Well, just when everything is finally going good…the pony recovering from her tendon injury down at summer pasture with the two buckskins, and the older mares at home being used for weekly riding lessons…disaster strikes. Sunday we were at the farm after lunch, planning to work on rebuilding a fence, and so while we were there I went to let the mares out to graze. They ran out through the gate and into the grassy yard, and I noticed that Cricket went right to eating, but Daisy laid down and rolled. This seemed strange, and we usually watch them for abnormal rolling, which indicates stomach pain associated with colic. But I knew it couldn’t be colic, since they were just now being turned out on grass.
When I went closer to investigate, I saw a long scratch on Daisy’s side, reaching from her shoulder and all the way back along her rib cage. It was bleeding slightly, but didn’t look too deep, so I wasn’t overly concerned. I know that injuries to the chest, neck, or barrel of a horse are likely to heal quickly, as they get much more circulation than a hoof injury, for instance. So my first concern was to cover the wound to keep flies from getting into it, as these warm fall days have made the bugs more irritating than they have been all summer. So I put some chlorahexadine ointment on the scratch, covered it with a baby diaper, and wrapped vet wrap completely around her barrel, like a cinch, followed by a strip of duct tape to hold it all in place.
We noted that she seemed to be not in as much pain (wasn’t rolling anymore), and discussed going to the local vet the next morning and getting her a tetanus booster and some penicillin to prevent infection. I walked through the horses’ pen, looking for a sharp place, such as a turned-out piece of cattle panel fencing, or a t-post that was leaned inward or sideways. I didn’t find anything at all that looked like it could have cut her along the rib cage. So we commenced working on the fence we were building, and just hoped she would be okay.
Several hours later, I saw that Daisy was grazing comfortably, but the bandage was flapping in the wind. When I went to try to fix it and wrap it better with the tape, I noticed that the scratch had opened up much more, probably with her movements and shrugging at flies, and now was actually gaping open about an inch, and I could see a hole where the hide was cut clear through and you could look into her rib cage! I realized this was much more serious than I had thought, and my husband agreed that I should take her to the vet.
I tried calling the closest vet, which is a half hour away, and got a message saying he was out of the office for a week. So I tried the Fremont County Vet, at Sidney, Iowa, knowing that they always have someone on call. Doctor McGargle answered, and said he could treat Daisy if I brought her down there. Sidney is an hour southwest of us, so we agreed on a time to meet, and while my husband cleaned up the fencing supplies and took the kids home for supper, I hitched the trailer and loaded both mares (Cricket went along for companionship).
At the vet’s, the first thing he did was give her an IV to sedate her. Then he clipped all the hair away from the wound and washed it with a hose. He scrubbed the wound with antiseptic soap, and then rinsed it again with water. Daisy was really droopy, but she didn’t fall down. When he started stitching, she hardly winced, and he made two long strings with several stitches in each, holding her skin back together. He poured what looked like iodine over it once it was finished. He sent me home with a bottle of penicillin and a little jar of clear Swat ointment, to keep the flies off of it. Daisy was able to walk back into the trailer, and stand during the ride home just fine.
I was glad I had taken her to the vet, as the cut was much deeper than I had thought at first. I think she had cut it right before we got to the farm, or maybe even as she was running out of the pen or through the gate, to go out to graze. So it hadn’t really even started to bleed much when I first saw it and thought it was not too bad. Now, three days later, she doesn’t show any sign of pain except when I am dabbing the ointment on it. But there is a lot of swelling that used to be up around the wound on the day after the injury, and now it has moved down to the bottom of her belly. I’m guessing it is fluid that was packed around the incision, and now has dropped. If it doesn’t go away in the next day or so, I will call the vet and ask.
She has one more dose of penicillin to take this evening, and then she’s done with the antibiotics. I have another riding lesson scheduled this week, so we went down to the summer pasture and got Trixie, our pony mare, to stand in for Daisy as a lesson horse. She walks completely fine now, and shows no sign of limping, so we’re going to try using her for lessons and see how it goes. She is a little more speedy than our old Quarter Horse mares, so the girls will have a bit of a challenge learning to control her. But I think they are doing so well, it is probably a good time to step up to the pony, and it’s also great for Trixie to finally get to be ridden.
We are working on rebuilding the fence at the farm, and using all smooth-woven-wire cattle panels, wood posts, with a wooden rail along the top. I am hoping to avoid any more injuries for our horses!