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Beating a horse to get them up after surgery?

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  • Beating a horse to get them up after surgery?

    Have any of you heard of this? Friend with a mid twenties mare went for colic surgery. They found and removed necrotic small bowel and a large lipoma. She was told the anesthesia was going to be kept light cause her heart rate was very fast. During the surgery the mare started to tremble and thrash so they put her under deeper.

    In the recovery room the staff/Vets decided to get her up about 1 hour after surgery. And when she did not get up the slapping, yelling, kicking, ear pulling, anus pinching, slapping her belly, kicking her rump commenced. When this did not work they gave her dextrose and more reinforcements came in and escalated the efforts of slapping kicking and yelling. The mare struggled a lot. Fell into a lump several times and through it all seemed very drugged and disoriented with heavy slow sighing breaths.

    With the blood on the floor and poor footing and a very drugged sick horse the outcome of their get up efforts was a catastrophic injury to her knee - it was blown apart. She was euthanized. The only explanation was the break happens 1% of the time.

    There are many things that are not understood here. I do not know and just have no explanation of what their urgency was to get her up and why they were so forceful. Maybe she had drug overdose, combined with neurological or septic type events ongoing and that escalated the Vet's need to get her up? There just has been no explanation.

    I know breaking a leg is a very real potential after anesthesia with any horse. But it seems to me that the force that was used on this mare lead to her demise. All I have ever heard that great care and distance was given a horse when they came out of anesthesia especially because of the break and thrashing potential.

    Have any of you known this to be a useful or common practice with a horse after anesthesia? And why would no halter or lead be used to assist her?
    from sunridge1:Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.it is going to be good until the last drop!Eleneswell, the open trail begged to be used. D Taylor

  • #2
    I am sorry for your loss. An hour is a long time to be down, it sounds like they were very worried about her and wanted to get her on her feet to get things moving again.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • #3
      I am also sorry for your friend's loss. I lost my heart horse after a complex colic surgery when he would not get up. He made it through the surgery ok (a resecting by someone who had actually helped develop the procedure), but just would not come out from the anesthesia, so I understand their concern. We ended up doing the same thing to try to get him up, and finally tried even with the sling, but he was just too weak. A couple of hours later he did get up for a couple of minutes, and for an hour we thought he was going to make it, but then he lay down and died.

      So the longer they stay under, the more concern there is about post-anesthesia complications. When they go in for surgery, they are facing a stressful situation and the surgery is traumatic, the anesthesia is traumatic, and the getting up afterwards is even more so. They were kind of in a no-win situation. If she didn't get up, she faced the same issues as my gelding, but making her get up risked trauma. I'd have taken the risk too, because if my gelding HAD been able to get up, he might have been better off. If the mare hadn't injured herself (been part of that risk pool) she might have recovered, or she might not have, but at least she had a chance.

      Again, I am very sorry...


      • #4
        Sometimes you HAVE to get a horse up, and unfortunately it is not very pleasant or easy-- we just went through this with a yearling who colicked in order to get him on to the van to get to New Bolton, then again to get him off. It is always risky.


        • #5
          I have seen this type of scenario played out a few times with my own horses although not all involved colic surgery. Sometimes, the need to get a horse up necessitates some strong tactics to get a horse to fight thru the drugs to rise. I'm sorry the horse had to be euth'd but I'm guessing they were concerned about him surviving the anesthesia and were trying to save him.
          Susan N.

          Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


          • #6
            So sorry for your loss. It sounds like the mare was in an emergency situation and getting her up was paramount to everything else. Yes it is risky, but they would not have taken that risk if the mare wasn't in dire straits. She most likely would have passed either way and forcing her to her feet may have been the only way to give her a chance at a recovery. Just an awful situation though. Sometimes medical professionals are only left with two risky choices and they must pick the choice they feel is right at that moment.


            • #7
              Very very sorry for you and your friend's loss. Surgery and medical treatment for animals (humans too) can verge on cruelty because of the risks involved in treatment, survival and best outcomes.

              The horse is a huge animal, and keeping it alive following sedation can be complicated and traumatic in rare instances. Going under anesthesia is another very risky time - sometimes there is injury and death from when the horse is put under.

