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Bad night . . . looking for . . .

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  • Bad night . . . looking for . . .

    I don't know. Sympathy? Support? Assurance?

    I have a neighbor, also a lesson student, who lives down the road from me on a large, old ranch. It's historically run mainly cattle, and still does. They have a caretaker, who has been around horses most of his life, but isn't a horse person per se. My student is also newer to horses. Some years back, the caretaker got permission to take in a few retirees (equine) for a friend who was losing her housing, and it has slowly evolved in to an actual no-frills retirement situation. They have about a dozen horses there, and the care is good. They have about 40 acres of lovely pasture, with shelters, hay fed as needed, etc.

    Last night at midnight my phone rings, and its my neighbor/student and she's hysterical. I can't really understand what she's saying, other than "horse" and "down". So Mr. PF and I throw our clothes on and drive over there.

    It turns out one of the oldies has wandered out of his normal area, escaped the fencing somehow, and found his way to the driveway, and one of the many cattle guards. Both of his his front legs are trapped in the guard, and clearly, and horribly broken.

    As best we can we spring in to action. I instruct the caretaker and my student how to lay on his neck so he isn't able to continue to try to get up (and not get killed themselves in the process), I put in the er call to my vet, arrange for my student's daughter to meet him in the driveway and lead him in. I checked his vitals and assessed his injuries. He was clearly very shocky, and in addition to the legs, which are bad enough, he's bleeding from the mouth and nose.

    The horse has an owner, who turns out to be someone I know slightly. He is 32 years old. It goes without saying, that we can't get her on any of her phone numbers.

    As we are waiting for the vet, (it seemed like hours, but it was about 25 minutes). I try to prepare my student and the caretaker that the horse is not going to make it. That the vet is not coming to "save" him, but to put him out of his misery.

    Clearly both of these people are in deep shock, and have never seen something like this before . . . because I realize what I'm saying isn't computing. The caretaker, who has been looking after the old guy for 6 years, keeps talking about which tractor might be strong enough to pull him out once he's sedated. My student keeps saying, maybe it's not as bad as it looks. I tried to gently but firmly get them to see the reality of the situation.

    The vet arrives, and immediately assesses that the only humane thing to do is euthanize the horse. He comments that he's seen several horses in cattle guards over the years, and that he's "never pulled one out alive."

    There is a very tense 10 minutes as the caretaker especially balks at "putting him down without even trying anything". He tries to call the owner several more times. Finally, the vet and I let the poor guy cross over. My student is sobbing, she's never seen a horse be put down. The caretaker kept stroking his head, going "Oh God, Oh God" over and over again. It was horrid.

    I've been in horses for 25 years, and in that time I've seen some terrible the things. The horrible ways in which horses can main and kill themselves is unparalleled. But this was probably in my top three of horrible things I've seen. I'm pretty shook up by it, but I can't help but also feel like I didn't do enough.

    I'd thought about running back to my barn and getting my banamine, but ultimately didn't because a) by the time I would have gotten it and come back I only would have been ten minutes ahead of the vet, and b) given how shocky he was, and how low his blood pressure was, I wasn't sure I could find the vein in the pitch dark with a flashlight on a prone, intermittently thrashing, horse. I'm pretty good at IV shots, but I wasn't confident I'm that good. But all day I've been thinking I should have just tried anyway.

    I also am sick about the extra time it took to get them to allow us to let him go. I know that, essentially, they were newbies totally overwhelmed by the horror of the situation, and I did try to get them up to speed before the vet arrived, but I didn't do as good a job as I should have, clearly.

    In my heart of hearts I know that the entire situation was out of my, or anyone's, control. And I'm pretty tough usually, when it comes to dealing with these types of situations. But it's shaken me up enough to make me doubt myself.

