If you own a horse, you’ve probably gotten The Call. You know, the one from the barn manager informing you that your horse has self-destructed in some creative new way.
Most recently, I got The Call on Saturday. I was passed out on the couch recovering from a violent case of the stomach flu and woke up to a voicemail from the girl who was feeding that morning at the barn. She was sniffling from the sub-freezing cold and out of breath from chasing the horses around their field–apparently they had no desire to come in for breakfast.
“Esprit has managed to tangle himself up in his blanket,” she explained. “His blanket is destroyed and I can see that his back leg is bleeding but he won’t let me get anywhere near him.”
I arrived to the barn shortly thereafter, to this:
I like the “I didn’t do it, I don’t know what happened” expression on his face.
Indeed, he was bleeding. The most serious of his assorted bang-ups were some hind fetlock lacerations and a swollen front knee. Less pressingly, he was missing one hind shoe and the other was badly sprung, a shred of blanket wedged between it and his hoof. Three out of four legs—Good job, Esprit.
What had happened out there? I suspected a run-in with Edward Scissorhands, but the barn manager suggested that it closer resembled the handywork of a giant cheese grater.
This is the new SmartPak Ultimate Ballistic Nylon Turnout Blanket that Esprit got for Christmas, which of course he hadn’t been wearing that morning (his is the lightweight version). Made of heavy-duty ballistic nylon, it even comes with a 10-year indestructible guarantee. I know what your old heavyweight blanket is getting replaced with, buddy.
I cold-hosed and disinfected and assessed the situation. To call the vet or not to call the vet–that was the $300 question. (Another thought-provoking question: Why do horses never hurt themselves Monday through Friday during normal business hours?)
Deciding whether to call the vet out is like deciding whether to leave the house with an umbrella when there’s a 50-percent chance of rain. If you grab an umbrella, the sun will come out. If you don’t, it’s guaranteed to pour.
Likewise, if the vet came out, I already knew what they’d say: SMZs, flush the wound, stall rest. Also, they’d probably talk me into some peace-of-mind ultrasounds or radiographs that would, invariably, prove that my horse was completely fine.
If I didn’t call the vet out, on the other hand, I’d find out down the line that I’d made a terrible mistake–that “probably OK” fetlock cut would turn out to be a puncture, or the swollen knee would turn out to be a fracture.
I weighed the decision carefully and ultimately decided on a compromise: I’d doctor him up, leave him in overnight, and reassess in the morning.
The waiting game began…
I came out the next day… and it looked better!
I left him in another night, to be sure. The morning after that… it looked even better!
I turned him him back out with his buddies and…
You guessed it–he came back in with a big fat swollen fetlock. And, his knee was puffed up again, this time with heat.