              Again, so very sorry. To have to see any of this with a heart horse is very traumatic and beyond painful. Condolences.
              Last edited by Justa Bob; Sep. 4, 2011, 06:08 PM.


              • #8
                Thoughts and prayers and hugs for this owner ~ and all involved `

                Thoughts and prayers for this owner and all involved ```

                RIP ~ Lovely mare
                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                • #9
                  Oh, and just for the record, it's normal to second guess every decision afterwards. At first I wished we had never even put my horse through the surgery, but ???if he'd made it, I probably would have been glad. So I learned to just let the grieving process proceed and to realize that every decision is a crossroads and you can go many different directions, so try to take each one with an open heart and an open mind. I do know it's difficult.


                  • #10
                    My mare had 2 colic surgeries 36 hours apart. The initial surgery was about 5 hours and included a resection of the small intestine. She was very, very slow to get up (no, I don't know what they did to get her up as I did not see her until she was on her feet.) Slow being, as I recall, a few hours. They were very concerned she was down that long.

                    We almost did not do the second surgery as she took so long to recover from the first one but it was surgery or euthanize.

                    Same person did anesthesia both times. Second time they kept her much lighter near the end and she was up in about an hour. They also let me see her sooner to see if that would help her. Hard to watch your beloved horse shaking and sweating after the surgery (effects of the anesthesia).

                    That was 10 1/2 years ago (Grand Prix weekend at the Denver Stock Show). She's happily retired and living on 40 acres now.
                    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt
                    For you to insult me, I must first value your opinion - Unknown
                    Pleasure Portrait 1989-2016...sleep well my girl


                    • #11
                      So sad. Horses coming out of anesthesia are so vulnerable.

                      NC State has a padded room for surgical recoveries and I would imagine they use slings too.

                      I agree that it doesn't sound like the situation with your friend's horse was managed well at all.


                      • #12
                        The longer I am alive, the more I realize how fragile life is.

                        I am so sorry about your friend's mare.

                        I think surgery and GA is always a risk. One of those risks is for the horse to lay down too long, and either pinch nerves or lose muscle use. So, they want the horse down and up as quickly as possible.

                        Its so hard to lose an animal, and sometimes rehashing things can only make it worse for you. You know, the woulda, coulda, shoulda's don't really help. The loss is there, and nothing is going to bring her back.

                        I am sure your friend realized there was a risk, but chose to do the surgery for the hope the mare would live many more years. I am so sorry, that is devastating.
                        Just give your friend hugs, and think about the happy memories with her of her mare.
                        save lives...spay/neuter/geld


                        • #13
                          I'm very sorry for your friend's loss.
                          At 20 years of age you're starting to take a chance on whether they survive the surgery due to other complications and it becomes more important for them to get up to avoid fluid build up etc. I'm sorry it had to be so traumatic to watch and then to have a catastrophic failure at the end must really hurt, but at least it was relatively quick and not days of lingering for an older horse that just didn't quite have the health to get well after the surgery. I've seen the lingering happen in humans and it is really tough.

                          Please let your friend know that the horse probably was sedated well enough not to suffer unduly, and to treasure the good times they had together.
                          Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                          Incredible Invisible


                          • #14
                            I'm so sorry. {{hugs}}
                            Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                            • #15
                              I thought most places used a tilt-table for equine surgery these days?


                              • #16
                                Not commonly.
                                Usually the horse is dropped with injectable induction agents, then hoisted onto and off the table while unconscious.
                                "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


                                • #17
                                  I am sorry for the loss of your friend's mare. I can only speak from my experience with a 2 month internship at a surgical vet clinic during my sophomore year of high school, but I did once witness a horse being hit to get up, and it was as other posters described--the horse was down long enough and I believe there were some other issues either with poor vitals or something (sorry I can't remember exactly) that it became a matter of "get her up at all costs." In that case the horse did not even try and did wind up dying. It should not be done as a matter of course, though. I think I personally witnessed 8 or so surgeries and that was the only one where the horse was really pressed to get up (and gentler methods were tried first). Even at the time the staff and vet were commenting on how unusual it was.

