There is one thing that every horse owner dreads. It haunts their dreams and keeps them up at night. It’s THAT phone call. The one you get hours after you kissed your horse goodbye for the day and left him safe and sound and all in one piece. The second you see the barn’s name on your caller ID you know it’s not something good.
That was the experience I had this week when the barn owner called me around 7:00 p.m. My stomach dropped the second I realized who was calling. I’m Luc’s emergency contact, so there’s only one reason why she would be getting in touch with me. Something had happened to Luc.
I managed to get a hold of my sister and we raced out to the barn. By this point we knew it likely wasn’t life-threatening thanks to a phone conversation between Jen and the barn owner, but that didn’t stop me from putting the pedal to the metal just the same. Another of the boarders had found Luc caught in the fence, and while he had some cuts and scrapes, the real issue was that he was bleeding from the nose.
He was already inside when we got there and the barn owner greeted us calmly. Thank goodness she’s not one to panic! She went over the injuries with us and let us know he trotted sound, had pooped and was now happily munching away on hay. She had given him some Banamine since he was fairly stressed out once they got him inside and had rolled several times. Thankfully it looked like he wasn’t going to colic.
We opened the stall door and gingerly examined Luc. While the cuts around his right back hoof were numerous, they had already stopped bleeding and appeared to be mostly superficial. But he was still bleeding slightly from his nose and the decision was made to have the vet out (the barn owner had already talked to the vet about possible causes before we got there).
Waiting for the vet is not really a pleasant experience. All kinds of things go through your mind in the time it takes them to arrive. What if his injuries were worse than we thought? What is his nose bleed was related to an issue with his guttural pouch? That was the main concern of the vet during that initial phone conversation, as it would likely require a trip to the nearest emergency horse hospital hours away. I tried to keep it together since I didn’t want to add any additional worry for my sister. After all, it was her horse that was in trouble.
Finally the vet arrived (actually quite quickly), and she assessed Luc and his injuries. The cuts near his back hoof would heal with time. All we needed to do for them was keep them clean. Same for the two small puncture wounds on his front legs. She gave him a long lasting antibiotic shot just to be on the safe side.
Luc also had a few bumps and yet another cut on his face, both of which would turn out to be key in his diagnosis. With a normal temperature, gut sounds and response times, the vet was fairly confident the only thing worth worrying about was the bleeding from the nose.
If it wasn’t his guttural pouch, the other options were bleeding from his lungs, scary but not necessarily life-threatening, or sinus trauma. Given the state of his face, that was the most likely cause. But since my sister and I wanted to sleep that night, we gave the vet the go ahead to do an endoscopy. She gave Luc some tranquilizer since the odds of him standing still while she shoved the scope up his nose were pretty slim. Then she went to work.
Not more than two seconds later, with the scope not even past his nostril, she found something. There was a cut high up in his nose, not visible during the initial examination because Luc was tossing his head too much. Seriously, did we just call the vet out and do a scope for a simple cut in the nose? We decided to continue the scope anyways just to make sure there wasn’t a secondary source of the blood – especially since it was coming out of both nostrils. His lungs and throat were clear, so that ruled out everything except sinus trauma. Judging from the inside of his sinus, which was red and dotted with small blood droplets (we all took turns looking through the scope), it was clear that Luc had definitely somehow in only the way he can, whacked his head good at some point.
The truly odd part is that it was only his hind leg caught in the fence, and he was standing. He was also the one who got himself out of the fence, which likely explains the series of cuts on that hoof.
After the vet left we waited for just over an hour with Luc while the tranquilizer wore off. By that time he was back to being his obnoxious self so we knew it was safe to turn him out. He got a few carrots and then was returned to his friends, only slightly worse for the wear.
Chances are we’ll never really know what happened that night in the dark and how Luc ended up with the bumps and bruises on his face that led to such a big scare. We’re chalking it up to him just being his special self. But I’m incredibly thankful he’s okay, and for our amazing barn owner and vet who kept Jen and I calm and took such good care of our boy. Let’s hope there aren’t any more phone calls like this one for a very, very, long time.