What is a farm without animals? Its not. And don’t speak to anyone that says otherwise, you don’t need that negativity in your life. What you do need is horses, cows, chickens, goats, at least one barn cat, and a clever dog. I’m slowly working my husband up to this mentality, he’s conceded to an extra horse, the barn cat, and chickens. And the dog has been around for a while. Since I can remember, I have always wanted a horse, and for anyone with a daughter, when she says she wants a pony, get her one. Can’t afford drugs when you have vet bills. Speaking of vet bills, we just had the third anniversary of our youngest horse’s most spectacular injury to date, though he constantly tries to outdo himself.
The thing about animals, especially horses, is they are always getting hurt. Where there is a will, there is a way, and believe me, they have PLENTY of will. My oldest, Arod, is now 17 years old (read: middle aged, though he doesn’t act like it), and like a first child, he tricked me into thinking all horses are as easy as he, so of course when we moved, I got another. Arod has been the easiest keeping horse ever for the 16+ years I have had him. No feet issues, rare illnesses, and hardly any bad manners to speak of. New horse? Sure, why not! Let’s make it a baby horse too, just to keep life interesting! After spending a month in the South Carolina July heat in the summer of 2017 getting the barn and a small pasture livable, it was time for Arod to leave the wonderful boarding stable where he had been for four years and come to our new house. But horses are herd animals and shouldn’t be alone for long, so I informed my husband. I also informed him that the new horse I had bought for him would be at the barn in about an hour, I will withhold his comment, but sufficient to say he was not as excited as I.
Baby Horse arrived and was the most perfectly well-behaved creature you could ask for. For all of one week. After getting over his momma leaving and settling into the new routine, he was content to follow Arod around the pasture and stretch his legs in the field. Then came time for training. Lead, stand, pick up your feet, all the usual things you teach a young horse so that when they are 1,500 pounds, they still think you’re in control. One week in and he had been named Cochise and was leading and tying like a champ. Next came feet pick-ups. One day, I was working on picking up the cutest little dainty back hoof you ever saw and WHAM! He kicked sideways right into some metal fence posts that were standing in the barn. As a side note, maybe best to never use your barn to store animals and construction supplies; no matter how desperate you are for space. To be fair, I should’ve moved them or tied him somewhere else, but I was unaware that any horse was that flexible. We went for a walk to calm down, and as I looked at the ground, there were the cutest little dainty back hoof prints you’ve ever seen on the ground, soaked in blood. He had severed a small artery in the lower part of his leg on one of those fence posts. How do I know it was an artery? Blood spurts from an artery, and oozes from a vein. This was spurting. Everywhere. Now, I have had EMT training, and I’m great with people, but add an extra set of legs, and I am near tears over every little injury. Cue to direct pressure and abdominal pads to stop the blood flow, but I was still sure I had killed him. Doctoring a grown, calm horse can be harrowing, but a baby is a nightmare. Fortunately, he was rather fond of the grain bucket, so for the next several weeks, we changed dressing, cleaned, and coated the wound daily and he healed beautifully. He was saving the real fun for later on.
For several months, we didn’t have any more injuries except the usual biting, kicking, one wasp sting, and scuffles that are normal when establishing a herd pecking order (spoiler alert, Cochise was at the bottom of that order). So, I thought it was safe to take a weekend off from the prison farm and go see family, leaving my husband and the barn kitten in charge. I came home on a rainy, miserable day in late January and went to feed for the evening. Only to find that I had a colt that couldn’t walk but on three legs and seemed to be missing about ¼ of his right foreleg. Amongst my profanity infused directives, I managed to convey that we had a real emergency on our hands. If I never live to see another injury like it, I will die happy.
I still to this day have not found where he got tangled up in the fence, and I never found the rest of his leg. But he seemed to have got both front legs tangled in the wire and while he extricated the left leg with only a few scratches, he paid a serious price on the other. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic team of vets at Piedmont Animal Hospital who left out some pain killers and antibiotics for me to pick up that night and gave me online medical advice over the next week. They agreed with me that, since there was nothing left to stitch back together, there wasn’t much they could do for him until we let the wound drain and heal a bit. A week later, my saintly vet, Lindsey, came out and cleaned and scrubbed the wound and got rid of some dead skin where the skin had degloved a bit. Three weeks of twice daily dressing changes consisting of an iodine scrub, non-stick anti-bacterial dressing, gauze wrap, felt padding, and cover it all with stretchy vet wrap and elastikon ($5 a day in bandages, no wonder I’m broke) and she said he could go without the wraps and get an aluminum spray instead. So, I had a horse, then I had the silver surfer. After eight weeks, he barely had a scratch on what was the worst of the injury and the rest healed magnificently. Here is a slide show starting with the best picture and going backwards. That way, if the pictures get too bad, you can just stop with the lovely finished product that he is now.
