Charlie and Betty, At the Track

D. E. Larsen, DVM

 “I have a hot tip on a horse running in the third race at the State Fair Friday night,” Charlie said into the phone. “I would like to take you and Sandy up there with Betty and me if you can get free. This is a solid tip, we can make some money. Sort of like insider trading.”

 “I think we can get a baby sitter, we would be happy to go with you, thanks for the invite,” I replied.

    Charlie and Betty were right on time to pick us up Friday night. Charlie seemed excited to be on the way to the horse races, almost jovial.

    “This is a solid tip I have on this horse,” He said as we sped through Sweet Home. “You probably knew that betting the horses is filled with pitfalls. You have to have good information from the trainers to make any money at it. Occasionally, a race comes along where the trainers stick a horse in the race to get track experience. Rarely, one of these races ends up with one good horse, and all the others are just there for the experience. This race is a sure bet, I hope you brought enough money to make a good bet.”

     “I brought some money,” I said, “but I probably have a different experience at the track than you have Charlie. My experience has been based on luck, and I have suffered from overconfidence at times.”

    “I’m telling you, and you can take this to the bank, this is not overconfidence, this is the closest thing to a sure thing at the track you will ever see,” Charlie said in a stern voice, seeming to be irritated that I might question this tip.

   Friday night and the State Fairgrounds were packed. We did find a parking spot. Charlie walked at a fast pace, I think he was excited. I could keep up with him, but Sandy and Betty lagged far behind. They did not catch up with us until we were standing in line to buy admission tickets to the races.

    “This is a good thing,” Charlie said. “A large crowd means a bigger payout.”

    We picked up hot dogs and a beer at the concession stands and found our way to set of seats about a third of the way up the grandstands. The good thing was it was close to the breezeway to the betting windows. After downing the hot dogs, Sandy and I set about picking a horse for the first race.

   “I’m telling you Doc, don’t waste your money on two-dollar bets. You need to take all your money and put it on the #6 horse in the 3rd race,” Charlie said in a hushed voice, not wanting to give away any information to somebody who might overhear the conversation.

    “I’m pretty conservative at betting, I try to pick the best horse and bet him to show,” I explained.

   “You won’t win enough to pay for the gas getting here,” Charlie snorted.

   Sandy and I went along with Charlie and watched the first 2 races. As the third race was announced, Charlie sprang to his seat.

     “Give me your money, and I will buy the tickets, I don’t want any mistakes of this one,” Charlie said with his hand outstretched.

   I handed him a $10.00 bill, and shuddered a little, remembering the horserace in Boston where I was overconfident and lost $10.00 on a horse which I bet to win.

    Charlie must have been first in line because it was not long, and he was back. He handed me our ticket, and we stood to watch the race, not really looking at the ticket. Charlie was all smiles and a little agitated. I was guessing that he was starting to question his tip.

  Horse races don’t take long to run. They spend a lot of time getting the horses out on the track and parade up and back to allow adequate time for the betting to take place. Once in the starting gate, they are off in short order. The #6 horse had a good start and was in the lead by a full length at the first corner. There was never any question after that point, and he won with a solid lead. Charlie almost threw Betty in the air. We were happy also. This horse had pretty favorable odds, something like 6 to 1. Charlie and I headed to pay windows. I started to get in line for the $10.00 window, and Charlie grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the high stakes window. Now I looked at my ticket, it was a ticket for #6 horse to win in the 3rd race, but it was a $100.00 ticket.

    “You must have got your tickets mixed up,” I said to Charlie.

    “No, that is your ticket, I assumed the risk, you can pay me back out of the winnings,” He said, handing me my $10.00 bill back.

    I collected the $600.00 and handed Charlie his $100.00. I am not sure how much Charlie had bet on the race, but he had a lot of money in his hands.

    “Now we have enough money to bet a few Quinellas or Trifectas. I will teach you how to win a little money at the track. But remember, you have to have an in with the trainers, and you have to trust their tips. If you don’t know Randy, I will introduce you one of these days.”

    Sandy and Betty were awaiting our return, Sandy was feeling pretty frisky thinking we had won $50.00 or $60.00. She was a little surprised when I handed her a couple hundred dollar bills. 

