Paddy Potter: The horse who came to have a lightning-shaped scar

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Kate Southorn from Scarsdale Veterinary Group, a member of XL Vets Equine, tells us about a surprising out-of-hours call.

My quiet cup of tea was disturbed by the unmistakable bleep of my pager at 8pm. Putting my paperwork to one side, I looked at the pager to find the message: “Horse run into gate, shoulder wound, request visit.”

When the pager goes off, you never know what you're going to get. No matter how many questions you ask, it's not easy to ascertain the extent of injuries from distressed owners, in difficult circumstances, over the phone.

After a brief phone call, I set off to see my patient. 

When I arrived at the yard, I decided to check out what I was dealing with before unloading the contents of my boot.

As I walked around the corner, I was met by a very upset owner with Paddy, her lovely grey Irish Sports Horse. For a moment, I was a little lost for words.

Paddy had returned after two weeks of schooling, had a “paddy” in his paddock and hit a gate post. This had peeled back the skin that covered his shoulder from withers to elbow and it was hanging down the side of his chest like a curtain. Some muscle had even been left on the post!

Click here to see Paddy's wound - warning graphic image

Although large and scary, after a thorough examination, I found the wound had minimal skin loss and there was no damage to internal organs or bones.

I could completely understand the owner’s distress, but I was able to reassure her that this wound would heal in time with some cosmetic scarring. Paddy would make a fully functional recovery and show jump again.

After three hours of careful cleaning and stitching, using all the local anaesthetic, suture material and staples in my car, Paddy was looking a lot better.

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I left the bottom of the wound unstitched to allow fluid produced by the damaged tissue to drain out, reducing the risk of infection.

I admitted him to our hospital for pain relief and antibiotics. Although he was very sore initially, he quickly recovered and was walking comfortably within three days.

The skin in the centre of the wound had lost too much of its blood supply and broke down. This was removed, surgically, around day five, leaving a palm-sized skin deficit.

This healed by second intention (stretching of the surrounding skin and growth of new skin), which is slow and left a small hairless scar.

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Having made a full recovery with only a small lightening-shaped scar on his shoulder, he now goes by the name of Paddy Potter!