|She wanted to be War Horse.|
I have a new sweet schedule in a different department of my veterinary hospital (bye-bye ER! Not gonna miss your gloom and doom!) that now allows me to work regular daytime hours like a normal human being. I got out of work a little early yesterday afternoon and headed for the barn to feed the girls. They were moved into a new, larger field with less horses. It's currently only Lily, Gracie, Mecca (the gentle older TB that welcomed them to the herd when we first moved to this barn) and EZ, a small semi-retired QH mare who is also as sweet as they come. They were together in the previous field and they all know and love one another. Gracie and Lily are the leaders. Note: no one has shoes in this herd and I have never, ever seen them antagonize one another. Not even pinned ears.
It was a beautiful early evening, with the sun having just disappeared behind the hills but with still enough light to bring out the reds and oranges of the almost-peak fall colors of the trees. The air was on the nippy side with the incoming dusk, so I slipped into a sweater, called out to the girls (they were grazing at the bottom of their pasture's hill) and went to set up their grain.
For the first time in a while, they didn't meet me at the gate. I walked out into the field with Lily's halter only, deciding to bring her in first since she gets more grain and eats slower.
|I had the opportunity to think this was the best view ever. It just didn't last very long.|
I couldn't initially comprehend what I was seeing but as she calmly walked up to me with pricked ears, I saw that her stripe was curled up into a flap of skin on the bridge of her nose.
The wider white patch on her face was not skin.
Lily heard that Georgia O'Keeffe is my favorite artist ever and decided she wanted to emulate one of the paintings in my favorite series of hers for Halloween:
|Georgia O'Keeffe's "Horse Skull with White Rose"|
Most people are familiar with her paintings of flowers.
My favorite paintings of hers are the skulls and the mountains of New Mexico.
WARNING: BLOODY PICTURE ALERT
Now. There is very little that I am squeamish about when it comes to wounds. Wounds was one of my favorite things to work with on ER. The more massive and tricky and gory, the better: it was extremely satisfying to clip and clean and do the initial handiwork to help put the (heavily sedated!) animal back together.
Major head trauma, the kind where skull and brain are exposed or crushed, are one of the areas where I start to draw a line. I hated hit-by-cars with crushing head injuries because I couldn't even look at them. They were the one kind of injury that could make me cry on sight.
So my horse is standing in front of me with her face split open and I look at the exposed bone and the little curl of skin underneath it that basically has my favorite marking of hers on it, my mind a blank white slate. A wave of exhaustion swept over me, and suddenly all I wanted to do in this world was to turn around and walk away. Just walk away from it all, crawl into a hole and sleep until it's over. And this makes me a really horrible person, but after all we've been through with this horse this year (a lot of which I haven't bothered blogging about), the first thoughts that I was finally able to put into words in my head were, "Is there any way on earth that I could manage this on my own? Even better: is there any way that I could just ignore it and have it heal by itself?" I was deadpan and emotionless. Of course I knew the correct answer to both of those questions.
Surprisingly, she had no swelling around the wound. The blood was long dry and so was part of the curled-up skin flap. She was breathing fine; no rasping noises. No blood/discharge coming from her nose. And she seemed to not be painful at all. She just stood there all bright-eyed looking at me. Which is why these thoughts crossed my mind to begin with: the mare seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that part of her skull was exposed.
The answer to both questions, of course, is "No." Exposed bone = emergency vet call, always, always, ALWAYS.
She let me put her rope halter on without issue, and I tied it up loosely so it wouldn't touch the wound at all, and took her over to her mash. I wanted to see how her appetite was. She came with me happily and dug into her food, still acting as if there was absolutely nothing wrong with her at all.
I walked back out to the field to get Gracie while dialing my vet's phone number to contact their emergency operator. Yup: it was after hours again.
Dr. L, my main vet, was thankfully the one on call which is a relief because she actually lives in Frederick too. She called me directly within 15 minutes of me talking to the operator and I told her what was happening. She was at home; she said she'd be right over.
I let the girls finish their meals, turned Gracie back out and walked Lily down to the barn to wait for Dr. L to arrive.
I did nothing for the wound because trying to hose off her face would have simply upset her and made her head shy. And I didn't want to flush water into her nasal cavity if she did have a skull fracture. Because that's the shit you worry about with this type of injury. I gave no bute because I would have needed to syringe it to her, which would have involved me touching her face to get the syringe in her mouth. I put her in a stall with hay and sat in my car right by the barn entry where I could clearly see Lily, with the heat turned up waiting for my vet to arrive.