“Charlie insured our bet at a little higher value than my $10.00,” I told her.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Charlie and Betty Land, Breeding Mares

D. E. Larsen, DVM

 I pulled the fingers off a plastic OB sleeve and pulled it on my left arm. After the fingerless sleeve on my left arm was in place, I pulled on a latex exam glove. Then I pulled on a second OB sleeve, also with the fingers removed. This would allow excellent protection from the ‘elements’ and still all for excellent sensitivity at my fingertips. I applied a good squeeze of KY to my hand and arm. I struggled to maintain a safe position behind this large quarter horse mare. She moved from side to side as I eased my gloved hand into her rectum. Standing at her right hip, I held her tail with my right hand and lean hard on my elbow firmly planted on her rump. It was apparent who had the most muscle as we danced from side to side in the stall.

 “How many times have you bred this mare?” I asked Charlie as I advanced my arm into her rear end.

 “This is the third visit for her this year. I had problems with her last year and didn’t get her pregnant. The owner really wants to get her in foul with Carbine,” Charlie answered.

 Charlie had related the problem when he stopped by our house on Ames Creek yesterday. I was out front with the kids, picking some corn in the garden, when Charlie pulled into the driveway in his old blue Chevy pickup. He was on his way home from work when he saw us out front.

 “Hi, I’m Charlie Land, I have a little horse ranch up the creek. I just wanted to introduce myself and ask if you had time to look at a mare for me this weekend,” Charlie said as he walked across the lawn with his hand outstretched.

 “Dave Larsen,” I replied as we shook hands. “We are going to be home on Saturday, I could run up and look at her in the morning. Not terribly early, I am not much of a morning person and like to sleep in when I get a chance.”

     “This is a mare that I have been trying to get pregnant for a couple of years,” Charlie explained. “I lease this big quarter horse stud, Carbine. He is a pretty valuable horse and has a great record on the quarter horse track. I generally have mares lined up all spring. This mare didn’t get pregnant last year, and I only get paid for a pregnant mare.”

 My hand reached the brim of the pelvis, and I swept from side to side to find the uterus. I carefully ran my hand along the length of the uterus, starting at the tip of the right horn and continuing to the tip of the left horn. 

 “Not pregnant, and the uterus feels pretty normal,” I said, almost to myself as I reached the left ovary. “Normal left ovary,” I said, returning to the right ovary. “The right ovary is normal, and a large follicle is present, this mare should be in heat very soon,” I said as I pulled my arm out and peeled the OB sleeve and gloves off.

 I breathed a sigh of relief as I pushed myself away from the mare. I was always told the only way to be safe around a horse was to be in the right place at the right time. To be in the right place at the right time, you have to be in the right place all the time. Doing a rectal exam on a poorly restrained horse was one of the most dangerous positions to be in, both for the horse and for the examiner. It is easy to receive a kick, and ruptured colons are also possible for the mare.

 “If she doesn’t get pregnant with this breeding, she goes home,” Charlie said. “What do you think we can do to get her pregnant?”

 “Well, Charlie, I will be honest with you. I am much more of a cow doctor than I am a horse doctor,” I said as I pondered the problem in my mind. “The horse guys like to culture a mare and treat any infection according to the culture results. That procedure takes almost a week to complete if we start today. She is going to be in heat in the next day or two.”

    “This heat is her last chance this year,” Charlie said. “She goes home after her next cycle.”

    “In the cow, I do a post-breeding infusion,” I explained. “The day after breeding, I infuse the uterus with an antibiotic that is easily absorbed by the uterine lining. This clears any infection in the lining of the uterus and gets it ready for the fertilized egg, which reaches the uterus usually 3 days following breeding. My guess is if you call a horse vet, he will shudder at that strategy. I don’t know why it might be a money issue. Their procedure runs up quite an expense. Might just be that they listen to the experts more. In the cow, we are working a herd, not an individual.” 

    “You make sense to me,” Charlie answered. “I will breed her when she cycles and give you a call. Or just stop by your house. I thought, how lucky can a guy get when you came to town, then I thought I had died and went to heaven when you moved in down the road.”

    “Whatever works, you are more than welcome to stop by the house anytime. We haven’t been in town too long, people are just now learning I am around, so I am not too busy just now,” I said. “The clinic won’t be completed until this fall.”

