As some of you might have already deduced, large animal medicine can be hard on the body. Farm work in general is dangerous because of the equipment and unpredictable nature of animals weighing over 1,000lbs. Throw in the need to work up close and personal with these rather dangerous entities can lead to some hairy and hair-raising situations.
I thought you might enjoy some of those stories. I got to thinking which stories would be entertaining enough to write down and quickly realized that there were more than I could reasonably fit in one quarterly newsletter. I decided to break it up into multiple parts. Here is my most memorable. I will account for more of some very memorable situations that I think you might enjoy. The situations and details are real and recounted to the best of my recollection with NO embellishment. The names of the clients and other involved persons are changed for privacy sake.
This is the worst injury I ever received while being a large animal veterinarian to date. And yes, it involves a horse. I was called out one warm, sunny Spring, Friday afternoon about 10 years ago. It was to a client I knew and had been to several times before. The horse however was new to me. Mr. Tanner had a new gelding that he recently purchased, and he was still a bit squirrely. He had not been handled a whole lot and recently introduced to the farm.
During his acclimation to the fencing around the farm, the horse injured one of his rear legs. The cut was not severe, but bad enough that it would need to be doctored some. Mr. Tanner had been attempting to treat the wound as best he could for the past couple days, but despite his efforts the wound started to look infected. He felt it would likely need antibiotics. He also felt that there was no way he was going to be able to do more to the horse without some help from me. He still did not trust this horse very much.
He called and I came. After looking at the leg from 8ft away, I agreed that the wound needed cleaning and the horse would need some chemical intervention, aka sedation to make that happen. Sometimes you just get a vibe that you should not trust an animal. I make a point to always listen to that intuition. I did here as well. I sedated the animal and twitched him. The horse was very sedate. Relaxed and nose to the ground. I had everything ready. I took precautions to stand in the correct position to not be in the line of fire should the horse happen to kick out despite his current state. I stood at the shoulder and pulled the rear leg forward towards me to clean it.
As I was cleaning the leg, I heard a gunshot off in the distance. Next thing I realize, I am laying on the ground about 15 ft from I was standing up against a large, concrete water trough. The horse was nowhere to be seen and Mr. Tanner was standing in the same spot holding the twitch with no horse attached to it and a very confused look on his face. I think we both soon realized what had happened. We both heard the same gunshot but did not comprehend that there was no gunshot at all. In fact, it was the horse’s hoof connecting with my left rear leg. My stunned state quickly turned into pain and nausea. As I lay on the ground staring up at the very blue sky, I took stock of myself. I was alive. I was conscious. I was in pain, especially my left upper leg. My right elbow was on fire. Nothing felt broken, but I could not move my left leg very well. I tried to sit up and the world started spinning, so I laid back down for few minutes. Mr. Tanner had by now realized what had happened and had run over to me. He was very nervously fretting over me and asking repeatedly if I was ok and how sorry he was that the horse did what he did. After what felt like 5-10 minutes, I was able to sit up against the water trough and look around. My right elbow was scuffed up rather significantly from I figured was my body’s attempt to break my forward progress into the ground and was grated against the rocks and dirt. My blue jeans were torn at the outside of my left upper leg and there was visible skin with red streaks from the hoof that lashed out quick as bullet. So fast did he kick me that my mind did not even register what was happening. My eyes saw nothing. I did not think my leg was broken, but it sure did not want to work.
There was absolutely no way I was driving myself out of there. I called the clinic and asked Laura to call Tommy. Have him pick her up and bring her to Mr. Tanner’s. Tommy could take me home and she could drive the vet truck back to the clinic. It did not take long for them to arrive. I directed Laura to fill a prescription of antibiotics for the horse. He still needed treatment after all. I was just not going to be touching that leg anytime soon. Mr. Tanner did not need to either considering what just happened moments ago. I asked Laura to reschedule my last appointment and I went home to lay down for the rest of the weekend. I could not bear weight on my left leg at all.
I figured out for certain my leg was not broken. We won’t say how I figured it out, but I did not seek outside medical attention. My leg turned a brilliant shade of black and purple. After the color started to change, I could clearly see the path the hoof took across the front of my upper left thigh. The mark showed that the kick was not a direct hit. There was some “glancing” of the hoof across the front of my leg. If that had been a direct hit, I believe he would have shattered my femur. The amount of muscle damage was significant enough to keep me from using it for 48hrs. I could not squat or sit for 72 hrs.
I went back to work Monday.