D. E. Larsen, DVM
I slowed the truck to a stop while I reread the directions. I was meeting a man at his horse pasture. It was not associated with a house, and we didn’t have a street number.
When I looked up from the notes, I could see the guy waving at me from a pasture a couple of hundred yards from the road. I took the next driveway and pulled through the gate he was holding open for me.
“I am glad you could come on such short notice, Doc,” Alex said. “This cut probably is a day old, but I don’t have much time to spend out here.”
“You called at just the right time,” I said. “I had a cancellation, so I have some time to use. Where is the horse?”
“I have her in the little barn over there,” Alex said, pointing to a small shed at the corner of this two-acre pasture. “It’s not much of a barn, I know, but it serves its purpose.”
“I’ll get my stuff out, and if you can lead her out here, it will give me more room and better light.”
I felt pretty lucky today. Friday evening wire cuts were the usual fare. Most of the cuts were several days old. But they would not spend any extra time with their horse until Friday evening or Saturday morning. Then they would be upset when I failed to feel that a three-day-old wire cut wasn’t an emergency.
“What a nice looking mare,” I said as Alex led the well-groomed bay mare up to the truck. Where is this laceration?”
“This is Misty, Doc. The wound is over here on her left hip,” Alex said, turning the horse so I could see the laceration. “I have no idea how this could happen. I have looked all over, and I can’t find anything sharp that could’ve done this to her.”
“This looks like more of a tear than a cut,” I said. “Maybe she ran into a nail or a corner going in or out of that barn. It looks like things could be cramped in for her if she was turning around in a hurry or something.”
“You know, Tuesday night, I didn’t get out here to feed her until late,” Alex said. “There are no lights in that little shed, and I surprised her when I opened the side door. She swung around and ran out. I was in a hurry and put her feed in the rack and left. I wonder if that is when this could have happened?”
I looked at the wound carefully. It looked like it was probably three days old. The tissues around the wound were only slightly swollen. It was about 3 inches long with a little corner flap at one end.
“This wound is old enough that it could have happened Tuesday,” I said. “I can clean it up and cut away a little bit of the dry skin edge, and it will close up pretty well. I have to tell you, though, it will heal fine if we just treat it as an open wound. The choice is yours. It is just dollars and cents.”
“Dollars and cents, don’t I know that,” Alex said. “This is my daughter’s horse. We bought Misty for her thirteenth birthday. Boy, was she ever happy! I rented this pasture, and she was on this horse every spare minute. She would even ride her bike out here after school to ride her horse.”
“That sounds great,” I said. “Gave her something to do and teaches responsibility at the same time.”
“Yes, it was all of that, Doc,” Alex said. “But you know Doc, sixteen happens. She turned sixteen, and the boys started hanging around, and this poor horse looked like a forgotten rag doll. She hasn’t been on this horse for over two years now.”
“That is sort of a sad story, but one that I have heard before,” I said. “Sometimes, they mature a little and remember the time they spent with the horse, and they come back.”
“That is what the wife said,” Alex said. “But in the meantime, I am the one who is out here every day, feeding and grooming this horse. I am the one out here to meet the farrier two or three times a year. I am the one who calls the vet and comes out here to hold the horse. No offense. Doc, but it gets a little old at times.”
“You could sell this horse in second,” I said.
“I know, we had talked about that. But the wife and the daughter end up in tears every time I bring up the subject. I think I’m stuck.”
“Does your daughter have a job,” I asked?
“Yes, she has a good job,” Alex said. “She saves her money. She has a boyfriend. And there is another guy who is hanging around all the time. Waiting, I guess.”
“So, let’s go ahead and clean this wound up and close it up,” I said. “I will give Misty a tetanus shot and some antibiotics. Then tonight, you hand your daughter the bill. Don’t say anything. Just put the ball in her court. If she is going to be paying her share of things, she will start riding again, or she will decide to sell this horse to another young girl who will ride it.”
“Are you sure all you do is work with animals?” Alex asked?
“Animals are owned by people, Alex. You can’t do this job in a vacuum. I hear a lot of kids say they want to be a veterinarian because they like animals. I tell them they had better like people, also.”
When I stopped by the pasture a few weeks later to take the sutures out of Misty. Alex’s daughter, Sharon, was waiting at the gate with Misty on a lead.
“This healed beautifully,” Sharon said. “When can start riding her?”
“Let me get those sutures out, and you can throw a saddle on her,” I said. “She is probably going to be ready for a little ride.”
“Yes, I have sort of ignored her for some time now,” Sharon said. “But I am going to start riding again. I have a couple of girlfriends who go up Quartsville Creek and ride some trails up there.”
“That sounds fun, but you want to work her into that sort of thing slowly. She hasn’t been doing much for a time now. It will take some riding to get her back into shape.”
“Yes, we will take it slow. I probably need that myself. And Doc, thanks for all you do.”
Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash