In my last post, I promised to tell you why, sometimes, in the back of my mind, I worry a tiny bit when Buckshot gets agitated. And I try very hard to remain calm and to look and act calm. Once, in 2008, a very, very bad thing happened when I did it. Below is my recounting of it, from Chapter 15 of my book.
In short, the background to the story is that I had brought Buckshot to a new farm – new to him, but familiar to me. I moved him from the barn I had bought him at, and where I had been taking lessons on him, and after purchasing him, had stayed for over a year. I moved him to the large farm where I had learned to ride and which had a wonderful, expert owner there. His first few days at the new barn had been normal, as normal as it ever is for a horse. The story below occurred after he had been at the new farm about two weeks.
The next day, I brought Buckshot in from the pasture and a friend brought his pasture mate, Lucky. I put Buckshot into his stall and Lucky went into a stall across the aisle. Buckshot began walking around the stall. Slightly alarmed, I remembered Belinda’s advice to just calmly go about my steps of getting grooming tools and start grooming him.
I went into the stall across from Buckshot’s, which houses tack and storage items, and reached for my tools. I heard a slight sound behind me and turned. What I saw next stunned me. Buckshot was caught, over the stall door, half in and half out! He looked at me, bewildered - he was caught, hanging over the stall door!! He had apparently reared over the stall door and came down right on top of the door, lodging himself with the door at his sheath area. His front feet touched the ground in the aisle but his back feet didn’t touch the ground in the stall! I was stunned, and immediately alarmed. I knew Betty was in the next barn, so I called to her “Betty! Betty! Betty!” and she came immediately to see the problem. She was stunned also, but immediately took action.
We tried to open the stall door and got it opened a few inches. But Buckshot’s massive weight lodged him motionless on the door. The top of the stall door was wood, not a smooth piece of metal as sometimes covers a stall opening. Buckshot panicked and tried to get himself over the door but couldn’t budge himself. His front feet flailed violently. Betty got several hay bales and put under his back feet so they would have something to hold his weight.
Thankfully, there was a male student rider at the barn, Lennie, who immediately pitched in to help Betty. I was an emotional basketcase of human worry, standing nearby, unable to help. My mind was in a panic, terrified for Buckshot, afraid for Betty and Lennie should they get hurt trying to help him, and wondering frantically how we would get him off the door. There was no way to lift or pull him off the door, so they decided to try to take the door off its hinges. When almost a thousand pounds of panicking horse is wedged on the door, taking it off its hinges, underneath him, is a herculean task. Betty gave Buckshot a small bit of sedative to help him panic less. The vet was called.
As they worked, I stood nearby and mentally screamed desperate prayers to God. A few students held my hands and offered me assurances. I didn’t know if he would survive, since the door and his weight were pushing against him just forward of his hind legs and it appeared possible that internal damage was being done to him. There wasn’t any blood gushing anywhere. Lennie worked on the door hinges, while Betty stood at Buckshot’s head and comforted him and kept him as calm as was possible. He continued to occasionally panic and thrash his legs and body around.
After about thirty minutes, which seemed much longer to me, Lennie said, the door is just about down! Get ready, we don’t know what he will do! Finally the door fell under him. We held our breaths. Buckshot didn’t explode or thrash, rather he seemed beaten and weak, and walked, very slowly, down the aisle. Lennie handed me the lead line and Betty said, just walk him around slowly here in the grass. Buckshot was wet with sweat, and walking very slowly. The tops of his hind legs were scraped and raw, but there wasn’t any blood dripping. His sheath was swollen. Betty watched him closely for signs of going into shock. He could barely walk, but he did walk. I was mentally frozen, and numb, and grateful, and scared. I knew that he could be hurt very bad internally, and at any moment he could become much worse. I just calmly and slowly walked him in a circle. Betty got a hose and rinsed his legs thoroughly with water.
After fifteen minutes , she suggested I put him in a stall in the main barn while we waited for the vet. “A stall!?!” I asked? She said Yes, we have a stall with a top door. And we’ll put Lucky right next to him. So we moved Buckshot to the stall and surprisingly, he was fine in that he didn’t panic about being in a stall. We closed the top door of the stall to make sure he didn’t try to jump or rear out again. But Buckshot had no energy at all. It took a while before he even mouthed the hay. I stayed close to him and tried to stay mentally composed but internally I was still a basketcase.
Although I was relieved that Buckshot hadn’t died, and that a vet was on the way, I thought that this accident would make Betty not want him at her farm any more. I felt a huge ache of sadness. But I understood that she probably wouldn’t want Buckshot to stay if he was a problem horse. After an hour or so, the vet arrived. He was a very nice, compassionate man. He examined Buckshot and said he would be fine, that he would have very sore hind legs, and a swollen sheath but with time, would be fine. He gave him an antibiotic, a muscle relaxer and a pain killer, and gave us medications for the next five days. He was a very upbeat vet with a manner that comforted me. My dear horse wouldn’t die after all!