   Charlie pulled into the driveway on his way home from work on Tuesday. I recognized the old blue Chevy pickup and stepped out of the garage, where I had been putting things away.

    “I bred that mare last night after work,” Charlie said as I walked up the driveway toward his pickup. “I was hoping you could come up this evening.”

    “It will take me a couple of minutes to get things ready,” I replied. “If you get home and get her in a small stall, I should be there by then.”

 It didn’t take long, I just needed to make sure everything was in the truck. I ran through a checklist in my mind as I looked through the back of the vet box. Plenty of water, a vial of IV Ampicillin, infusion pipettes, tail wrap, OB sleeves, bucket, boots, coveralls, Betadine scrub and solution, and plenty of lube. I ran into the house and told Sandy that I would back before dinner. Charlie’s place was only a couple of miles up the creek.

    Charlie was waiting in the stall with the mare haltered when I stepped through the open barn doors.

   “Push her over against the wall on her left side,” I instructed.

    I wrapped her tail, and the did a preliminary scrub of the rectum and vulva with Betadine surgical scrub. After mixing the 3-gram vial of Ampicillin, I did another scrub of her rear end and then flooded the area with Betadine solution. I drew up the Ampicillin in a 60 cc syringe and stuck it in the chest pocket of my coveralls. I held the infusion pipette in my teeth as I pulled on an OB sleeve and applied ample KY.

    Again, standing on her right hip, I eased my left hand into her vagina. She tensed a little but tolerated the intervention far better than the rectal exam the other day. I moved more behind her now, took the pipette in my right hand, and directed the tip into the palm of my left hand. I advanced my left hand and arm into the vagina until I encountered the cervix. Holding the pipette steady, I attached the syringe to the pipette with my right hand. With my index finger in the cervical orifice, I advanced the pipette into and through the cervix. Then I slowly infused the Ampicillin solution into the uterus.

   That accomplished, I withdrew my arm and pipette, moving out from directly behind her as I did this maneuver. I rinsed her off thoroughly and removed the tail wrap.

    “That’s all there is to it,” I said to Charlie. “Now we wait to see what the next couple of months give us. Since there is no rush to make a pregnancy diagnosis, I would wait at least 60 days before checking her. Obviously, if she continues to cycle, she is probably not pregnant.”

 “I doubt if the owner will be able to wait that long before a check for pregnancy. But that is his problem, she is going home this week. I will let you know when I get the news either way,” Charlie said.

    “Everybody is in a hurry for an answer, but if it doesn’t make any plans change, time will give you the same answer as an early pregnancy exam,” I said as I loaded things into the back of my truck. “I will be as anxious as everybody to hear the news, you let me know either way.”

     It was just short of 50 days later, and Charlie’s pickup skidded to a stop in our driveway. Charlie jumped out and ran to the door, getting there before I could navigate the way across through the toys scattered around the living room.

    “Good news,” Charlie said as soon as I opened the door. “You are my hero now, that mare is pregnant, and the owner is happy as can be. I think I like the way you treat cows.”

    Charlie pulled a wad of bills out of his front pocket and peeled two bills off the roll. He reached out his hand with two 100 dollar bills. “This is for your good work,” he said.

    “No, Charlie, I am no damn lawyer, I charge for what I do, I don’t take from your profits resulting from my efforts,” I said. “You just call me next time, that is rewarding enough.”

   “Call you next time!” Charlie said, “I am thinking that next year we should be infusing every mare. You will make me a lot of money if we can speed up the process and get more mares serviced and pregnant.”

    “That might be overdoing it a little, but we can work out the details next Spring,” I said.

 As time went by, my relationship with Charlie grew with every mare we treated. This was a simplified procedure but worked well. Mares were seldom bred more than one time, and the pregnancy rate was very high. Charlie remained a happy and loyal client.

Charlie and Betty Land continued tomorrow, #2 At the Track

So Much Work, So Much Hope

D. E. Larsen, DVM

It was a perfect spring afternoon when I pulled onto the Hansen place. Mrs. Hansen was watching Leah finish up a workout with Bella. Leah and Bella were quite a barrel racing dual. Just out of high school, but Leah and Bella were one of the top barrel racers in the area.

