Saturday, May 2, 2009

Zipper Horse

The boarding farm where I keep my horses puts great effort into providing as safe an environment as possible. Even so, Murphy has a special affinity for horses and horse people.

So when I got the call that Farrah had a cut on her side, I said of course have the vet look at it. At least she had the decency to show up injured when the vet was already there to do a vaccinate-a-thon on several other boarders' horses.

But I was surprised to find this when I went out to the barn after work.

The gash is over a foot long, and the little tan things are segments of rubber tubing to keep the sutures from tearing through the skin. Followup care includes my giving her 20 cc's of penicillin IM once a day for five days. To put it mildly, Farrah isn't real happy about that.

For those unfamiliar with intramuscular injection techique in horses, you first fill the syringe, then remove the needle and hold it between thumb and forefinger. Next you find the center third of the center third of the horse's neck, away from major blood vessels and ligaments and the cervical spine. Then you use the heel of your hand to thump the injection site sharply three or four times before smacking the needle in: thump, thump, thump, STICK. Finally you fit the syringe to the needle hub, draw the plunger back to make sure you aren't in a vein or artery, then inject the penicillin and remove the needle. Jolly fun.

And the cost associated with this little equine experiment in creative self-destruction? $255.81 for the vet bill. Baled wood shavings at $8.00 or more each for bedding the oversize stall where Farrah (and her boyfriend Max for companionship, also keeping Max from having a separation-anxiety nervous breakdown) is confined until cleared by the vet. Another $20.00 or so for extra syringes and needles to give the daily penicillin injections, since the vet didn't leave nearly enough of them. The return vet visit scheduled for two weeks after the injury will cost a minimum of $50.00.

Which brings me to a rant.

Horses are a huge responsibility. A huge, potentially dangerous, expensive responsibility. One misstep can instantly generate untold veterinary costs -- or doctor bills since horses are big and strong with excellent reflexes. At the best of times, becoming a horse owner should never be undertaken without careful consideration of the knowledge, skill, time, and money required. In this economy, buying a horse on a whim is unconscionable.

Horses need a lot of space in order to be horses and not unhealthy four-legged house plants. They need training from qualified, humane trainers, and their owners need to make sure those trainers are qualified and humane. And riding lessons, what a concept. You can't learn to ride by watching Hidalgo any more than you can learn to shoot by watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Guess what, good horse care facilities, training, and riding lessons cost money, too. So does good equipment that's safe for the rider and won't harm the horse.

And if selling a horse, the seller absolutely must do everything possible to ensure that horse does not go to slaughter.

So to the idiots who wanted to buy one of my horses, no preference which one, because my horses are nice and well-behaved, never mind they have no clue what owning a horse entails, I have this to say:

Not just No, but OH HELL NO!

There. I feel better now. Time to go back to the boarding farm to throw hay and refill water and check sutures and otherwise keep my horses in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

And you thought guns were the only things I wasted lots of time and money on?


Warthog said...

I was in a relationship once with a horse girl and we always shot ours in the back hip.

Since I'm a former Paramedic, that job fell to me. 2200 lbs that kicks is a bit intimidating, LOL.

DaP said...

You are so right - a huge responsibility, and because I love animals so much, that's exactly why I don't own a horse. I wish more people felt this way.

Tam said...

I took riding lessons when I was younger and going through my obligatory zomg-I-luv-horses phase.

I thought about getting back into them when I got older, but I decided to find a less expensive hobby, like maybe a coke habit, or starting small bonfires made of hundred-dollar bills...

(I also realized that I am an ideal cat owner. "Cats: The perfect pet for people who can't handle high-maintenance creatures like dogs, horses, toddlers, or goldfish.")

Earl said...

Nothing wrong with spending your money, time and effort in what you love - horses or guns, the world will be better for it.

But then you knew that...

Lil said...

Vet bills are definitely killer. We have a $600 gerbil (no kidding -- the cat mangled it, and I was more willing to spend the money, which luckily I could afford at that time, than break my daughter's heart by putting it down). 8 of our 11 animals will only be seen by the extra-costly "exotic animal" vet, including a boa constrictor who's had to have minor surgery 3 times. But I took on the responsibility, and I refuse to begrudge one cent spent on them. (But it's really tempting, the next time one of the cats gets a gerbil or hamster, to let nature take its course.)

Rio Arriba said...

Ouch! Looks like it's gonna be sore. Did you ever find what caused it?

I wish people would take dog ownership more responsibly, too. It's a good thing I don't breed dogs cuz almost nobody would get approval for taking one home!

Hecate said...

Based on the tissue lysis that's occurring now, it was probably a kick from another horse. The middle of the suture line is breaking down and sloughing away.

I've had the same thing happen to me when I was kicked about twenty years ago. They closed the wound in the ER and about a week later the area was swelled up like a grapefruit. All kinds of neat stuff came out when my regular doctor popped the sutures. The kick impact "killed" some muscle that the body had to clean out.

Now I'm treating the area with Granulex. That stuff is nearly miraculous at healing wounds.

Mad Jack said...

I was raised on a horse farm - American Saddlebred, three and five gaited. Horses are a ton of work and two tons of responsibility.

Thanks for writing about vet bills and the responsibility involved in owning your own horse. I've given the injections and understand the procedure. What can we say, right? No one else is going to do it for you.

The post you wrote should be expanded and used as required reading for anyone who decided they want to own a horse, but especially teenagers. After digesting your words of truth and wisdom, said teenager should spend a year taking care of your horses. Then, if they still want a horse, the parents could start to consider whether or not to begin discussing ownership.

And, by the way, if it were up to Dad us kids would have been doctored by the vet rather than an MD. Number one, all the critters could get doctored every spring and fall, and so all the fuss and struggle could be over and done with in one day. Second of all, the vet made house calls, so there's no need for a special trip anywhere.

militant_marmot said...

My Ex-Girlfriend had a dressage horse. I never fully "realized" how much work they were until I got involved with her and the events. Wow. Came in late one day after we got a call from the barn to come out, that he "might have a cut." He had caught his lip on something and torn it for three inches. We got there and nearly passed out from the grotesque smile that greeted us. I will never forget that. 1200 later... Which is why I talk to my friedns to make sure they know what they're getting into.