Horse Get Injured/Down/Stuck in Trailer then Euthanization Fails
OK I am totally freaked out. Yesterday could be in the Guiness Book of World Records for the most FUBAR/SNAFU horse day in history. I am very inexperienced at trailering, but agreed to take a neighbor’s 26 year old mare into town to a vet clinic for an eye injury. When I arrived at the neighbor’s house the horse was 3-legged lame. One of the front legs was not weight bearing. I don’t know what happened to the leg, but the neighbor was adamant about getting the horse to the clinic for the eye appointment. The neighbor didn’t have shipping boots on the horse.
( FWIW I always always always put shipping boots on my horse when trailering, even if its around the corner. And folks always pooh-pooh my using shipping boots for short distances. I can’t tell you how many times I get told that shipping boots are only for long trips….)
We got to the vets office and waited in the parking lot with the horse in the trailer. I have a two-horse bumper pull. I went in to use the bathroom and suddenly people yelling that there was an emergency with the horse. I ran out to the trailer and looked in the half-height groom’s door and saw the horse had a front leg over the chest bar. OH MY GOD.
The neighbor was inside the trailer trying to pull the leg back down. Then the horse started scrambling and thrashing bad, the whole trailer was rocking, the horse went down and my neighbor was still in the trailer. She got slammed up pretty bad – that really freaked me out. She managed to get out of the trailer.
She hadn’t brought any sedatives so I yelled for the vet to get a sedative. She didn’t have any for a horse – she’s a small animal vet specialist and was seeing the horse for an eye injuy.
The horse fell, his head and neck went down under the chestbar - so when he tried to get up he kept smacking the chest bar. It was absolutely terrifying to see. No one knew what to do because you’d get killed if you entered the trailer. There was no way in hell I was going to get near that thrashing panicked trapped horse. We pulled the back ramp down and tried to take out the divider but we couldn’t because the horse was going bezerk. Finally a bystander got the divider out, which was near impossible due to where the horse was laying.
The next think I knew the I saw the horse (still under the chestbar) busting out of the half-height grooms’ door. OH MY GOD.
But then the horse got stuck in the grooms’ door. We tried to push the horse back in and slam the grooms door shut to keep the horse from trying to bust out. We needed to get the chest bar out so the horse could get up, but our chest bar doesn’t have quick release pins. The horse was thrashing out of control and dangerous. I dialed 911 to get fire/rescue to come and cut the chestbar out, sedate the horse, or god-knows-what, anything!
I called my husband at work and he called the trailer repair shop to ask if there’s anyway to get the chest bar out. They said no. Shit. Meanwhile police and animal control showed up. A horse vet was contacted to come immediately.
The horse vet finally arrived and sedated the horse. The vets, animal control, police,etc were discussing how to pull the sedated horse out from under the chestbar so that it could stand, or, how to cut it out. (BTW my husband and I saved up for quite a while waiting to find a used trailer we could afford, and I dreaded it being cut apart and getting busted up by the horse).
In desparation I called the trailer manufacturer and they told me there WAS a way to get the chest bar out. YEAH!!!!
We got the chest bar out, but the horse wouldn’t get up. After an hour of trying to heave on her sides to get her up it was apparent something else was wrong and no one knew what.
Meanwhile, all the thrashing in the trailer had left a gash on the horse’s leg down to the tendon, and a cut on her face. There was blood on the trailer wall and in the shavings. So much for not bothering with shipping boots “because its only a short distance”.
The horse had kicked the grooms’ door and busted the latch so now the door wouldn’t close. I didn’t know how we would ever trailer the horse home with the door stuck open. So I went to the next door gas station and pleaded with the mechanic to come out to the parking lot and rig something temporarily. Luckily he was a horse lover.
My saint-of-a-husband left work and drove over to help. It had been pouring icy rain the whole day and we were all freezing and dripping. They gave the horse several IV bags of fluids until her catheter point started swelling up. Finally with 5 people heaving/rocking she did get up. But she was so wobbly we had to hold her so she wouldn’t fall. She almost fell smack on top of a parked car.
The vet conjectured that she’d broken her shoulder but couldn’t say w/o an xray. I asked what the hell were we going to do now – she obviously couldn’t go home in the trailer since she could barely stand. It felt like mass confusion and no one knowing what the hell to do. Since it was getting dark, and still raining like hell, and obvious (to me!) that I would in no way attempt to trailer that horse home OR ANYWHERE in her current state, I suggested we contact the equine medical center and their ambulatory service. I thought maybe they had an ambulance with a winch or something. The vets agreed.
Since the neighbor could in no way afford ambulatory service and the equine medical center (she’s already in huge debt because of her other horses going there for emergencies), and because the horse is 26, and has a serious eye injury, and now a gashed leg, she opted for euthanasia.
I thought euthanizing a horse would be calm like when I had to bring our sick older cats in for euthanasia. No WAY! It was awful. The horse struggled, fell over backward and slammed down on the concrete parking lot.
After the euthanasia, the horse vets left and my husband and I waited with the neighbor for the animal undertake to come with a truck. His truck was an hour away. It was still pouring, and we were all freezing and freaked out.