                                  edit: I feel like I should add that most of the surgeries I saw were arthroscopic ones on young, healthy horses--basically, scheduled surgeries since I was only there during class time as it was for credit through my school. I only saw 2 colic surgeries, one of which was the horse that died. So don't think I have all that much experience or anything.

                                  Originally posted by thatmoody View Post
                                  Oh, and just for the record, it's normal to second guess every decision afterwards. At first I wished we had never even put my horse through the surgery, but ???if he'd made it, I probably would have been glad. So I learned to just let the grieving process proceed and to realize that every decision is a crossroads and you can go many different directions, so try to take each one with an open heart and an open mind. I do know it's difficult.
                                  This is really true. I second-guess myself something awful in everything but a perfect result, and I think most people do. If your friend is really struggling with what happened, perhaps you can offer to try to get more details from the staff? Just a thought, since I don't know your relationship or anything. I just know I had someone do that for me once and it was such a godsend.
                                  exploring the relationship between horse and human


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thank you all for your words of wisdom and shared experiences.

                                    There is more to the story.

                                    Through the surgery and the initial removal of the lipoma, the surgeon was very good to explain everything as they went along. After the unintended arousal, (where they had to put her deeper) they were in the process of closing her up when the surgeon instead reached in and started pulling everything back out again. At this point the silence began. Another section of intestine was removed and put on the table. They again replaced her bowel and closed her up. They told her to expect her to be down for several hours yet within an hour the events above unfolded. No mention of things looking bad - they said she was doing as expected.

                                    Based on this info - I think it is obvious things did not go well in surgery. And it is obvious at some point they just stopped informing my friend of what was going on. If her vitals were falling or such it was not said to her. Her regular Vet feels that this is his biggest concern, too. At at a minimum, she should have been informed as to what the urgency was to get her up. He too found it to be out of the norm to push her so hard less than one hour after surgery. He was going to speak with them and let her know more. He sure wants to know more.

                                    I know this outcome was nothing they intended. Indeed we all would have beat our horses bloody if we thought getting up was going to save them. But I think that when they stopped talking to her they also stopped her right to give informed consent. In fact, at one point she asked them to stop the effort as she feared they would break her leg and she could not understand why they had to be so rough. If death was eminent - they did not tell her. I am sure she was in grave trouble. The lack of information, the cut off of communication is what made this so difficult. I hope going forward they do not make the mistake of falling silent when things go wrong. Explaining it as it happens offers the owner time to accept or reject the next step and relieves them of the liability of denying the owner the right to be kept informed. Most vets I have encountered are very good at this.

                                    My friend is OK. SHe laid her to rest with closure and friends to hug and share her tears. I hope those involved at the clinic come to terms not with the loss of this mare - cause loss is part of their job - but more so that they fully come to appreciate that it is in loss, and failure - when things are going horribly wrong - that their clients need them the most to be the professional and to tell it straight up what they are dealing with. Those of my friends who have previously said they would move heaven and earth to save their horse have now excluded this surgery as one they would consider.

                                    Thank you all again.
                                    from sunridge1:Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.it is going to be good until the last drop!Eleneswell, the open trail begged to be used. D Taylor


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by hurleycane View Post
                                      My friend is OK. SHe laid her to rest with closure and friends to hug and share her tears.
                                      {{{ HUGS }}}} Thank you for the update. The situation sounds unusual -- good to have the regular vet involved in getting answers. Very sorry your friend went through such a traumatic, difficult experience with a beloved mare. Glad your friend is okay - great you can be by her side and she has others. RIP dear mare.


                                      • #20
                                        This is why I would never send a mid-twenties horse into colic surgery or probably any other type of surgery. I know it can happen at any age, but I think the older horses are at higher risk. I lost my 25 year old gelding to colic in April of this year. We reached a point in treating him where surgery was his only option. He was humanely euthanized without any additional suffering. I think that when vets have a surgical suite and hospital to support they have to push surgery to pay the overhead even when it isn't as likely to have a good outcome. I am so very sorry that this poor mare had to go through that only to die anyway.
                                        "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp