was involved, and the x-rays showed the knee was fine. Late in the evening, though, the vet looked again at the films and discovered the telltale tracings of a fracture.

This morning the vet re-wrapped and splinted the leg (a very high-tech operation: a split piece of PVC sewer pipe, a six-foot-long 2 X 4, and duct tape!). When the splint was in place, Mags could hobble, his weight partially supported by the pipe and the wood.

There was a scary moment: When Mags took his first step, he was startled by the movement of the 2 X 4 at his shoulder, and tried to rear. The vet and his assistant got him calmed down quickly, though, and managed to get him into a trailer to take him to the vet school in Columbia. Prognosis: guarded. He'll be in a sling for at least a month, followed by another month of stall rest at the Columbia facility and possibly two months back at home. Recovery rate from this type of fracture is maybe 80%...provided Mags will tolerate being partially suspended in that sling for such a long time. Many horses--perhaps most horses--will not.

The vet school there is an amazing place--dedicated staff and talented students, round-the-clock attention, state-of-the-art facilities. Mags will get the best care possible--provided his leg survives the trip, and provided he will tolerate the sling. He's young (seven), calm, and trusting, and he's a smallish horse; all these will improve his odds.

All I could do, standing there watching this morning's events, was try to keep everyone (including myself) calm. Horses are so sensitive, and the last thing Mags needed was to have his human friends overly agitated. But how do you stay calm in a situation like that, especially if you're the owner? How would I behave if it were my own horse? How would I fact the prospect of having to euthanize Gahalad or Midnight?

Horses play rough; it's just what they do. As the trailer drove away, I could see two palominos play-fighting in the pasture, rearing and kicking. I left Galahad in his stall this afternoon instead of turning him out....

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