    So. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I'm still feeling very unsettled. At the very least, give a kind thought to "Donny" who crossed the bridge last night, and all the people who loved him.
    Phoenix Farm ~ Breeding-Training-Sales
    Eventing, Dressage, Young Horses
    Check out my new blog: http://califcountrymom.blogspot.com

  • #2
    Bless you for being there to help Donny when he needed it most. I know the caretaker and your student will be grateful for your guidance in this terrible situation once they have had a chance to process the shock. Godspeed to Donny, and healing thoughts to you and everyone else who was there.


    • #3
      Godspeed Donny, I hope you're loving those green pastures just over the Bridge.

      PF- You did the best you could do in that situation, don't beat yourself up over it. (((((HUGS)))))


      • #4
        You got help for the horse much faster than would have been the case if you weren't there. You called the vet. You helped convince them to euthanize the horse. Try to look at it from the standpoint of what you were able to do, as opposed to what you could not do.

        Still, definitely not a fun time or a good mental picture.
        The Evil Chem Prof


        • #5
          bad night

          Such a sad night for all of you. Unfortunately, it sometimes falls on us pros to explain to newbies/inexperienced folks just what has to be done. But thank God it was you and I am sure you handled the situation a best it could be handled. Have a drink and hug your horses and family.


          • #6
            This is so awful and I'm sorry the way it had to turn out. But with two broken legs, it was the best outcome to let that poor old horse go as quickly as possible. There are really no words to "make it better." I hope all the people involved are able to see the accident for what it was, an accident. Bless you for being there to take charge and help everyone through this. When things like this happen, it is a natural reaction to be unsettled.

            The good thing was that Donny got the release he needed and didn't suffer all night in that gap. I'm sure he is grazing in heavenly pastures now- free from pain and care. And 32 is a ripe old age for a horse.

            I have heard of a horse that was rescued from a cattle gap, but it had not broken anything. A friend of mine had a small walker- her first horse of her own. This happend at least 25 years ago.

            It was kept in a small pasture that had a cattle gap. The horse had lived there about a year and had never gone near that cattle gap.

            She woke up one morning to see her horse with one leg all the way down between two pipes in the gap. The horse's foot was resting on the bottom of the gap and the horse was lying down upright with its other three feet tucked up under it. When she first saw it she thought, "Silly horse, it's lying on the cattle gap." But when she went out, she saw its front leg all the way down in the gap.

            She told me that when her husband came out to see the extent of the problem, he had brought his pistol with him. She thought for sure that he was going to have to shoot the horse. He told their hand to go get a sheet of plywood that he managed to slip under the horse to cover the pipes and give the horse a solid footing. And then, her husband, who was a pretty big man, got the horse to stand up by getting under its forelegs and he held it up with his back while she managed to get its foot free of the bars. That horse weighed about 700 or 800 lbs. The hired man loosly held the horse's halter so it could not try to lunge forward while she worked to get its foot out from between the bars.

            I believe that was one smart horse because she said it stood perfectly still, and did not try to struggle or fight while they were helping it out of the gap. The vet said it was a miracle the horse had not broken its leg. The leg was a little scuffed up and the horse was stiff for a couple of days, but it recovered from its experience totally.

            I am really sorry for your distress and the distress of your student and the caretaker.


            • #7
              Ugh. I think you helped. I think you did the best you could. I'm so sorry for everyone involved.
              If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


              • #8
                I'm sorry for the horrid situation. Just know that you did help speed up care for the horse, by making a quick assessment and calling the vet. You had made all the provisions (having someone meet vet and show him where to go, etc)Sometimes accidents happen and you definitely rose to the occasion helping the less experienced caretakers make difficult decisions in a more timely manner. Hugs...


                • #9
                  First {{{hugs }}}. Yes, a terrible experience -- and worse yet to witness others facing such a crisis'. So sad.

                  Thank God, you and MrPF were there -- for everyone.
                  Godspeed Donny.
                  IN GOD WE TRUST
                  OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


                  • #10
                    This made me cry. I am so sorry for everyone involved.

                    Thank heaven you were there to help and kept your head. You did everything you could. It's sad he couldn't be let go immediately but if he was in shock he probably didn't feel that much more in that extra time frame.

