A Redwings vet who had to put two ponies to sleep due to fireworks has said she is still affected by the experience, which happened during one 24 hour-period in 2016. Dawn Trayhorn, who is based at the Redwings Horse Hospital, talked about the traumatic incidents for a special edition of Redwings’ Field Notes podcast about the risk fireworks pose to horses. The charity is asking supporters to listen and share the episode to encourage more people to think about the dangers, and take action to help, as we head towards Bonfire Night and horse owners prepare to keep their horses safe during fireworks.
Dawn was the on-call vet on the night of Saturday 5 November, 2016, when 19-year-old Welsh pony Sprite was found distressed and suffering from suspected colic; he was lying down, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. The field where he and his herd-mates lived was churned up, showing how the normally sedate group had been running for a prolonged period in distress.
“One of the members of the nights team rang me at about half past six in the evening,” Dawn said. “Sprite was in a lot of distress; he was lying down and they couldn’t get him to stand up. Luckily, I only live about five minutes away, so I was there quickly.
“It was dark and there was a fireworks display happening less than half a mile away which was still going on and there were a lot of bright lights and loud bangs. All the signs pointed to colic, which can be brought on by stress.
“Despite trying to give him a generous amount of pain relief I couldn’t get him to stand, he was evidently in pain, and I had to make the decision to put him to sleep.”
Sprite’s field was checked to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the remaining ponies.
“I could tell that the group were quite alarmed,” Dawn said. “Our ponies are kept in groups of small herds. They were a stable group of older ponies used to living out happily and they would normally be very sedate. At that time of night, it would be their down time and they’d be sleeping or calmly eating forage.”
‘I’ve never had to put two ponies to sleep in one evening before’
Dawn received another call at 7.30am when Percy – a 25-year-old Palomino pony from the same group – was found non-weight-bearing lame on his right front leg and in a lot of pain.
Percy was given emergency pain relief and brought by trailer into the stables for further examination and X-ray. No fracture was found but there was “massive swelling” and despite the team’s best efforts, he could not be made comfortable, and they had no choice but to end his suffering.
“Percy’s injury may have been caused while he was running around the field at high speed,” Dawn said. “He may have either had a fall or simply damaged his leg while charging about, or possibly even been kicked by another pony in their distress. None of this would be typical behaviour.
“During all my years of working at Redwings, I have never had to put two ponies to sleep in one evening before in the same field as a result of an emergency situation. It was a devastating loss to the team and to the Sanctuary”.
‘Fireworks make anxious’
And of the lasting impact the events of that night had on her, almost six years later, she told Field Notes: “I used to be quite a fan of a fireworks display, but I don’t really like to go anymore. I find it makes me feel anxious because I think back to what happened.”
The fireworks special is the fourth episode of the second series Field Notes – sister to the Sounds of the Sanctuary podcast – which launched last year.
The podcast is available to listen to on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.