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Rattlesnakes and the Trail

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  • Rattlesnakes and the Trail

    This year has been the year of the rattlesnake. Everytime I ride I run into a rattlesnake. I have stopped riding one of the trails because of the abundance of rattlers on that trail!

    I tried to research what to do if your horse gets bit on the trail, but most of the articles talk about bites to the nose of a horse and really don't address the problem of getting bit on the trail.

    Does anyone have any advice, experience etc. about dealing with rattlers on the the trail? I have been sticking to trails that I have good visibility on, but this morning I had a rattler that didn't want to move. We were at a stand still. There was no safe way to go around the snake. Finally he decided to move off into the brush.

    I am afraid I won't see one and my mare will get bit. What do I do if she gets bit?

    Amy

  • #2
    All my horses got the new rattlesnake vaccine that came out Sept of 2010. It is a series of 3 shots 3 weeks apart. Not cheap, but I live in Phx, AZ and we normally see *at least* one per ride, if not 3-4. Of course that's not a cure if they do get bit on the trail, but it should help a little.

    I've heard you should pack 4-5" hose pieces too if they should get bit in the face. You then put the hose up into their nostril to keep their airway open. I would just start walking home at that point if you are out of cell phone range and in the middle of nowhere. If you can get someone to come pick you up, I'd call for a trailer and take them to a vet!

    Comment


    • #3
      You are doing the right thing by just giving them a chance to move off. They don't want to get stepped on any more than you want to get bit, so just give each other some space.

      As far as if a horse DOES get bitten -- remember that snake antivenin is made via injecting snake venom into horses. They are large mammals and a snake bite is not lethal to them. Your biggest concern is obviously maintaining an airway in the event of a nose bite, which you can do with pieces of hose. In a leg bite, you will get a lot of swelling, but with proper care, the horse should recover well. Should you (and it is unlikely) experience a bite on the trial, just walk home (you want to try and keep heart rate down) and head to your vet for care as soon as possible.
      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
      We Are Flying Solo

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Wildlifer, you are right. I talked to the vet this morning and she said the only thing you really can do is get off the trail by walking and as soon as I get cell reception to call her and she can either meet me at the trail head or at my home.

        She said there is nothing that I can carry that would help. The best thing to do is get treatment right away. She did say that they generally don't carry much anti-venon on the trucks because it is so expensive. But after talking to me, she is going to carry more because she thinks we might have more cases of bites this year.

        Amy

        Comment


        • #5
          Good deal, sounds like you and your vet have done due diligence on being prepared, so go have fun and just keep your eyes and ears open! ;-)
          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
          We Are Flying Solo

          Comment


          • #6
            I would assume that the most likely body part to get bittn on the trail is the legs....is there "snake boots" for horses? We have rattle snakes here in GA too and I have thought about what to do or not do in the event of a snake bite but I would sure rather avoid one altogether.
            "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."

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            • #7
              If you are seeing rattlesnakes on the trails on a daily basis, I would probably go ahead with the vaccine, if it were me.

              Vaccine where I live 3 X $40 = $120 the first year. $40 thereafter.

              Antivenin for a horse starts at $600 + emergency fee = $800+

              Comment


              • #8
                My horse was bitten on the nose when she was two.

                Her nose swelled up to the size of a basketball. She never acted sick and never lost her appetite, she just looked like a hammerhead shark with legs for about four days.

                The vet gave her cortisone and antibiotics, and he left me with pills and injections of the same to give at intervals after his visit. No anti-venom. I stayed close at hand for a couple of days to be sure she could breathe through the swelling, and kept a length of hose handy in case she couldn't breathe. The vet told me to cut a length of hose about 12" long and to sand any rough edges off the ends so that the ends of the hose wouldn't damage the delicate parts inside my horse's nose. Thankfully we didn't have to go there.

                Besides blocked nostrils, the other danger in snakebite to a horse, from what I understand, is that the venom can cause the flesh around the bite to die and slough off, leaving a wound which can be deep. This did not happen to my horse.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  I talked to my vet about the vaccine and the vaccine that is available is not formulated to the rattlesnakes that we have in our area.

                  I have been putting polos on her when I ride. Hoping that if she does get bit, maybe they will hit the polo's and not her legs.

                  Amy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by HorsingRound View Post
                    Besides blocked nostrils, the other danger in snakebite to a horse, from what I understand, is that the venom can cause the flesh around the bite to die and slough off, leaving a wound which can be deep. This did not happen to my horse.
                    I've actually seen quite a few (well, relatively speaking...most horsepeople I know haven't seen any ) untreated rattlesnake bites on legs and they do look horrible. I saw them when I was shoeing ranch horses, often they would be turned out to huge pastures and not checked on for a few days at least, so the bites weren't found until later. They look bad and scar up, but they aren't fatal. And keep in mind that's with virtually no treatment. Even facial bites (which are the most common on loose horses because they get curious and put their heads down to check it out, probably not so likely on trail rides ) usually heal, though there is a risk that the nostrils will swell shut as mentioned.

                    I mean, I'm not saying to be casual about it but it's not as a big of an emergency as most people think. In fact, many vets I've known don't even give antivenin to horses in most cases. Horses are large enough that snakebites are rarely fatal. Not to mention most rattlers take some provocation before they'll strike. We have western diamondbacks here which are I believe the most aggressive species in the US, and even so they'd rather just buzz at you and let you move on. Really, it's not something I worry about.

                    What area are you in/what kind of rattlers are you dealing with? And polos probably won't do much to protect their legs, timber rattlers especially have very long fangs and they can puncture very tough material.
                    exploring the relationship between horse and human

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I live in So. California in the foothills. All of the rattlers that I have run across are not aggressive. I have been lucky enough to see them well ahead of time and was able to let them do their thing and move on. The only time I ran into one that I couldn't see was on a narrow part of the trail that had high brush. It was somewhere in the brush and rattling like crazy. It scared the cr*p out of me because I didn't know where it was. Luckily my horse kept her head and we moved through.

                      So now we have curtailed our riding to trails that I can see well and are not narrow with no escape. I have only seen one Garter snake and he was VERY shy. Almost missed him.

                      Amy

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        you could try a hard-shell boot like these:

                        http://www.actionridertack.com/p-423...ot-airflo.aspx

                        or maybe a heavy leather leg boot?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          *bows to folks who del w/ rattlers* (There're no poison snakes in my nek o' the woods. Gimme bears and cougars any day.)

                          Y'all walking the horse home post-bite--that's not hand-walking, right? I mean, riding woud be more work for the horse, but not riding puts your legs in the danger zone.
                          www.lisapreston.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            All of the horses we ride out with here see/hear the rattlers before we ever do. So some horses don't know that that is danger and to not touch/go near it? Even my mare from the east coast will alert if one is around. Is this a learned skill from experience, or maybe something genetic?

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Good question. My mare stops when she hears the rattle, but I don't know if thats because I have jumped a foot out of the saddle!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Lisa Preston View Post
                                *bows to folks who del w/ rattlers* (There're no poison snakes in my nek o' the woods. Gimme bears and cougars any day.)

                                Y'all walking the horse home post-bite--that's not hand-walking, right? I mean, riding woud be more work for the horse, but not riding puts your legs in the danger zone.
                                We have bears and cougars too. If I were on a horse that was bit, I'd hand walk them. The odds of two strikes in one ride are astronomical (the odds of one bite happening are already quite high). I run and hike in the desert all the time, as long as you watch where you put your feet it's fine.

                                I do think most horses react to the noise. I'm pretty sure I've never had a horse get buzzed at who didn't jump out of the way, and I don't really react to hearing the noise. I've ridden right over the top of rattlesnakes a few times over the years (though usually at a trot or canter as sometimes you don't see them before you're on top of them, but at a walk you typically do) and generally they buzz, the horse jumps out of the way, and both of you go on your merry way. Strangely enough, though, I've never had a horse overreact to it, and I've worked with some skittish young horses over the years.
                                exploring the relationship between horse and human

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  We ride through rattlesnake country all the time and live in it too. My GP dog just got bit a couple weeks ago.

                                  The horses have never been bitten (yet) and when we've encountered the snakes on rides the horses usually veer away no problem. I did have one horse spook all out of proportion and dumped me on the ground NEXT to the snake! LOL And a few years ago a snake crossed the trail right under my horse's nose and he spooked at sagebrush roots for the entire rest of the day!

                                  Traveling horses usually make a vibration on the ground that the snakes pick up on and they will move if they can. The one that crossed under my horse was trying to get out of the way.

                                  The vaccine is only effective for the western diamondback rattler (I think that's the right species) and if you miss a shot in the series you have to start all over. It's worth it I guess if you have one prize horse that you want to fuss over and keep perfect but for us the odds are long that a bite will cause a problem.

