Last week, a 1,400-pound warmblood got his leg caught in a gate in this excerpt about 24 hours during foaling season from the Eclipse Press book Equine ER by Leslie Guttman. Today, interns get rattled as the warmblood comes out of anesthesia with a strong flight response.
In the recovery stall, interns Leslie Christnagel and Milosz Grabski waited for the horse to wake up to help him out of the anesthesia while I talked to Dr. Alexandra Tracey, another intern, as she cleaned up. At Rood & Riddle, to “recover” a horse from anesthesia, one rope is tied to the horse’s halter, another to its tail, and both ropes go through metal rings in the wall to act as a pulley system. One person (in this case Grabski) waits at the hind end of the horse holding the rope at the ready, while another (Christnagel) sits on its neck, looking for signs that it is waking: eyes become alert; the horse begins to swallow; the tongue regains its tone. Shortly after these signs appear, the horse usually begins to try to get up. Both people help by pulling on the ropes to stabilize the animal as it gets to its feet.
A horse coming out of anesthesia can be a handful. Here, farriers worked on a knocked-out horse whose feet were badly in need of trimming.
It sounds easier than it is. Recovering a horse is a dangerous and unpredictable task. Horses are creatures of flight; their first instinct upon waking up confused in a strange place is to try to get out of there as quickly as possible. A horse often becomes conscious of its surroundings before all of its body wakes up, and it will try to rise, usually front end first. It could hurt itself, but because a horse can’t rise without lifting its head, the recoverer on the neck can slow the process by holding down the head. Finally, some horses coming to have a stronger flight response than others and try to rise before the telltale signs of waking appear.
As I talked to Tracey, out of the blue, Christnagel yelled, “You GUYS!!!” The warmblood was trying to get up without the vets having gotten good notice. He was lifting and turning his head toward the wall as he tried to rise, taking Christnagel with him and encircling her with his neck. He was too strong for her to hold down. The danger existed of him throwing her into the middle of the stall and then stepping on top of her. When he turned his neck away from the wall for a moment, Christnagel darted out and grabbed his halter rope. In the next five minutes or so, with the help of the interns, the horse staggered to his feet and urinated.
The owner came in. “He got up pretty quick,” Tracey told her with a straight face. As the owner cooed baby talk to the horse, her husband waited outside the stall with a resigned look. He rolled his eyes at me and said, “It’s out of control. One time during a storm, she wanted to bring him into the basement, and I said, ‘That is not gonna happen.’ ”
Next: What happened to the struggling foal in ICU? Plus, an emergency phone call for an already-exhausted vet.
Note: If you're coming to Lexington for the World Equestrian Games,
author Leslie Guttman will be signing copies of Equine ER throughout
More details to come. If you want to reach Leslie in regard to Equine
ER, now in a second printing, email email@example.com.
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