A Hacking Incident

I was hacking this week when we had a little accident which I thought was worth sharing in case anyone has a similar incident so that you know how to respond.

The two of us were hacking along a byway track, which is used regularly by cars and horses, when suddenly my friend’s pony staggered and started hopping along. The little mare tried to put her left fore to the floor, but couldn’t weightbear. As soon as she’d stopped trying to walk (I’d already stopped) my friend jumped off.

I could see her trembling with what I could only assume was pain. I genuinely thought she’d broken her leg or popped a tendon. My friend cradled the left fore and looked at the foot.

She told me there was a stick caught, so I hopped off too and had a look. It wasn’t a stick, it was a large nail. Embedded in the poor mare’s frog.

We decided to try and remove the nail as we needed to get her home, which was only five minutes away, and being a smooth nail we were likely to remove the whole thing.

I held the horses while my friend wiggled the nail out. Thankfully her pony knew we were helping and stood like an angel. The nail had blood on, and had penetrated the frog by about half a centimetre. You can see the darkened area at the tip of the nail on the photo below, which is dried blood.

Immediately the pony seemed more comfortable and was sound so we started walking home and discussed treating the wound.

As it was a puncture wound we want to keep it as clean as possible and avoid any infection, which can be very tricky to treat so I suggested flushing out the wound, applying some form of antiseptic – iodine spray for example – and dry poulticing the foot to keep it clean. We talked about turn out versus box rest and decided that whilst it was warm and dry it was much of a muchness as to which was more beneficial. Given that the mare doesn’t like staying in my friend preferred the idea of turning her out in a poultice.

Given that the foreign object was an old nail, I checked that the pony’s vaccinations were up to date, and I did suggest it would be worth ringing the vet for advice and to see what they recommend with regard to tetanus boosters. I know that with serious injuries they often give a booster as part of the course.

When we got back to the yard there was a farrier there, so my friend took her pony over for him to have a look at. After all, the foot is their area of expertise!

The farrier said that she was lucky; the nail had gone in at an angle so whilst it was still a puncture wound it hadn’t gone up into the foot. The lack of blood was a good thing as only the frog was damaged. And the nail had pierced the frog closer to the toe than the heel, which is preferable.

I think we had a lucky escape in that the mare is fully up to date with vaccinations, and with the location of the injury so hopefully after a few days rest and keeping the wound clean she’ll be back to her normal bouncy self!

I did send a few messages to local yards to warn them to be vigilant along that track in case there was more debris on the track to cause another injury as it had the potential to be so much worse.

First Aid Courses

Today, on a dreary December day (the forecast thinks it’s the worst day of the week weather wise) I was on an equine-specific first aid refresher course. It’s a requirement that I attend one of these every two years so that my insurance stays valid, and I can remain on the register of Pony Club and BHS instructors. 

The courses seem to get better each time, and I hate to say it but I almost enjoyed today. Perhaps it is the fact the content is familiar now, or the fact that  I no longer wish the ground would swallow me up as I lie on the floor pretending to be unconscious while others try to manoeuvre me into the recovery position. Not that I jump at the opportunity to be the demo casualty, far from it. We went through all the usual things, the emergency procedure, defibrillators, chest compressions and assisted breathing. Bandaging (something all equestrians are very good at!), recovery positions, log rolls,  burns, fractures and perhaps most importantly in our industry, neck and back injuries.

Hearing everyone talk about their horror stories and accidents they’ve attended always makes me think how lucky I’ve been, both personally and with client injuries.

It’s fairly public knowledge, but I haven’t blogged about it, that in October I fell off one of my clients horses. We were on the gallops, only in a fast working canter when he bronced me off. I will add that later we found that his saddle was causing him a lot of back pain, so it is likely that the bigger strides hurt him so he told me to b*gger off.

Anyway, it hurt. I went head first over his head, landing on the right side of my head before crashing onto my left shoulder. After assessing myself I got up, called the yard to catch the runaway before starting to walk home. I don’t think I ever admitted to myself, or anyone else for that matter, how much it hurt. I knew I wasn’t concussed as I remembered everything and didn’t feel disorientated or pale. But I couldn’t turn my head or raise my left arm. So we went to the hospital that evening, and triage had a meltdown that I hadn’t been stretchered in in a brace, but the X-rays showed no broken bones so I was given the diagnosis of whiplash and told to continue with my day to day life.  Basically, the ligaments and tendons in my neck had been sprained and time was the healer.

After the weekend of struggling to lie down, sit up,  turn, move, anything really, I was back riding in a limited fashion. Although I knew no bones were broken I knew my back was misaligned, so I booked an appointment at the osteopath. After  crunching my rotated thoracic vertebrae and releasing the compressed cervical vertebrae over two sessions I was told that I just needed to wait for the ligaments to heal. Eight weeks, Pilates, gentle stretching, riding and two sports massages later, I can safely say that I am recovered. The tense muscles that had been protecting my injury have been unknotted and I’m back to full movement. But I was lucky. Very lucky, and doing today’s course made me realise that I probably should have taken a different course of action, and almost certainly would have done if it had been a client. But that’s life, and you live and learn!

I also remembered my friends accident, when we were young and naïve. We definitely should have taken her to hospital there and then.

We were catching our horses, and I had just gone out of the gate onto the road. It was a nasty corner, so I was on traffic watch whilst she fastened the gate. Sun delay I hear a bang, and I turned around and she was sat on the floor while her horse grazed the verge. She got up, saying she felt fine and that she’d gone to pull his head up and they’d banged heads. So we made our way back to the yard and by the time we’d put the horses away she had a cracking black eye. I think we iced it before getting back to work and then she went home as normal. With hindsight, I should have suspected concussion or a neck injury.

Over the following days the black eye became more impressive and I avoided her anti-equine father because he was under the impression I had banged heads with his daughter. She went back to university, and about a fortnight later she text me to say she’d been to the hospital. Her neck had been sore so she had gone to the doctor, who had sent her for X-rays. She’d only fractured her eye socket, suffered nerve damage, and fractured two cervical vertebrae! I genuinely couldn’t believe she’d gotten up and walked away from that sort of head-on collision, and really that should have given me a life long  lesson to always investigate injuries. 

Remembering that incident, my fall, and today’s course, means that I promise to insist that anyone who has any accident in my vicinity gets themselves checked out properly!