After years of being content with her two warmblood geldings, a friend of mine suddenly decided to adopt a OTTB. This boy was currently on the track, had run a couple days before and came up lame. The trainer had been talking to her, trying to convince her to take him, and I was the voice of reason saying "He's gonna cost you a lot of money, etc etc.." Now my objections were nothing against TB's, I have one myself. It's not that I don't think she can handle him, she used to work on the track as a teenager, and her current horse is not an easy ride. But I know unfortunately from experience, free often equals 'damaged.' Well, she went to look at him, and cute TB face won.
Yes, he is damaged, he has chips in his knee, but my friend researched the cost of the surgery, talked to the trainer (who was completely committed to a good home for her horse, and will take him back if it doesn't work out), and decided to bring him home. This was last Sunday, the 20th.
Now, we both board at the same farm. It's pretty minimal. We have pasture, and marginal fences. Her barn has 2 big run in stalls, a hay area, and a fenced paddock that used to be used for cattle. (in other words, not goofy TB safe!)She brought her boy home, put him in the paddock, with access to the stalls, and he proceeded to snort, cut up, and generally act like a silly TB in a new place. Granted, he has come from complete stall rest on the track to a paddock where he could at least play a bit. He talks to her boys over the fence, everyone snorts and squeals. After 2 days he was settled, and calm, and really looking longingly at the grass over the fence.
So, Wednesday, thinking they had all met over the fence, and better to intro them while we are there and can intervene if needed. She turned him out. There were a couple rushes, more squealing, but everyone sort of stayed in their area and grazed. Great, we think, that wasn't so bad. As we are talking, we see the horses get riled up in a corner of the pasture. Her big warmblood gelding charged the new guy, and ran him into the woods. He doesn't appear out of the woods, so we send one of the barn urchins to run down there, and make sure he is ok. After all, it's just the woods, right?
The urchin comes running back up saying he was trapped in the woods and 'sitting' on a log. So the TB's new owner jogs down to have a look, thinking surely the kid was exaggerating. Next thing I know I'm getting a call to 'come down now!'. So I grab leadline, halter and lungeline, and head for the far end of the pasture. When I get there, I had to force my way into the brambles, to get to him. This poor TB had charged blindly into the woods, fallen over a log and managed to trap himself all tangled in the branches, with indeed, his butt sitting on a 32" high log. He couldn't come back, the way he went in, so she and another horsey neighbor cleared the trees and brambles in front of him. While all this was going on, this poor TB was shaking like a leaf. He was terrified, and I could tell his new owner was thinking he was about to launch into the usual TB response to fear. But even in his fear, this boy never moved, and he kept looking at me, even tried once to turn around and come to me (would have been bad, I was behind him). So pulling out my best riding instructor voice, I told him to "Stand!" and told them to put a halter on him and hook the lungeline up. I heard some 'buts' and dithering, so I said "Do it!", and told them. "This is a track horse, his security is his halter and leadline. He is waiting for you to take control and make it all better." (yeah, I yelled. It's ok, she's known me for years, LOL!)
Once the halter was on, and they actually stepped up to him, he stopped shaking. They cleared his path, stepped back to give him room in case he jumped out, and asked him to move forward. After a minute of thinking, he scrambled out of the tangle of branches, and calmly followed her out of the briars. Once we took over the situation, he was totally calm. We led him out, hosed him down, and got a look at the damage. Of course the knee with the chips was the size of a cantaloupe, and he was dead lame on it. He was a mass of cuts and scrapes from head to tail, but all were really superficial.
So after a bath and a lot of Swat, back in the paddock he went. Through all of this, and the next day doctoring his cuts, he was a perfect sweet gentleman. I'm thinking even with the chip surgery, she has gotten a really nice horse. He's put together extremely well, and has shown he trusts humans and has a nice temperament. The swelling was down on his leg, and he was walking on it. I admit to her maybe I was wrong about her getting him. But, the fates were listening..
The next day, I get a call from the barn. The TB had been pushing a gate trying to graze, got a foot caught in a rusty panel gate, and sliced his foot open. The whole paddock was covered in blood. The only vet she could get was going to be a while, and one we didn't have the best confidence in. I drove to the barn as quick as I could. It's amazing how much blood a horse can lose, there were pools of blood everywhere, and all 4 hooves were red like they had nail polish. My friend had immediately put on a proper pressure bandage, which was slowing down the bleeding, but it still was dripping out. He had a cut downward from about midway between the coronet band and the bottom of the fetlock. The slice was about 5 inches across, and 3 inches down to where we could see something, bone, tendon, we didn't know what.
This horse is going to need stitches at the very least, tetanus booster, antibiotics, etc. The pinch test shows him a bit dehydrated, and who knows how much blood he has lost. I push for taking him to my vet, who happens to have an excellent clinic that can take emergency surgeries. She decides to take him there, where we will have everything we need no matter what they have to do. Through all this, the TB is calm, eating grass, standing for his bandages, being a very good boy. Until we decide to load him in a trailer!
If you have ever loaded a difficult horse, you know all the tricks we tried. He actually probably would have loaded in the first 15 minutes, except for all the 'helpful' non-horse people who kept stopping to see what was going on and offer advice. Eventually I got my TWH mare, Shadow, who loads happily and munches hay. The TB decides she is quite the hot chick, then realizes he is missing some food in the trailer and walks right in. At least an hour, and 7 people helping..but we were on the road. Shadow came along as a babysitter, and when we got there the TB stood quietly, unloaded without a problem, and was a wonderful boy while the vets worked on him. Seven stitches, and a lot of drugs later, all it takes is a shoulder up his butt to load him again, and we are home. The cut was all soft tissue, and he should heal with no problem. They also found an ulcer on his cornea, which they scraped and cleaned. He wasn't dehydrated, and blood counts were fine.
So now he is in solitary in the barn while he heals, and my friend figures out how to completely TB proof her paddock. Meanwhile we have my vet on speed dial. :-D
James Kofford at Dressage at Devon
1 week ago