It was late June of 2005 and I was enjoying a lazy, hot Tuesday afternoon with few appointments. Then the call came in… “Horse Stuck in Ravine”. I didn’t even know that we had ravines in Wisconsin. As I listened to the information, I started a mental list of the things that I may need – rope, chains, sling, helicopter, tractor, more muscles, shovels, skid steer, crane, someone else to take this call! I gathered 2 technicians and an intern and as many of the things I could imagine needing and headed off, not knowing exactly what to expect at the scene.
Upon arrival, all I could see was a group of people down near the middle of the property. They motioned for me to drive down, and sure enough, there was a large ditch. I got out of the truck to look over the situation and what I saw was absolutely amazing. InstaMary, a 7-year-old Trakehner, was buried in mud and stuck up against this ravine, approximately 12 feet deep. She had gotten out of her pasture with a few other horses, and while running freely, forgot to cross the ditch at the driveway and flipped into it. She was all done fighting at this point and was exhausted and in shock. We immediately began to treat Mary in the hopes of stabilizing her as we made a plan to get her out.
An IV catheter was placed and she was given steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, hypertonic saline and then fluids. In attempt to deliver faster fluids, we discussed a second catheter, but Mary was holding her own, and we needed to get her out as soon as possible!
Her heart rate was 72, respiration 20, temperature was 101.9. She was sweaty and exhausted. As her fluids ran in, we began to dig for her legs and assess her musculoskeletal system and look for fractures or other open wounds. I decided that the safest way to get her out was to anesthetize her and pull her out by her legs with the tractor.
By this time, we were all in our socks as the mud had sucked off our shoes. We found all of her hooves and they appeared to be attached to the rest of her body! After 20 liters of fluid, I anesthetized Mary with ketamine and valium. We placed hobbles on her legs and attached them to a tow rope and slowly pulled her out with the tractor.
I carried her head so it would not drag along the tall grass and we dragged her to an open field. I probably dragged her further than necessary, but I wanted to ensure that she didn’t wake up and fall back into the ravine.
She lay in the field for almost an hour and a half! Finally, she stood up! I examined her while my technician rinsed out her eyes and held her steady. We made our way back to the barn, slowly, and set Mary up with fluids spiked with DMSO and KCl in her stall.
I made daily trips out to the farm over the next 3 days. Mary made a spectacular recovery. No serious injuries except the loss of sight in her right eye. She improved daily and actually was bred in July for a June 2006 foal.
This was no doubt a remarkable event. A tragedy with a wonderful outcome thanks to the quick action of a team of folks dedicated to patient care. It truly is all about the health of the horse.