Huh”Oh, I am glad that you come on such short notice,” Elsie said. “Leah just found out that Bella needed a Coggins test to compete at a big event in Idaho.”

“It was no problem, this is just a stop on my way back to the clinic,” I said. “This is just a simple test, I just need to draw a blood sample. Besides, it is sort of fun watching them work.”

“I am so glad Leah has Bella,” Elsie said. “Things have been really tough since her father died last fall. There has not been a lot of joy in the house with just Leah and I. I don’t know what we would do without Bella.”

“Thank you, Dr. Larsen,” Leah said as she dismounted Bella. “I had already paid the entrance fee, and then I found out I needed a Coggins test. And we have to leave the middle of next week.”

“Simple test, I draw the blood, and I should be able to get it in the mail this evening,” I said. “We will have the results on Monday. Tuesday at the latest, it does go to a state lab.”

“I am so excited, if we do well at this race, I will be ranked high enough to get into some of the sanctioned events,” Leah said. “That means we could make some money and help out around here a little. Things are really tight, even with both Mom and I working.”

Bella was a good horse, and drawing a tube of blood was a snap, it only took a moment. I never saw a positive Coggins test, a test for Equine Infectious Anemia. It was one of those regulatory tests that obviously served its purpose of keeping the disease from spreading.

Leah did well in Idaho and went on to compete professionally in local rodeos. Time passed, I think I looked at Bella once more for some swelling after Leah had given her some vaccines. Then an early morning call came from a tearful Elsie.

“Dr. Larsen, can you come quickly,” Elsie cried into the phone. “Bella got her leg hung up in the fence. She was fighting with the neighbor horse through the fence. There is a terrible wound. Leah is at the barn with her.”

Horse wounds were sort of like eye wounds or porcupine quills, you could never rely on a client’s interpretation of the severity. One or two quills elicited the same response as 200.

In Bella’s case, I could see before I got out of the truck; this was a significant wound. She had torn the skin off the face of her left hock. This was probably the worse area on the horse’s leg for a laceration. There was so much movement here, and it was difficult to keep a good wrap in place, even small wounds were a challenge.

This was no small wound. There was a patch of skin that was gone, probably hanging on the fence rail somewhere. The wound was about 3 inches wide and 4 inches long. There was no skin to close. It would heal, but it was going to be a long process.

“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Leah asked as I approached her and Bella. She obviously could read the expression on my face.

I knelt and examined the wound without touching it. Bella was shying from my presence without me adding a touch.

“It could be worse,” I said, not sure how blunt to be with Leah right now. “It could be worse, but this is bad. This wound is going to take months to heal. There is no skin, and this is a large area. A skin graft might speed up the process a little.”

“Dr. Larsen, we can’t afford a lot. If you’re going to need to make a bunch of farm calls, we might not be able to afford even that.” Leah said. “Mom does without, just for Bella and me, there is no extra money right now.”

“If you can learn some basics of wound care, we can get this healed, it is just going to take several months. It will heal by granulation if we do nothing. We can speed the process up if we take care of wound and protect the new cells that will be migrating across the wound. I know it doesn’t mean anything right now, but you will be amazed at how well this wound will heal. Bella will be her old self, I promise.”

“She will be able to race again?” Leah asked.

“Yes, I don’t see why not,” I said. “But for right now, we need to get a wrap on this wound and get Bella in a stall. The more we can limit her movement, the quicker this will heal.”

“She will go nuts in a stall,” Leah said.

“She will adjust, it might take a few days or a week,” I said. “Now, if you are going to take care of this wound, you need to watch everything I do. It will take me about 3 visits at 3 day intervals, and then I will turn things over to you. Our goal will be to have most of this wound covered with new skin in 3 months. After that you can probably give Bella a little more freedom. I would guess you could start working her in 4 months, she should be competitive in 5 to 6 months.”

With that, I cleaned the wound and carefully shaved the wound edge. One more scrub and I applied Furacin ointment and non-adherent gauze pad to the wound and secured it with a figure 8 gauze wrap around the hock. Then a pressure wrap with roll cotton and VetWrap that went down to the hoof.

