One day as a large animal veterinarian, (code for horse doctor), I responded to a call for a trailer accident with horses trapped in the trailer. The car pulling a trailer with 2 horses did not negotiate a hill ant this resulted in the trailer tipping over on its side. The fire department also responded. None of the young women in the car were injured, and the firemen and I successfully removed one of the horses with minimal injury from the trailer. The second horse was trapped. We tried everything to free the horse, but were unable to do so.
As I watched the horse struggle and being injured by the metal parts in the trailer, I made the decision that the only way we could get that horse out of that trailer was for me to use the field anesthesia I used so often to perform minor surgical procedures
First I would give a sedative, then follow with a short acting anesthetic. When used in the field, I was able to lay the horse on the ground, do my procedure, wait a short time, and then have the horse wake up and stand on their own. Easy-peasy most of the time.
So, I shared my plan to the firemen. They were on board. I administered my medication and, as expected, the horse stopped struggling, relaxed, and was sedated as planned. Since firemen arrive with water in their trucks, we sprayed water on the horse, the ramp of the trailer, and as much under the horse as we could. Then we – me and 6 strong men – pulled the horse free of the trailer.
It was great to have the horse free. One problem solved, but one just beginning. Being forced to recover this horse on the road presented some pretty significant challenges. There were ditches on the sides of this country road and, as I began to recover him, he tried to get up too soon. The short acting anesthesia is short acting, but it does need some time to clear the body and allow the horse to stand without being wobbly.
As the horse began to wake up sooner than able, he stumble and rolled. Off the road. Into the ditch. Then, he continued to try to get up too soon and continued to roll down the ditch and down a ravine and into the water at the bottom of the ravine. There was no way I could stop this because the horse weighs too much for a person to stop them. With the riders of the horse standing there watching me and all this, I kept thinking was ‘this just keeps getting better.’
I stood there speechless praying he would not break a leg or his neck. I knew he was an athlete, but this just kept getting worse. His rider and I jumped down into the ravine We stood on each side of him with ropes. I had her place a towel across his face to make him think he was sleeping in the hopes that he would just stop trying to walk until more of the medication wore off.
Finally he was steadier on this hooves. In his athletic jumping fashion, he hopped up the incline out of the ravine out of the ditch to the road level. He was still a little wobbly, but walking well enough to not endanger any of us handling him or himself. We found a nearby farm that allowed us to place the horse in a stall to repair the injuries he sustained in the accident. I spent two hours repairing his cuts and medicating him. He may not have been able to do his show jumping that day, but soon afterward he was back in saddle again- so to say.
I am thankful that all worked out in the end even though I was never more terrified in my life for all the events that happened this day.
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