Barb wire, a puncture and a vet bill

Barb wire is evil and it scares me, and everyone who has horses knows that if there is something in a pasture that could hurt a horse, then the horse will get hurt. Don’t Google the words horse and barb wire unless you want to be horrified.

Ever since Flash stepped on a nail in what seemed to be a perfectly safe pasture with beautiful safe fencing and lush green grass I have been a neurotic pasture walker. I try to go out once a month and wander around looking for places the fences could need fixing or, as in Flash’s case, a decades-old burn pile rises up through the mud.

Back in September, Cairo came in without her fly mask. I decided to pasture-walk as I looked for it. Her pasture is an old orchard so there are some sticks and such but nothing too drastic (no walnuts either if you remember THAT episode). But when I found her mask, it was snagged on something on the ground.

Barb wire: an old strand that had been buried in the mud along the bottom of the fenceline. I told Jordan and he came right out and pulled the wire. It was late and getting dark but I noticed some wire that ran along the top of the fence and asked him if he minded if I came back and pulled it, which Jordan, being the good horseman he is, didn’t mind at all.

My friend Carolyn’s horse McKinna goes out with Cairo and she offered to come out with me the next evening and fix it. Of course it was dark and raining but we put headlamps on and pulled a mass amount of wire — or it looked massive in the dark when we coiled it up by the garage!

There was one strand of wire along the top of the fence that seemed to actually be holding the fence up, so we decided to leave that up until we could talk to Jordan. The location was in a spot that the horses had no real reason to put their heads — they have plenty of grass and there were no horses on the other side. Famous last words: We’ll come back for that later.

Right after that Flash got a horrible purulent bacterial infection and my mind went out the window. This blog is really about Cairo, but my darling auxiliary gelding does deserve more mention so I will have to do a retro post on him, complete with oozing pus pictures. For now, let’s just say that thanks to the abscess on his shoulder, I was already good at flushing wounds when Cairo had her close encounter with the wire.

So last Monday, we got a new mare in the barn and she was added to Cairo’s small herd (McKinna and Mickey. Mickey is the world’s least dominant pinto gelding and Cairo gets to boss everyone around.) Jordan kept an eye on the introductions and all went well.


Cairo and Mickey chilling in the sun.

What we didn’t count on is JJ, who has been in a pasture nowhere near Cairo, got moved to the paddock next to her. Cairo is kind of a hussy, but I put up an extra strand of hotwire between her big pasture and the paddock. What I didn’t think about was in her marish determination to either dominate or make kissy-faces at JJ, she would walk above the section where the pastures adjoin and try to reach him diagonally — across the only spot where there is some barbwire. Or was, trust me, it’s gone.

Cairo came in that night with a pencil-eraser sized hole in her neck. It would have been barely noticeable — except for the swelling, the blood and the fact it was located right over her jugular.

I knew something was wrong the moment I went to get her from her stall — instead of little miss bright eyes, she walked away from me and stood in the corner, periodically glaring at me over her shoulder.

I lured her with a treat, got a halter on, saw the puncture and it’s that moment at 6 pm, when you know you’re into emergency fee vet pricing hour that you stare at your horse and go, “Sooo, can you wait til morning?”

I thought that for maybe half a second before moving onto “Holy crap that’s right over a major vein and what if whatever punctured her is in there, cozying up to that rather important blood vessel?

I called the vet (who had just been at the barn five minutes before I got there) and off we went.

It was a fairly small wound, so I felt a little awkward keeping Dr. Wes late, but the moment I walked in, he was all “That’s a bad location!”


Next thing I know Cairo is doped to the gills and Wes is ultrasounding the area and doing weird vet things like pressing down on the vein so we can watch it open and close on the ultrasound. I was all, “Umm should we be doing that?” And Wes responded, “Oh, we do this all the time.”

Then he decided the best way to make sure that there was nothing in Cairo’s neck was to stick a finger in there.



“Hmm what’s that?” Wes says.

I stiffen and freak (as much as I can while holding my drugged horse).

“Oh, her trachea,” he continues. Then he goes on to tell various stories about horses with sticks through their trachea and goats with their throats torn out, breathing through their trachea “like a straw” all the while fondling Cairo’s trachea and jugular from the inside. I muttered something like “Suddenly I’m not hungry,” and Wes whipped around. “You’re not going to pass out are you?” he asked.

I pointed out that while this is the first time he’s stuck his fingers inside Cairo while I watched, he had a long history of doing things with Huey’s many youthful wounds like saying “Hey look I can get three fingers in there!” and I have yet to faint.

After some feeling around inside her some more, Wes declared Cairo free of small sharp objects and cleaned and stapled her up — leaving a hole for drainage. He also hit her with some antibiotics and Banamine (some of those hits were in the other side of her neck as we determined that her left side had enough holes.)

In case you were wondering how I managed to have the presence of mind to both hold Cairo AND take photos, I’m not that good a journalist. Several lovely folks from the barn, including Jordan, stuck around for moral support and documentation of gross vet things.

After it was all said and done, it turned out I was hungry after all. Jordan fed me pizza and whiskey, which I sorely needed (more the whiskey than the pizza) before I stumbled home to bed.

Cairo was pretty cranky the next day, but given her voracious appetite she happily ate the sulfa mixed with her beet pulp. She’s also been great about my flushing the wound. The only thing she has been a pill about is the Banamine. She flings her head and tries to gack it back on me. She succeeded, twice.

My efforts to treat the wound were first almost stymied by a flood blocking the road to the barn.


Then that went down and I got cut off by a herd of loose sheep.


I’m starting to feel a bit like like I need a vacation. Oh, no wait, I had PLANNED a vacation before all this started!

All this happened only a couple days before I was due to leave town for Florida and see my parents for a pre-holiday trip. Luckily Leslie, aka the world’s best dressage trainer-friend, is doing wound care, while Carolyn and Jordan man the sulfa and the rest of the barn is in charge of treats for the next five days.

Carolyn, her husband and Jordan went out in the pasture today and took out every last bit of barbwire.

When I get home, Cairo and I need to have a little conversation in which I remind her: Every time we have a huge vet bill, a horse show dies.


PS: Nice haircut, right? Her clip grew back in a month. When I suggested Dr. Wes get a template so when he shaves all the hair off my mare it’s a bit more stylish, he gave me a really weird look. Cool clip jobs are in. He could bring the vet-shave to a whole new level.


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