Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tale of a barn trauma: Part 2

When we left off, Batik (an older gelding) had gotten caught up in a pasture gate. Even after his leg was freed he stayed down -- immobile, rigid, and groaning. Read Part 1 here .

Bob and I were at the barn, listening to people talk about what had happened. One of the boarders mentioned seeing Batik standing at the gate quietly less than 10 minutes before he was found caught up. So he had not been down long.

The vet arrives
The vet arrived, and of course no one left the scene to report to us at that point. Perhaps 20 minutes later, we heard a whinny from the pasture. Batik's pasture buddy whinnied back from his stall. What ws going on? Do horses whinny in their "final struggle?" I wondered morbidly. It was not an anguished sound, just a regular old whinny.

A wonderful sight
We had stopped whatever we were doing, and started to venture in the direction of the pasture. In the dim light we could make out the shape of a horse moving slowly toward the barn. Batik, upright! Batik, walking! Flanked by his rescue team, he was movings slowly back to the barn on unsteady legs -- but he was bearing weight on all four of them. His owner was fussing over him and cooing praises; sounds of relief and elation filled the air.

How the vet saved the day
The young vet proposed something that never would have occurred to me. She did a cursory exam, then told the group that she needed to flip Batik over. I supsect everyone was skeptical, and the owner insisted the vet go over Batik more thoroughly. Nothing appeared to be broken, although there was a deep gouge on his pastern.

Practically a beauty rest
The owner gave the okay, and they flipped him. Lying on his new side, Batik paused only a moment. Then he rolled to the "breadloaf" position (legs tucked under himself ), and whinnied. He looked anything but traumatized now. His owner later told me he looked like he was waking from a nap. He hoisted himself up and stood fairly easily. He was walking, albeit unsteadily, within a few minutes. He was weight-bearing on the right front.

Back at the barn, he was sedated, his joint was injected with an antibiotic, an x-rays were taken (all clear!). The next morning he was just barely stiff at the walk, with swelling/fluid along his hindquarters. He was bright, alert, and responsive, eating, and generally behaving as if nothing had happened. He is being monitored for any sign of joint infection, but it looks good as of today. Hooooo. Raaaay!

What did I learn?

  1. Horses are tough. Things can look really bad, and then turn around on a dime. Don't assume the worst.
  2. Chains around gates are potentially dangerous. Pull them tight or replace with safety latches.
  3. When a horse has been down, flipping them does a few things...
    • If one side is injured it gives them a chance to use their good side. Also the vet said being down for long periods can cause parts of their body to "fall asleep."
    • Horses do "give up," or maybe they're paralyzed with fear. Flipping them can reinvigorate them.
    • It's a tough call to judge whether a horse can get up. But after this weekend, I'm more inclined to push and not assume the horse knows what he can/can't do.
  4. Vets carry a cattle prod in their truck. Who knew?
Late Sunday afternoon I never would have dreamed a happy ending was possible. I wonder if Batik would ever have risen had he not been flipped and urged on. I'm sure seasoned vets and horsemen would not be surprised by this story. But to me, it was a Sunday miracle. I'll think of Batik next time I find a horse in a tough spot...


  1. Wow! What a tale!
    I learned a lot reading this also.
    We have one gate with chains and I am going to modify it ASAP!!!!!
    I'm really glad to know about the flipping thing.
    Cattle prod?????
    Thanks for Part II.
    Yay Batik! I wonder if he felt the entire equine blogosphere pulling for him?

  2. I'm so glad that horse was ok! I read this story holding my breath..

  3. New paranoia...gate chains. Can't put latches on mine, but perhaps some kind of fastening that can be cut in an emergency?

    So glad Batik is up and about. Horses can be pretty amazing that way.

  4. I am so glad everything worked out! Thanks for sharing the story and what you learned.

  5. Thank you, I can now re-start my heart.

    Also, if you don't have a cattle prod handy, a little bit of water trickled into a horse's ear will sometimes convince them that standing up to cuss at you is preferable to lying there and letting you do it again.

    Don't ask me how I learned that.

  6. Scary, I can't believe it ended that painlessly! you weren't kidding about a happy ending, were you? Thanks for bringing those things to light, I'd never heard them before.

  7. What a compelling story that happily had a good ending.

  8. Heh, I think my TB's antics over the last couple years have taught me quite a bit about the surprising resiliance of horses! Doesn't stop my heart from jumping into my throat every time a come upon his newest misadventure though. I'm so glad it turned out okay!

  9. Okay, husband finished rebuilding gate post to eliminate chains! Yay!
    (It's raining buckets sideways today so he was none to pleased about the task - but I knew I wouldn't sleep well til it was done!)
    Now where can I buy me a cattle prod...?

  10. I'm glad everything turned out okay.


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