Horse Trailer Down

 D. E. Larsen, DVM 

I slowed as I approached the accident. The flashing lights looked like it was coming from several emergency vehicles. There were cars stopped and parked along the road, and many people were gathered around and watching. I pulled up behind the ambulance and got out of my van.

I was a couple of miles out of Enumclaw.  A frantic owner had called for help in getting her horse out of the trailer. She didn’t say exactly what was causing the problem.

Now I could see the pickup. It had missed the corner and ran off the road. The horse trailer was lying on its side. It looked like half the fire department scurrying around the trailer, trying to decide what to do.

“Are you the vet?” the fire chief asked.

“Yes, some gal called about getting a horse out of her horse trailer,” I said. “She didn’t say anything about an accident.”

“Every time we do anything to try to move that horse, it throws a fit,” the chief said. “I figured we needed somebody with some expertise.”

“Well, you got me,” I said. “I’m here, but I don’t know about the expertise thing. Let me get a look at the situation.”

The trailer was on its left side, and the top was lower than the bottom. The young mare was obviously scared and had her head up, watching me out of her right eye. I could see some jagged pieces of metal that could tear her skin if we just dragged her out of there. And there was a sizable laceration on her right shoulder. But the good thing, her legs looked okay. At least, what I could see from at her rump.

“What do you think, Doc?” The chief asked. “Can we get her out of there?”

“I think we are probably going to have to get her sedated before we can pull her out,” I said. “There are a couple of pieces of sharp metal that will slice her up if we just pull her out with her struggling. Where is the lady who called?”

“The owners are over there in front of the ambulance,” the chief said, pointing to the couple. “The lady is pretty freaked out, but the husband is doing fine.”

“Hi, I’m Dr. Larsen,” I said as I extended my hand to the husband. “I understand you are one are the one’s who called?”

“Yes, my name is Ed. My wife is the one who called,” Ed said. “Thanks for getting here quick. What do you think? Can we get her out, or should we just shoot her now? We don’t want Holly to suffer any.”

“From what I can see, things look pretty good,” I said. “I think if I sedate her, we should be able to pull her out of there with tearing her up too much. That is unless there is some sharp metal that she is lying on that I can’t see. I definitely don’t think that we are at a point where we need to discuss shooting her.”

“You do what you think is best, Doc,” Ed said. “We will just deal with the situation afterward, whatever needs to be done.”

I went to the van and drew up a dose of Rompun and a couple of grams of pentathol.

“So, what are you thinking, Doc?” the chief asked.

“I’m going to give this horse a brief anesthetic and then your crew and drag her out of there with her hind feet,” I said. “To do that, I am going to give her a tranquilizer.  Then, I will have to climb in there with her and give her the anesthesia in the jugular vein.”

“That sounds a little dangerous to me,” the chief said. “Are you confident that you will be safe, crawling in there with the horse?”

“There is probably a little risk, but I think if I give her a big dose of Rompun, she will be okay,” I said.

“Well, I’m in charge of this scene, and I’m not sure I can let you do that,” the chief said.

“Then you just march your ass over there and tell that lady we are going shoot her horse,” I said as I got the dose of Rompun ready to administer.

I lifted the horse’s tail and gave the Rompun with an intravenous injection into the tail vein.

“I guess you might be right,” the chief said. “But if you can give that injection in the tail, why not do this next injection there?”

“If I make a mistake and some of the drug leaks out of the vein, her tail might just end up falling off,” I said. “This next injection goes in her jugular vein.”

When the young mare closed her eyes and laid her head down, I eased myself onto her right side and inched my up to her shoulder. From that point, I could accomplish the injection into her jugular. I could feel her body relax under me as the pentathol reached her system.

I crawled back out of the horse trailer. The fire crew hooked onto the mare’s hind legs with some large nylon straps. With several guys on each line, they easily slid the horse out of the trailer. We pulled her around so her head was uphill and rolled her up on her sternum.

“How long is she going to be out?” the chief asked.

“It won’t be long. I gave her a small dose of pentathol,” I said. “I would guess I can have her up and moved out of your way in five minutes, ten at the most.”

It was just a few minutes, and I was able to coax Holly to her feet. With Ed helping, we led her to the other side of the road. They were hooking the wreckers up to the pickup and trailer as we moved her.

“I think you came out of this pretty good, Holly,” I said.

I ran my hands over Holly, looking for any injuries other than the one laceration on her right shoulder.

“Can we sew up this cut while she is still sleepy?” Ed asked.

“That will work well, to do it now,” I said. “If you can hold her, I will get a few things. This will only take a few minutes.”

With Holly well tranquilized, I was able to shave and prep her wound with no problem. Then I injected lidocaine for a local anesthetic and sutured the wound with interrupted sutures of number one nylon.

“I will give her a dose of long-acting penicillin and a tetanus vaccination, and you will be good to go,” I said. “How are you going to get her home?”

“My brother is on his way with his truck and trailer,” Mary said. “I can’t thank you enough, and I am sorry that I was such a mess earlier.”

“That’s okay, Mary,” I said. “You had a lot of stress. Holly is going to be fine. You need to give me a call in a couple of weeks, and we will get these sutures out.”

“Thanks again,” Mary said. “And Ed just ran over to get his checkbook out of the truck before they pulled it away.”

Holly healed well, and Mary and Ed remained loyal clients. I am not sure that I made the correct decision, crawling into that trailer with Holly, but somebody had to do it.

Photo by Kevin Carrera from Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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