“If this holds in place, we will change it in 3 days,” I said.

“I can tell, if I have to do that wrap every 3 days, I am not even going to be able to afford the materials.” Leah said with tears welling up in her eyes.

“This is probably the only big wrap we will need,” I said. “We will work with you on this, Leah. Your father was a good client for many years with Jack. After this wrap, you will only be doing the first part where I secured the gauze pad on wound.”

“I am going to give her a tetanus booster and some long-acting antibiotics today,” I said. “We are probably not going to need to keep her on antibiotics.”

With that began a multi-month process of wound healing on Bella. Leah proved to be a good nurse. She was in the office often, and anytime I was in the area, I would make a quick stop just to check on Bella. I probably came to know Elsie and Leah better than any of the other horse clients. Bella almost became a favorite patient.

There was little a celebration the day I stopped and had Leah remove the wrap on Bella’s leg. The wound was now a narrow strip of granulation tissue on the face of the hock.

“I think you can be done with the wraps, and you can start letting Bella out of the stall for some light exercise,” I said. 

“Oh, thank you, Dr. Larsen,” Leah said with a brief hug. “I thought today would never come.”

“Now, take it slow for the first week and call if you see any change in that wound,” I said. “I will stop next week and take a peek. If it is okay, I let you start getting Bella in shape.”

Things went well from that point. The wound was completely closed ahead of schedule, and Leah and Bella were running barrels, and Elsie was running the stop-watch. Leah had her sights on a local event in the early summer.

The last time I stopped, Elsie was standing at the fence of the arena. 

“How are they doing?” I asked.

“Their times are great, even better than their times before the injury,” Elsie said. “We can’t thank you enough. They have a competition next week. Leah is so happy again. After all that work, she deserves some good times.”

The following week, I was in the clinic for Saturday calls. I had come in a little early just to make sure things were in order. I did give a brief thought about Leah and Bella finally getting back into competition today.

Then the phone rang! It was early, that meant the organization for the morning just went out the window.

“Hello, this is Dr. Larsen,” I answered the call.

“Oh, Dr. Larsen, I am so glad it is you.”

I recognized the voice of Elsie. 

“We have been in a terrible accident on the highway,” Elsie continued. “Can you come quickly? It is bad.”

After telling Elsie I was on the way, I left a note for Mary and headed out to the highway.

There were police, wreckers and a lot of people standing around when I got there.

Leah ran up to me and buried her face in my chest. “We pulled out onto the highway on our way to the event in Puyallup. We were rear-ended almost immediately by this logging truck. Mom and I are fine but the trailer is a wreck. I am afraid to look at Bella.”

They had just finished pulling the truck off the horse trailer. It to several of us to wrench the trailer’s rear door open. Bella was down, very scared, and very painful. I could not see any leg fractures, but there was some blood coming from both her rectum and her vulva.

“She is so painful, maybe we should put her sleep,” Elsie said.

“Let me just check with a quick rectal exam,” I said.

I put on an OB sleeve and lubed it well, I could feel bone fragments immediately as I pushed through the rectum. As I sweep my hand around the pelvis, it was shattered in a dozen pieces. I pulled out. 

So much work, so much hope, and now we can only bring Bella’s suffering to an end.

Leah didn’t need me to say anything. She knew from the blood on the sleeve and expression on my face. She cried on my shoulder, and Elsie stood with tears streaming down her face. The people in the crowd could have no understanding of what these girls were going through right now.

“Leah, there is nothing that can be done,” I finally said, “not with a million dollars. The only thing we can do now is to make Bella’s pain go away.”

In school, Dr. Adams talked some about how to euthanize a horse in front of a crowd. If you didn’t have immediate access to euthanasia solution, you could carry a scalpel blade in rectally and lacerate the abdominal aorta. That was not something I wanted to do here, not with those bone fragments lacerating the pelvic structures. I had euthanasia solution. I just lacked easy access to a large vein. There was no way I could get up to the front of the trailer. I would have to use the tail vein.

There must have been some nerve damage also because Bella had no reaction with I elevated her tail and stuck the needle into the tail vein. The injection went smoothly, and Bella was gone before the injection was completed. I was just sorry I had nothing to relieve the pain for Leah and Elsie.

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