Later, I pulled Betty aside and said gravely, I guess this means that Buckshot and I should go back to the other barn. She surprised me by saying, “Well, I don’t think you need to think about that right now. This was a freak accident, and will probably never, ever happen again. So why don’t you at least wait a week before even thinking about that?” I said, okay, that I really wanted to stay there. I had expected her to tell me that he couldn’t stay. That a horse this troublesome really wasn’t welcome there. So I was surprised and relieved by her response.
After a bit, I took Buckshot out of the stall to walk him around for a few minutes. The vet had suggested occasional short walks to prevent any stiffening of his muscles. Buckshot didn’t want to walk much at all, but he did walk, very slowly. I led him back into the stall. Later, I walked him again. Again, he was extremely slow and had very low energy, but he did walk. My heart was full, swollen with numerous emotions: my love for Buckshot, concern for him (what would happen to him now? What was next? Would he ever be the same again? ), just plain mental fatigue, struggling to maintain mental composure, relief that Betty said we didn’t have to move him again, gratitude to Betty and Lennie for their monumental rescue, gratitude to the others at the barn who had comforted me while he was trapped, and appreciation of the very kind veterinarian.
A while later, I thanked Betty for the nursing she would be doing for Buckshot, and I finally left the barn for home. I stopped at my sister, Caren’s, house and told her all that had happened. She listened and comforted me and told me that Buckshot would no doubt be fine in a few weeks. I appreciated her comfort. I was spent, physically and emotionally. I went home, ate something and went to bed.
I visited the barn two days later after work. Buckshot and Lucky were standing in the arena, getting some sun. As I walked up to the fence, I was shocked at how swollen his belly and sheath were. The raw scrapes on the front of his hind legs looked bad, but were expected. What I didn’t expect to see what a swollen center belly and a hugely swollen sheath. He wasn’t moving as slowly as the day of his accident, which relieved me.
Betty told me that he was doing fine, taking his medications fine and that there were no problems. She kept the two horses in adjacent stalls and Buckshot was doing fine, considering. I led him back to his stall and stayed with him, brushing him. He seemed more interested in the hay bag than in me. That was fine. I just wanted him to get well. And then, well, we would see what happened. After an accident like that, did a horse change his personality? I didn’t know. Would he be the same horse? I didn’t know. It was a waiting game, and the end result would be…..well, I didn’t know. But I did know that I loved this horse, this crazy, not-like-his-old-self horse, who would try, for unknown reasons, to jump or rear out of a stall, and find himself trapped. I will never forget his face that day, when I turned and saw my horse hanging on a stall door, halfway in and halfway out of the stall. He was so bewildered.
In the weeks that followed, Buckshot healed. The swelling and scrapes on his belly and legs healed. The sheath swelling took about a month longer to heal. I constantly asked Betty, how is he doing peeing? I hoped the penis was able to do its job although the sheath looked quite swollen. He’s fine, she said. I was relieved each time she said that (and she said it many times, because I kept asking her!), and in the back of my mind, I was a little embarrassed. I had never shown so much interest in his private parts, but as his owner, I wanted all of his parts, including his private ones, to be healthy. So I put aside my embarrassment and asked about it frequently. As the swelling subsided, I could see for myself that he dropped his penis and that it worked just fine. I felt very relieved to see it working fine. In fact, I’ve never been so relieved about a penis in my life. There is a bit of humor to this story, isn’t there?
It has now been two months since his accident and he is fine. Fully healed, his gaits are fine, riding him is fine. His calm personality returned. I am still enormously grateful to those that helped him and, in my opinion, saved his life. Now I think I am going to cry.
This is one of the most precious, special parts of owning a horse - that there are times and memories about him that bring tears to my eyes and down my cheeks. What a special horse Buckshot is! How priviledged I am to have him! How special he is in my life! I do so hope that I am a good owner for him, that I enrich his life and that he is somehow glad that I am his person. Because I am so glad he is my horse! Excuse me, I need to go get tissues……
Well, rereading it brings tears to my eyes. What a horrible day that was! I had never seen a horse trapped on top of a stall door! And neither Betty nor the vet had ever seen such a thing before. I actually felt very guilty about that – that somehow something I had done wrong caused Buckshot to panic and try to jump out of the stall. Before that day, and since, he has been such a calm, reliable horse that it blew my mind that he did it, and I felt I must have inadvertently caused it. Now, three years later (and he hasn’t done anything like that since) I know that sometimes, for reasons we can’t fathom, horses do crazy things, that we didn’t cause. So my guilt has diminished. But that is the story of the big emergency that happened when my sweet horse panicked.
Whew! On to happier thoughts! Buckshot and I had a good weekend this past weekend. Rain made the footing everywhere quite soft so we did mostly walking and just a tiny bit of trotting. It was a good time. He was a good boy – my sweet, precious Buckshot. I hope you had a good time with your horse and didn’t have any emergencies!