They are very impressive advertisements for the mesh type of pool cover. They look indestructible, don’t they?
So when my horse showed an interest in it and raised a front hoof to walk on it, I wasn’t too concerned.
He’ll be a bit surprised, I thought, and he won’t like the feel of the cover sagging underneath him, but at least he’ll be able to get off it without going through the material into the water.
Boy, was I wrong!
During 2015 I worked very hard with Cruz to get him to trust me when I asked him to walk on ‘strange’ surfaces.
Following his adventurous pasture buddy, Gabe, the 18 hand Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross who belongs to my friend, Christina Dale, he had become very brave.
By the end of the year he was walking fearlessly across bridges, through streams and into water with the waves lapping around him. He finally believed he wouldn’t die if he trod on pallets with rubber on them for the trail class at the OPRC rally.
I was so proud of him!
And I paid for all that hard work on Tuesday, 16th December last year, when a gate blew open and the three horses wandered into the back yard.
Setting the Scene
Dusk was descending when I happened to look out of the back window and see equine forms drifting past the bushes around the pool. I did a double take: they weren’t supposed to be there, of course, plus the dogs were outside and had given me no indication that anything was amiss.
Sure enough, Cruz, Gabe and CD were happily grazing on the much nicer grass of our four acre lawn. Mercifully, the dogs came when called and I walked outside.
The horses were close to the pool at that point. It has happened before that they got into this area, without mishap. Normally they give the pool a wide berth.
Cruz raised his head as I came out of the back door and I said “Hi, there. What are you doing, buddy?”
He took a few steps forward onto the brick area by the pool, as if to get closer to me. However, he didn’t need to go near the pool to reach me.
But for some bizarre reason, he was fascinated by the pool cover. He stretched out his neck and smelled the edge, then inched forwards.
Amazed at his boldness, I decided he was close enough and should back away.
“No, Cruz!” I shouted.
To Exit Or Not to Exit?
People often ask me how I pulled him out.
Here are my answers:
1) It never occurred to me that my athletic horse couldn’t get himself out.
2) Anyway, how could I get a horse out of a pool with his legs flailing in all directions?
He got his front hooves onto the pavement and almost heaved himself out.
Then sparks flew off his metal shoes as they scraped on the cement and he came crashing down on his knees and slid back into the water.
Now I started to panic. Supposing he couldn’t get out by himself? What then?
But he gave a huge lunge and sprang out of the water before I had to put a plan together to assist him.
A Blasé Fellow
This is where the change in his feed and our work during the year had some benefit.
Cruz shook the water off his body then put his head down to graze as though nothing had happened!
By now it was dark, so I couldn’t see how badly hurt he was. In the light from the house he looked sound in walk, but that was no guarantee of anything. I wanted to check him for injuries.
He was very easy to catch (what a star!) although it took some clever thinking to get the other two to abandon their new-found lush grass.
Eventually I had everyone back in the barn, and was able to examine the damage to my poor guy.
His front knees were pretty scuffed up, and he had a small gash on his left stifle, as well as a long cannon bone graze on the left hind and a few fetlock grazes.
I cleaned the wounds with iodine in warm water and spread triple ant-biotic ointment on them. I also gave him 15 SMZs and prayed he’d be sound in the morning.
On Wednesday I gave him 15 more SMZs. I washed the wounds again and reapplied the triple antibiotic cream. Nothing had swollen overnight, which was a good sign.
The question then became: should I, or should I not, call the vet?
The injuries seemed superficial, with the possible exception of the one on his left knee. Better to be safe than sorry, I thought, and rang for a veterinarian’s opinion.The Prognosis
The main vet was busy, so a new lady came who was possibly not long out of vet school. She was very nice, but unfortunately began with the worst case scenario.
Being: broken left stifle bone and knees that would remain swollen and become arthritic.
On top of that, Cruz was to go on stable rest.
I explained that Cruz – in the immortal words of this vet's boss – ‘is not a candidate for stable rest.’
He appeared a little stiff in trot, unwilling to completely bend that left stifle joint. But that was to be expected, since it had taken a bit of a bruising.
I then asked for the best possible scenario?
This was: a bit of bruising round the stifle joint and no riding to let the wounds heal. I assured her that I had no intention of riding him until he was fully recovered!
So she shaved around the wounds and cleaned them off, before applying generous dollops of antiseptic cream.
I was to do this every day for five days, and give him 13 SMZs twice a day, as well as 2 bute for five days, and one daily for the next five days. She would check him in a week.What I Actually DidI explained that I would hope for the best and not change his daily routine. He would continue to wander in and out of his stall at will with the others.
The vet was fine with this when I explained that Cruz would go ballistic inside his stall and do more damage to himself than good. I am a great believer in allowing a horse to maintain his habits, if at all possible, to prevent inhibiting his recovery through becoming stressed.
If in seven days he appeared lame, I would reconsider his treatment.
The thought of his being on bute for 10 days bothered me a lot, so I consulted another vet. He said that I should give my horse UlcerGuard or the equivalent if I really wanted him on bute for that length of time. But 5 days would be better.
So I gave him 2 bute for two days, and 1 a day for the next three days.
I cleaned is wounds daily and plastered on the goop until Saturday, when I had to drive down to Florida. Gabe’s owner, Christina, then had to take over.
She did a wonderful job, and switched to Equaide a fantastic cream that prevents proud flesh (another concern I had) and brought down the swelling around the wounds – a big worry especially for that left knee.
She sent me photo updates to reassure me that he was healing well.Last Call
A week later two other friends, Kelli and Joan, were kind enough to be there for the vet when she finally arrived at 6:30 p.m. in the pouring rain. Joan had to trot Cruz up and down my barn aisle with most of the lights not working!
Cruz was pronounced sound.
The winter weather is hampering my efforts, but I am now working him again in walk. He is trotting and cantering just fine in his field.In Conclusion...
When something like this happens to your horse, you think: This will make a good story if, and only if, it has a happy ending.
Thankfully, it has.
And now I’ve tied rope around the gates which lead into the pool area for added security. Not that I expect Cruz to wander over the pool cover again. Actually, it’s currently being repaired and the pool has turned into one huge ice block.
I originally posted this on Things Equestrian in February as technical difficulties prevented my posting it here.
But by re-posting it here, I can now give you an update on Cruz.
His wounds have healed perfectly, and he walked straight into the Potomac River as though he'd never had a bad encounter with water!
He's one brave dude.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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