"He'd lifted the gate off its hinges while trying to get free"

Beth from XLVets Equine tells us all about a busy weekend being on call, including a horse who had become rather wedged in a gate. 

My bad luck on call continued last weekend. It’s become so consistent that my boss said to me the other day that he deliberately tries to work the weekend after me on the basis that if I have a busy weekend, hopefully the next one will be quiet!

Luckily, although my weekend was busy, all the cases were at least relatively simple.

On Friday night I saw a horse with a swollen leg from an infected wound that had happened a few days previously.

Saturday morning started with a call to see a horse with a swollen face. She appeared to have been stung by an insect on the inside of her mouth and had a very impressive swelling of her cheek that was making it uncomfortable for her to eat.

I treated her with some steroids and other anti-inflammatories and haven’t heard back from the owner. In our we always say that no news is good news!

Treating a regular 

My next call was to a lovely client of ours who's as unlucky as I am. You know that you see a client too much when the paging company gives you the name and your first response is “Oh yes, that’s fine, I don’t need the address!”.

She had called because her new horse called Rocky, who she’d only had for three weeks, had managed to get stuck in a gate.

Thankfully, her yard is fairly close to where I live so I jumped in the car and was with her in 20 minutes.

I asked her to call the fire brigade in the meantime so that they were there ready to cut him out when I arrived.

We’re very fortunate in this area and have a dedicated animal rescue unit who are based a few miles from where I live, so calling them straight away means that we usually arrive at about the same time. 

I raced up the field expecting to find a thrashing horse on the floor with his legs stuck in the field gate, but instead I was greeted with Rocky standing up, the gate on the floor underneath him and both his left fore and left hind stuck in the gate.

Not only was he standing, but he looked completely relaxed about the situation and was just waiting for someone to sort it out for him!

The gate had been attached to its hinges when the owner had turned him out so all we can think is that he’d got one foot stuck, either by pawing at the gate or scratching on it and had managed to lift the gate up and off its hinges while trying to get his foot free.

He’d ended up about 10ft from the gateway and got a second leg stuck so who knows exactly what he’d been up to!

Freeing Rocky from the gate


Once Rocky was sedated, we got to work trying to free him. We wanted to use the quietest tools possible so that we didn’t panic him and cause him to try and move.

Not only would he have injured himself, but we were also concerned that he’d wipe out quite a few of us in one go if he tried to move with the gate still attached!

We initially thought we may be able to spread the bars of the gate with a car jack, but unfortunately his feet were too big and the car jack couldn’t spread the bars wide enough.

We had to resort to the spreaders that they use from car accidents. These are powered off a large motor, but Rocky was completely unfazed by the noise and stood perfectly still throughout the process.

So much so that when the time came for me to lift his legs it was very hard work to get him to pick them up!

After much physical exertion we managed to get Rocky free. As we walked him down to the yard to examine him, the fire brigade were kind enough the put the gate back in shape – what a good service!

Miraculously Rocky escaped with just a few cuts and bruises and is doing really well. Fingers crossed he’s had enough drama to last a lifetime.

No rest for the wicked

As soon as I got home my phone rang again. A horse had twisted its shoe and trodden on one of the nails. When the owner had removed it, there was a small amount of blood suggesting it had gone fairly deep.

I recommended a visit so I could examine where the nail had gone and insert a probe to assess how far it had gone.

Foot penetrations can be very serious as there are lots of vital structures in the foot including two ‘synovial structures’ - these are similar to joints and can get infected.

The only treatment for this is surgical flushing and it's critical that it's done as soon as possible.

I headed out to see this horse but when I was about five minutes from the yard, 30 minutes into my journey, I got a call to cancel the visit.

Unfortunately, this happens quite regularly. In this case, the yard had convinced them that they didn’t need a visit and they had decided to take the risk and manage it themselves.

This is one of the most frustrating situations as a vet. I never mind being called out when I’m on call as that’s what I’m here for, but to spend my weekend driving around in pointless circles is somewhat disheartening!

My weekend continued with several more calls, including a case of hives, two colics and two wounds. I won’t bore everyone with all the details, but hopefully by my next blog I’ll have some nice pictures of wounds well on their way to healing!