I'm going to be brutally honest with you guys, and feel free to judge if you want but if you have anything negative to say, just keep it to yourself. I do a fantastic job of beating myself up enough as it is already; I don't need help with that. I am beyond the point of caring if anyone wants to see me as scum or not and I really, really need to vent my extreme frustrations right now. Sitting in my car waiting, the only emotion I could find in myself was anger. I was fuming. I was angry at this horse for managing to injure herself again at one of the safest properties I have ever boarded at. Like, there are no trees in that freaking pasture. There is only a run-in shed and there are no sharp corners nor exposed nails in the shed: maintenance at this farm is top notch. I was angry that I had to call the vet out on emergency again in just over 4 months. I was angry at the mere thought of going weeks without proper sleep again to manage yet another wound during the workweek. I was angry at all of the added expenses when we were just starting to recover from the last series of unfortunate events. And I was angry at myself for feeling angry over a situation I had no control of. I know she doesn't do this shit on purpose. But why does this horse have no sense of self-preservation? WHY? I am not new to horse ownership by any means. I have owned EIGHT horses during my lifetime. The only two with which I constantly, constantly have had issues have been the two Thoroughbreds. I have ridden dozens and dozens of OTTBs throughout my 26 years of riding & training and I never met a single one that wouldn't periodically have serious issues that involved thousands of dollars to fix. You don't see the major problems you see in OTTBs in so many other breeds out there. I've boarded and worked at Paso and Western barns and knew many a horse of other breeds that went their entire lifetimes without ever suffering serious lamenesses or GI problems.
After my one and only OTTB back in PR who was PLAGUED with health problems that only strengthened my already pre-existing notions about TBs and their medical issues, I vowed to never own another straight TB again. 6 out of the 8 horses I've owned have had NO major medical problems (as in, requiring emergency vet visits) during years and years of ownership (yes Rhythm was neurological. But it didn't require an emergency visit; once diagnosed he was simply retired as a companion horse 8 months into owning him. Get this: the rescue had labelled him as a TB cross). I owned Lucero from weanling until the day he died at age 21. The only issue he EVER had in 2 decades with him was being sore from being nail-quicked on a front hoof from a shoeing job. Once. That was IT. I walked into owning Lily thinking she would be better because she was thought to be a TB cross, though everyone that meets her agrees she looks like a straight TB and the DNA test confirmed it. And for a while, I thought maybe just the possibility of blood from another breed would prevent what I call "The Thoroughbred Jinx." But 4 years into owning her, she has had more problems requiring more vet visits than all of my other horses put together. Which only continues to solidify my impression that The Thoroughbred Jinx is real.
(And yes: I know and realize there a people out there whose horses are far more injury-prone than mine, who end up with career-ending injuries while still in their prime. I know this. But I just needed to vent, okay?)
My vet arrived, I brought Lily out of the stall, she was heavily sedated and Dr. L got to work on the wound, flushing and cleaning and inspecting.
Guess what? Lily fractured her skull.
|Half stitched up. She was on butorphanol and 2 doses of Dormosedan IV to keep her from reacting to the suturing. She also had Banamine IV for the inflammation and a local block with lidocaine.|
|All stitched up and wound cleaned again.|
|She was getting more swollen by the minute due to having her head hanging down from the whopping doses of sedatives. She was sounding quite congested by the time we were done.|
|Bandage with heavy padding over the wound, brown gauze and Elastikon over it.|
So how do I think she did this to herself? Part of my job has been to try to figure out how dogs injure themselves when we have big trauma cases. Kind of like Dexter with his blood splatter analysis. I can tell you right now that this was most certainly NOT a kick. She whacked herself good with something pointy and hard, with a sudden upwards motion of her head. There are only 2 objects like this in the field: the tops of some of the fence posts have wooden squares with pointy corners. And also, there are a couple of large wooden mangers for feeding hay in the winter that also have pointy corners. I suspect she was eating next to one of these fence posts or the mangers, something startled her, and she jerked her head up, thoroughly slicing her skin off and with enough force to fracture her nose.
|Like so. I didn't go around looking for her blood and hair afterwards because by then it was nearly 10:00 pm and pitch dark in the field.|
"Yay more exclusions for her insurance!" said no horse person ever.
Prayers, please? That she keep the bandage on and that this heals smoothly and easily. Please?