                    Poor old fella.
                    Horse Selling Hell
                    My Writing
                    People who think they know everything about horses know nothing


                    • #11
                      You came when you were called. That is huge.

                      My heart goes out to all of you. Hugs.
                      Equine Art capturing the essence of the grace,strength, and beauty of the Sport Horse."


                      • #12
                        Your neighbours were smart enough to know they needed your help. You came and did everything you could, as fast as you could. You did everything you could to minimize Donny's suffering and to help calm him and minimize the pain until the vet came. You realized you couldn't safely do any more for him until the vet showed up.

                        The 10 minutes it took for you and the vet to talk the caretaker into putting Donny down in, while it seems like a long time, in the course of the whole incident, really wasn't. He was in shock himself, don't beat yourself up over it, you guys all did the best you could in a horrible situation.

                        I'm just glad they noticed Donny was in trouble given the late hour, had the presence of mind to call you, and that you guys were home, and that your vet was available. Te situation could have been a lot worse if any of those factors hadn't happened.

                        Go have a drink, a hot bath, hug hubby, whatever you need to feel better, but know you and hubby did good tonight.


                        • #13
                          So sorry. You are an angel for helping that horse.
                          Free bar.ka and tidy rabbit.


                          • #14
                            Thank you for going to help these people. They didn't know and it would have been a thousand times worse without your intervention.

                            Please don't beat yourself up about not being faster or a better communicator or whatever. You did right by this horse and that's what matters.

                            There is a learning curve with horses and not all of it is a pleasant learning experience, unfortunately. The caretaker and your student are wiser. Hopefully they will have learned something from the experience.

                            You did good.
                            Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                            • #15
                              Don't know what to say ((HUGS)) for you all
                              Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? - The horse. (R.Duncan)


                              • #16
                                Please don't doubt yourself, the What-Ifs are endless and pointless.
                                It is hardly ever the end we wish for our horses.
                                You helped out as best you could in a No-Win situation.
                                TG you came when called.
                                TG you kept your head and supported others.
                                Godpseed, Donny.
                                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                • #17
                                  Hey now ... don't go beating yourself up. This was an incredibly stressful and traumatic situation, and it sounds like you handled it admirably. And honestly, if your student and the caretaker have never encountered a situation like this before, some hesitation before euthanizing is normal and expected — ending a life is a huge decision under any circumstances, and it's harder still under circumstances like these.

                                  You did what was best for the horse, and your presence made his end a lot better than it otherwise would have been. No one wants to see a horse go like this, but bless you for going out and doing what you could for him. I am sure the caretaker and your student are both very grateful that you were there.

                                  Maybe when things are not so raw, you can sit down with both of them and discuss what happened and why there wasn't going to be a happy ending—it may help them both to feel less like they should have done something more and also why euthanizing promptly was the most humane thing to do.

                                  I am so sorry. Hugs to all of you ... things like this are so tough to process.
                                  Full-time bargain hunter.


                                  • #18
                                    I am sure Donny is grateful you came to help him and you did all that you could and all that was reasonable at the time. The fastest trip over the bridge was the best thing and you did that so bless you. I am always so sad when I hear of these wonderful senior horses that when their time comes it has to be so terrible. One hopes they can just not wake up in the morning but it seems that rarely happens. Thank goodness Donnie had you a last night to help him as best you could.


                                    • #19
                                      They called for your help. You did the only humane, sensible thing that could be done.

                                      Time will heal the trauma.

                                      Rest easy, you made the right call.
                                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by IronwoodFarm View Post
                                        Thank you for going to help these people. They didn't know and it would have been a thousand times worse without your intervention.

                                        Please don't beat yourself up about not being faster or a better communicator or whatever. You did right by this horse and that's what matters.

                                        There is a learning curve with horses and not all of it is a pleasant learning experience, unfortunately. The caretaker and your student are wiser. Hopefully they will have learned something from the experience.

                                        You did good.
                                        "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"