I went out to the parking lot with my neighbor so she could take some of the tail from the body. I was staring at the horse while my neighbor was cutting the tail and noticed her nostril barely moving! I freaked out – there we are in the rain and dark and my neighbor’s cutting off some tail AND I SEE THE NOSTRIL MOVE!!!
I ran inside the clinic and yelled for a stethescope and for them to get the horse vets back ASAP! That horse is still alive! The vet clinic staff didn’t believe it, told me it was post-euthanasia muscle twitching and such. I just kept screaming until they took me seriously.
The horse vets were called back. Sure enough, the horse was alive. Her legs were shaking. She was moaning. We were in shock.
We had to wait 20 minutes or so for the horse vets to drive back and re-euthanize the horse. It was horrific and freaky. Everyone was stunned speechless. Then we had to wait for the animal undertaker.
All day today I keep thinking of that horse lying in the parking lot in the dark and rain and still alive. It feels like it was some creepy nightmare, but it really happened.
I am just so disturbed by everything that happened yesterday. I am thinking of all sorts of new trailering rules and policies like always having sedation for emergencies, etc. I am just very disturbed by it all. I don’t know what to make of it all.
I'm so sorry all of this happened. You were trying to do a good thing for your neighbor. oh gosh.
Having been in a trailer with a bezerk horse; having to get my own horse out of the steel manger on an old 2H; the minutes seem like hours during it all. To witness what you did far exceeds my imagination.
What an absolute nightmare. many jingles for your mental recovery.
I was reading your ordeal and reliving my gelding going over the chest bar in my old two horse and out the side door. Needless to say, I will never use a straight load again. I have been scarred for life and officially switched to a stock. This could have easily been my gelding... I realize how lucky I am.
What a terrible thing for you, the owner and that poor , poor horse that had to suffer so.. much. I know you are sick over this...huge jingles that you and the owner get over this somehow. What an absolute nightmare.
What did the vets say once they returned ??!! They had to know that leaving as they had was wrong. And thankfully, you saw that the poor horse was still alive...I have such an active visual imagination. It makes me shudder.
"My treasures do not sparkle or glitter, they shine in the sunlight and nicker to me in the night"
Euthanasia doesn't always go well. Personally a 22 works better. I have to euthanize horses at work for research and I understand why the vets don't want the owner around. One took 2hrs and 300cc of soln.
I don't know if this will make you feel better but it might. Having been associated with a couple of horses that habitually scrambled in the trailer, I can tell you that shipping boots tear like paper under more than the most casual of scratches and probably wouldn't have helped in this situation. (I have found pillow wraps and travel bandages much more effective, especially when paired with cheap and hence replaceable bell boots.)
That has to be the most dreadful horse incidents I have ever heard about. And I've heard of some pretty bad ones.
ytr45, PLEASE do not take the following comments as a criticism of YOU...you were doing a friend a favor, and you were dragged into the most horrific position that I can imagine. Hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to criticize actions (or lack thereof) after the fact; and I don't like to be one of "those" people...but that said...
Regarding sedatives/tranq: You may want to tell that small animal vet who apparently "didn't have any for a horse" that acepromazine is routinely used on horses. Most small animal vets keep ace in their clinics. There are other tranqs that are used on small animals that can be used on horses--it's just a matter of dosage.
Did the vet NOT pay attention in vet school? Don't vets in the U.S. take basic classes on all of the standard livestock/companion animal species? And for the love of God, did the small animal vet not think to perhaps call a horse vet and ask what tranqs she has in stock could be used on horses and what the proper dosage was? I mean, I am sure that things were crazy, but a vet should have the presence of mind to THINK in situations like this.
If this small animal vet is going to allow people to haul horses to her clinic for treatment, she might want to brush up on at least the very basics. Sheesh. I certainly wouldn't want someone who APPEARS to have shown that much ignorance about horses and that little presence of mind treating an eye injury on any of MY horses!
I know that what I've written is pretty harsh and judgemental. Again, I do not mean these comments to be a criticism of you, ytr45! But THIS POOR HORSE was dreadfully, woefully let down by first the small animal vet, then the horse vet that did not absolutely, 100% confirm that the poor horse was dead. What a terrible, miserable way to end a 26 year old horse's life--those vets ought to be ashamed of themselves. Under the best of circumstances, being a vet is a TOUGH job, and animals find 1,001 ways to hurt or kill themselves. I have absolute respect for veterinarians--my brother in law is one (mainly small animals). I adore the vets that work on my horses; in fact, one was out just the other day because Zorro came up lame. There are circumstances beyond anyone's control that makes it impossible to save every animal and prevent all suffering--even with the best vet care in the world. But those vets let this poor animal suffer FAR more than it should have.
I am very, very sad for that poor horse, and for you!
Oh my God, I am so sorry for you, the poor horse and everyone involved. What a nightmare! It will be difficult, but just keep telling yourself that you did the best you could and that the horse is now at peace.
I too have been in a trailer with a terrified, freaked out horse that blindly thrashes to get out - there is nothing you can do but stand by and watch and wait. Minutes seem like hours. I understand how awful it must have been for all.