Spent a few days in town attending to business but couldn’t stand being away from little Eddy too long so I returned to the ranch today; despite the continuing stormy weather, which makes it unpleasant being cooped up in a tiny cabin surrounded by tall, wet grass, and mud.
I didn’t even unload the car, just headed straight for the paddock and was very relieved when I saw Brumbie, then Eddy, and finally Missy walking toward me from the east end. I quickly realized something was amiss, however. As they drew closer I realized Missy, incredibly, was on the wrong side of the fence. Brumbie and Eddy were in the paddock, Missy was trailing next to them but outside the paddock, with me. I tried not to panic as I’ve been in similar situation when a mare and her foal get on opposite sides of a barbed wire fence. In one case both the mare and foal died within hours of my finding them, from blood loss due to multiple lacerations and punctures. The other time the mare survived, but the foal didn’t. This could get ugly and my heart was racing.
I scanned Missy’s body quickly but didn’t see any blood, I was frantically looking around for something to catch her up with so I could lead her back into the paddock but I had a short sleeved t-shirt on and a jog bra, neither of which convert to lead rope well. I considered taking my pants off but then Eddy came out from behind some trees and a six inch bleeding laceration stretched from his chest down under his “arm pit”. It was dripping blood but I could tell it was bad and he was calling to me and his mom and trying to get through the wire fence. I was pretty sure the gash wasn’t going to kill him but if he got into the wire again who knew so I took a deep breath and started singing to him (I’ve been singing him this old cowboy song since he was a couple days old, it is soothing and sort of like a lullabye). There was no time for getting my pants off or going to the barn for a rope so I just called to mama and started walking toward the gate. She is such a good mare and seemed to know I was there to help, or at least heading in the right direction. She followed along calmly, adding her own soothing nickers to Eddy whenever he tried pushing through the fence again. It took me a minute to get the gate unwired and Eddy seemed to get really agitated and I thought I was going to have to physically push him out of the wire but I knew I just had to get the gate undone above all else. Fortunately Brumbie came up and sniffed at Eddy and Missy put her head over the fence to sniff noses with them so being surrounded by his herd quieted him enough for me to get the gate open. Missy eased right into the paddock with a gentle whinny, answering Eddy’s rather shrill, pitiful one. He went right to nursing and I could tell he’d lost weight so I guessed they may have been separated a day or two.
Eddy didn’t get to nurse for long because Missy left him to go to the river for a drink. I suspect she had not had any water for as long as they were separated because she couldn’t get to the river from outside the paddock without leaving Eddy behind and he would have killed himself for sure I suspect if she had wandered away. Eddy got some water too then when Missy had had her fill she let him get back to nursing. It was at this time that I finally got a close look at his cut. It wasn’t bleeding much by this time but 4 inches of exposes muscle and tissue still looks pretty gruesome. There didn’t appear to be much swelling and he wasn’t limping so even though it looked like the chest muscle itself was deeply cut I concluded I was probably just looking around the edge of his pectoral muscle up into his chest cavity.
I ran back to the cabin and called Taylor, my vet, but had to leave a message. I called Bob who was at the coast surfing and asked him to come home and help me. One thing that makes Bob and I such a good team is we both deal with crises in the same way: we get stoic and eerily calm and discuss the rational steps to solve the problem. Bob was packing up to head home even as we spoke. After our call I went back out to the paddock with what doctoring supplies I could find: sterile gauze, antibiotic ointment, clean towels, etc. The problem that concerned me most was how to hold Eddy still while I doctored him. I haven’t halter trained him yet and while I can hold him still in my arms, it takes both arms and all my strength to do so. Like his sweet mother, Eddy solved the problem by standing still with me on my knees in front of him cleaning and prodding. I stuck a clean antiseptic swab (bit q-tip) two inches deep into his chest. He didn’t like that much but it helped me determine how bad the wound was. After cleaning up the blood I could see that the laceration was long but a clean slice and didn’t appear infected. I gobbed a bunch of ointment on it, found a punch of other smaller cuts and pokes and cleaned those up but that was all the patience the patient allowed. He went trotting off, then back to nurse some more, and seemed pretty happy now that he was back at his mother’s side.
As for me, I laid in the grass and cried for a bit, angry that I’d left him alone–even if only for a few days–and wondered how I was going to go on with my life in town when I had this little baby horse at Aspen Ridge that, obviously, needs my care.