He is still clutzy and still gets hurt more than any horse should, but after the above injury, it takes a lot for us to get seriously worked up over him.
The best thing that has come out of the chaos is that I have a well-stocked medical kit at the barn. Unfortunately, every injury is different and I always find something new to add, but the basics can stop any major bleeding or patch a bad sprain until we go to the store or get the vet. Below are my top 25 recommendations to have in your vet bag:
- Vet wrap. And lots of it. If you order from amazon before you need it, you’ll save yourself some serious cash. But it won’t have zebra print like what you buy at TSC. Life is a tossup.
- Abdominal pads (what humans use). These are perfect for large gashes and fit great around legs.
- Wash cloths, a cheap 16 pack from Walmart does wonders when you’re cleaning up anything that’s just “Ewwww, I am not putting that in my washing machine.”
- Rolled non-sterile gauze, another great item to purchase on Amazon or at a military surplus store.
- Non-stick pads. I never knew non-stick was a thing! Ive not needed many gauze pads in the course of my life, so this was new to me. If you can find anti-bacterial, all the better. Surprisingly, CVS and Walgreens store brands both carry them, and at a reasonable price. Covidine makes them too, but at a much higher price.
- Felt for padding. You can get the disposable cotton padding, but it is EXPENSIVE and felt is nice and squishy soft, not to mention washable. However, see item 3 above.
- Thermometer – the vet will always ask if they’re running a fever, and its best to know in case they need to bring out better drugs.
- Petroleum jelly. Great for split skin, coating a burn (god forbid), etc.
- Iodine, providine, betadine, etc. They’re all part of the same family.
- Half gallon container with a screw top lid. This trick I learned from my Vet and use it often. The container is great for mixing iodine and water until it’s the color of strong tea (I’m from the south, so read: solid and non-translucent), and soaking your gauze in it for cleaning a wound. Just don’t soak more than two or three days’ worth so you can get fresh water when you need it and try not to double dip with dirty/bloody hands. If you have a helper, they can hand you fresh gauze.
- 4×4 non-sterile gauze for wound scrubbing. Please do yourself a favor and buy a big non-sterile pack from Amazon. “Sterile” means they are individually wrapped. And when you need ten a day to clean out a wound, unwrapping them is torture.
- Elastikon. Yes, it is super expensive, and you can only get it from the vet or Amazon that I have found, but it works so much better than normal medical tape on furry surfaces, and it doesn’t pull (much) hair when you remove it.
- Epsom salt for soaking sprains; in summer you can get away with the kind that has mint; in winter lavender is nice.
- Surgical scissors; a pair or ten…
- Nitrile gloves; just buy the 250ct box. You’ll need it.
- Antibacterial cream
- Mineral oil, and buy at least a gallon of it. Especially if you have a horse prone to colic, this one is a must. Horses cannot regurgitate anything, so if they get a gut impaction or an upset tummy, there is only one place for it to go.
- Turkey baster or surgical tubing. Aforementioned mineral oil doser. PLEASE do not use surgical tubing unless you know what you’re doing.
- Aspirin (NOT Tylenol, it is synthetic and not good for animals). I keep about 3 doses worth crushed up in bags in case you need it on the fly. However just keep in mind this looks really suspicious, so be prepared to explain yourself if traveling with it.
- Bute if you have some from your vet.
- Vetrimycin – Antimicrobial spray. Chewy.com has it SO much cheaper than TSC or Amazon. Works great on rain-rot too.
- Rubbing Alcohol – unless you want to meet your maker that day, do not apply this to an open wound. Or anywhere near one. Use for closed sprains and such to pull the heat out
- Duct tape – good for taping dressings to hooves or making a makeshift padded boot with frog injuries.
- Wonder Dust. Don’t curse me, I know it’s an iffy one, but it is great for halting proud flesh and causing wounds to close up when you want to keep something clean. This was all that stopped Cochise from having a bacterial infection in his leg when he caught the fence post I am convinced.
- Make sure there is a small human first aid kit thrown in there as well, otherwise you’re getting vetrimycin and an abdominal pad with vet wrap when you gash your arm open or shoot yourself in the finger with a nail gun.
And store this all in a plastic bin or something with handles that you can grab and take with you in the event of traveling emergencies. This is the emergency kit for while we’re waiting on the vet and post vet instructions care. Always always always have a vet familiar with your horses and if in doubt, call them! I would love to say that if you have it, you wont need it, but that is simply not how farms work, unfortunately.
And remember, never leave the cat in charge! Good Luck!