Obviously, I'm not in school today: There's been what for me is the equivalent of another death in the family -- Coqet, my best mare.
I saw her suddenly down as I exited the shower, lying in an awkward position, and kept watching as I dried off and dressed for school to see if she'd get herself sorted out and up.
Clothed at last, I dashed out and ran into globs of bright red blood bunched like berries in the soft green grass, surrounded by matted areas where she'd tried to rise, unsuccessfully. Her legs were all bunched up underneath her, and I could see some small gashes, but nothing that ought to have produced the sheer volume of red resting in the grass. She tried again, and her new collapsed position showed that her left femur had a deep gouge -- okay, source located.
I looked at the fencing -- all up and in good shape. The areas where things were fixed were still in good repair. She was a good 15'-20' from the closest fence. If she couldn't stand, it was odd that she'd fallen where she'd obviously lay earlier. Horses can't run on broken femurs like they can for a while on the cannon bone... The tipped angle means the bone collapses instead of being able to stay in line for a bit. They might be able to hop/hobble, but that wasn't the shape Kettie was in...
Originally, however, I couldn't tell if her leg was broken, or just had a horridly gouged out area that needed to be sewed, her gotten up, and moved to someplace where she could eat/drink without falling over again. I thought of the horrid tears put in Sheykh Ibn Deke when he tangled with some type of fanged farm equipment. The vet said he could sew him, but I'd never be able to immobilize him long enough to heal. Of course, since he won his PtHA championship AFTER that injury, I was obviously up to the impossible, at least at that time. I put him in one side of the horse trailer and watered/fed/shot/dressed the wound from the other side until the vet could remove the stitches, which allow Sheykh more movement. I'd hose down his other side to keep him cool, parked the trailer under a shade tree with the side doors open, slanted the rig to take advantage of breezes; oh, the fiddling around it took was endless.
A call to the vet followed the call to school. I called Mike and woke him up, I'm sure, saying that I might need Coqet lifted mechanically, or buried, and at this point, I didn't know which. He promised to keep his phone near. She lay just at the gate into the hayfield, one of the more accessible areas.
I went back up to Coqet while I waited. I rubbed her head and would calm her when she tried to rise again. I thought about changing out of my school clothes. Obviously, if I did any heavy duty helping, such as helping with the sewing that large a wound would be likely to incur, I could get a lot on me that would not wash out easily. (I never did get the grass/blood, bodily fluids out of the white of my favorite No Plot/No Problem NANO jersey when I happened to be wearing it while I loaded Crem's freshly born "dummy" filly into the bed of the pick-up in June.)
As I headed back out in farm-safe clothes, the vet came up the hill, so we went into the field by the gate at the top of the circle, then to the hay field fence's silver gates. Kettie lay just beyond. She'd flopped around again so she was sort of crouched on her legs, the hurt one splayed out from the hip in a grotesque fashion. Her face was in the grass, her breathing coming horribly hard. I picked her head up and held it. As I stroked her, I could see her muscles trembling. She'd sweated out her face as though we were in the 90's, yet I wore a jacket and was just comfortable in it. It didn't take a vet to tell me my mare was in distress.
Lucas at first couldn't see the injury. He felt the leg bone I'd described and agreed that it was broken, then found the crushed end with his fingers. The sound of the bones grinding immediately told us both it was hopeless, but he carefully explained that she was not a good candidate for pinning, etc. because the break was so high up on her leg.
He talked as he worked, as though he were explaining to her what he was doing and why. "I'm just going to insert a shunt here so the medicine will go in easier."
I was holding her head, and he was trying to find the right spot on the downward side from a very awkward position, her left side, the side all horsemen automatically "work" a horse from. Normally, he's quick and sure with putting needles into the horse's veins, so as I watched the struggle, I asked if he'd find it easier on the other side of her neck. The angle of attack would be better, but I didn't think to tell him that I sacked my stock from both sides, so he'd not come to grief trying to work from the off side.
"Oh, I think we can get it here," he said at first, but eventually when the blood pressure was just too low, he did move over, rather apologetically.
"She was probably on her way to water, and is dehydrated," I suggested.
He readily agreed as he got the catheter inserted. He gave her two injections, one to take the pain in such a fashion that death would result, and a second that shut down the heart, but I think she was gone before that one hit. I asked why two, and he said if he used just the second one, they went rigid and felt it. The first one eased them a bit as they shut down.
I asked him if he frequently had to do grief counseling as part of his vet work, as I recognized and appreciated his efforts that were for my benefit as much as hers.
"Oh, you'd be surprised," he responded.
He's got a nice "bedside manner", so to speak. Humanely destroying an animal is not a super pleasant task, even if it is necessary. We talked about how hard shooting an animal had to be back before there were drugs to ease their way.
After the second shot, he rolled her over and arranged her so that she did not look awkward, sort of like a mortician would do to prepare a human body for viewing.
As we left the area, Lucas looked over the fences, commenting on my scenario to explain the accident. I'd suggested that perhaps the herd came in at the run, which they frequently do when the weather is upbeat and a bit windy. Since she's blind in one eye, she could have collided with the fence, but to me, she would have had to flip over it or something pretty severe to do the damage she did. He tried to get me to quit beating myself up over her trouble. "These are the best fences for a horse farm that I've seen in this area. You didn't do anything to cause this to happen."
Intellectually, I know that, but emotionally, I think that any fencing that causes a horse to break a femur is not a "good" fence. Neither of us can really imagine what she did. They run INTO the area she was in, not away from it. For her to flip, she'd be on the other side, not where she fell.
After about the third bout of tears passed, I called Debbie and made sure they'd found a sub, as I didn't call in until WAY too late, and when she asked what had happened, I broke down again. She readily agreed that not coming in was the wisest course. I was trying to beat myself up over it, even though trying to focus on teaching right now would be a pretty uphill battle. Once I was late, kids would ask why most of the day. I am certainly not to the place where I can explain it without trouble.
What with all the walking out to the field and back, my knee is really acting up. Holding up Kettie's head probably stressed it, as well. It's turned into real pain in the rear, which is actually quite difficult to do, given its anatomical location.
Obviously, my coping mechanisms are at ebb tide, which doesn't help much.