                                  Boots are a great idea if you have to ride in such a busy snake area, I think that's the most reasonable plan you can have. If you need to get a snake off the trail you can throw rocks near it and they will usually skitter away from the noise and disturbance. A grown snake can bite without releasing much venom and sometimes don't release any at all.
                                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Is your dog okay, cowboymom? That's my big worry with snakes...I'm downright unconcerned about myself or my horses, but I worry about my dogs. Although just a couple of weeks ago they were all outside when I heard my Wooby dog start barking her head off. She does that all the time, though (seriously, she's the most talkative dog I've ever met--her name even comes from the fact that if she's happy she'll just sing "woo wooo wooooo" to you), so I didn't think anything of it until I heard Hector the GSD and my ranch hand's dog Ruth start barking urgently, too. I go outside to find one dog sitting by my door and the other 4 standing in a circle around a coiled up rattler, barking their heads off but not approaching it!

                                    As soon as I called the dogs away it slithered off under my truck, and none of the dogs were injured. My hand and I tried to relocate it off the property but unfortunately we injured it while trying to scoop it up, so had to shoot it. At no point during the whole thing did it actually strike at anything or even do much feinting, and it was a fairly large western diamondback.
                                    exploring the relationship between horse and human

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                                      Is your dog okay, cowboymom? That's my big worry with snakes...I'm downright unconcerned about myself or my horses, but I worry about my dogs. Although just a couple of weeks ago they were all outside when I heard my Wooby dog start barking her head off. She does that all the time, though (seriously, she's the most talkative dog I've ever met--her name even comes from the fact that if she's happy she'll just sing "woo wooo wooooo" to you), so I didn't think anything of it until I heard Hector the GSD and my ranch hand's dog Ruth start barking urgently, too. I go outside to find one dog sitting by my door and the other 4 standing in a circle around a coiled up rattler, barking their heads off but not approaching it!

                                      As soon as I called the dogs away it slithered off under my truck, and none of the dogs were injured. My hand and I tried to relocate it off the property but unfortunately we injured it while trying to scoop it up, so had to shoot it. At no point during the whole thing did it actually strike at anything or even do much feinting, and it was a fairly large western diamondback.
                                      Yep, he's totally fine! He got bit on his jaw/face, couldn't tell if there were two bites or one. He's a nine month old Great Pyrenees and weighs about 90 lbs so he handled it fine. Had some swelling on the side of his face but most of the swelling happened in his jowel area so it was easily accomodated by the skin. He was nearly back to normal in two days-we started him on antibiotics the second day and that was all he needed. My GSD/Aussie dog got bit on a back leg years ago-her leg swelled way up and turned purple but she also recovered quickly with antibiotics. It's weird, they're usually with us when we ride all over the snake country but they've never been bitten out on a ride. The GP was at home somewhere (which makes us nervous) and the mutt was jumping out of the bed of the fencing truck and as far as we can tell landed on the snake who was probably desperately trying to get out of the area of the newly parked truck!

                                      The only snake fatality we've had was a young cat who unfortunately was bitten in the neck.

                                      Our dogs have circled rattlers barking like that before too when we've seen them at the ranch. They've been fooled before too-bull snakes have learned to imitate the rattle. We always check the end of the snake to make sure of what we're dealing with!
                                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                                        I'm downright unconcerned about myself or my horses, but I worry about my dogs.
                                        You should be concerned about getting bitten, CosMonster. Rattlesnake bites are a very serious matter for humans, more so than dogs, I believe.

                                        In my area, in addition to the larger, more passive rattlers, we often find Mojave Green rattlesnakes which are smaller, very quick and aggressive, and have a highly toxic venom. I wouldn't miss this species if it went extinct.

                                        I don't mess around with "relocating" rattlesnakes I find on my property--they get dispatched to "snake heaven" quickly and in pieces like a sushi roll.

                                        As I hike, ride or work around my place, I keep my eyes open for snakes from the first warm days of spring until well after the first frost of fall. If I move something, like a barrel or a bale, in my yard, I knock on it with a shovel to get a snake out from under it. Never, never reach or step into an opening or crevice without first looking for snakes. If I find a snake in my path, I stand well back (8' or more) and throw rocks at it until it moves far away. Most of the time I see it before it sees me, so rarely do I hear them rattle. If I find a snake on my place, I deal with it using a shovel. I would NOT want to get bitten.

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