XL Equine Vet Imogen Burrows tells us about her day treating Freebie who didn't see eye to eye with a field companion.
Every day is different in practice. Today, as most days, I headed out on routine visits in the sunshine. Fortunately, todays call list is quite local and not too hectic. Immediately after the morning rush, I receive a page.
Yes, I realise how this sounds…a ‘page’. In our world of ever developing technology, the lack of phone signal in the South Downs in deepest darkest Sussex, is far worse that from deep inside the Mexican jungle, rendering the good 1990’s technology of ‘the pager’ a necessity.
Anyway, back to today…I see the emergency code flash up on the screen. We have two codes: 001 meaning please ring when free; and 004 which basically means drop everything and run for the nearest phone with any form of signal, even if you have to flag down the next passing car because the world is ending and we need you. NOW.
004 blinks at me. I look around at the empty yard I’m in on the side of the South Downs, in the middle of nowhere. Not a soul around and not a single bar of signal to be found no matter how much waving of the mobile phone I do. You’d think Sussex was the furthest point from civilisation, not a main commuter centre to London.
In despair I have no choice but to hop in the car and whizz along the road, frantically waving my phone out the window and up towards the roof, until at last, one bar flickers at me. I whack on the hazard lights and pull over in a position that could only be described as precarious, on the side of the windy country lane, praying that no-one speeds round the corner into my bottom while I pause to make the call to the office.
Holding the phone against the window, means I have to sort of contort myself in my seat to press my head against the upper half of the window so as not to lose that one tiny chance of making a phone call. After the third attempt, I get sketchy details: substantial wound, foreleg, fresh bite or kick, horse called ‘Freebie’. I ask the office to text me the rest of the details so at least I should get them before I arrive at the yard.
The yard isn’t too far, so a quick 20 mins trip and I’m there. ‘Freebie’ is a repeat offender and regular self-harmer, so we all know him well. In fact, as far a veterinary bills goes ‘Freebie’ is probably the most inappropriately named horse going, bless him.
I arrive to find ‘Freebie’ looking very sorry for himself indeed, with a 50p sized wound on his left forearm. The wound doesn’t look too deep thank goodness but raggedly around the edges. It appears that the most likely cause of this particular injury is an altercation with one of the little people (Shetlands) in the neighbouring paddock. ‘Freebie’ and the little people don't see eye to eye, literally and metaphorically, and so have separate paddocks next door to one another - but we can see a fence post is down and the wound is at Shetland head height….the rest is anyone’s guess. The vet’s place is not to reason why, but merely to fix it!
Luckily, ‘Freebie’ appears to be walking well, albeit stiff in extend his leg forwards, hardly a surprise when you see the swelling around the wound. After quite a bit of sedation (‘Freebie’ is a TB and not generally known for their high pain thresholds), pain relief and some tetanus cover - time flies and it appears he may be overdue his jabs; I start off by clipping and cleaning the wound. After some probing, it does appear the wound is only skin deep. A gentle trim up of the edges and liberal saline solution flushing - dilution is the solution to pollution - and it looks much better.
In the location, we can get away without bandages and I decide to pack the wound with manuka honey ointment, and leave the owner with antibiotics and painkillers for the next few days.
Happily, the wound was not so much substantial as just very sore, but the owner was absolutely right to have this properly checked over as she was unable to get near it to clean and check it properly. It is always important to clip and flush wounds and this will greatly facilitate the speed of healing and antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be dispensed at the vet’s discretion.
Lastly, don’t forget your horse’s vaccination history and keep the tetanus cover up to date - you never when it might be needed!
To find out more about XL Equine visit www.xlequine.co.uk