Aside World Magazine

Fall 2020 Issue 

Black Beauty and the Fence Fracture

Article by Marybeth Walker

Photo Credits: Arthur Walker

April 16th 2020 promised to be a typical day of lessons with my two mares, Bethje and Black Beauty. I arrived at the barn to find another situation entirely.

My trainer, Sue, and her husband Kevin had arrived before me. As they drove past Black Beauty's paddock Kevin noticed immediately that something was wrong. He pointed out to Sue that she was standing on three legs and holding her right hind up off the ground. They hurriedly parked and went to investigate.

Black Beauty's leg was injured and bloody. They slowly guided her out of the herd and into the barn. She was limping and obviously in pain. Once on cross ties, Sue and Kevin carefully hosed down the leg to remove as much dirt and debris as possible. One glance made my heart sink. This was my side saddle horse with the lovely temperament. This was my side saddle horse who was doing so well in training. This was my side saddle horse who was fantastic on the trail.  I had purchased her in February 2019 after my twelve year old paint gelding had succumbed to a fatal stomach ailment the previous December. Depressing thoughts raced through my mind. Will she ever recover? Will she even be able to walk again?? I tried to put everything out of my mind until the vet came and made an assessment. 

Finally she arrived. Good news: Her tendons were intact. Bad news: Gigantic laceration and possible bone fracture. Bone fracture?  Great. Now what?

My vet felt the equine hospital was the next step so we gingerly loaded her onto a trailer while she called ahead to notify the hospital staff.

Rhinebeck Equine Hospital was about an hour away. They had been caring and compassionate while treating my gelding, right to the end. I knew they would be honest with me. 

Due to the COVID pandemic I would not be allowed inside. Once in their parking lot, a technician emerged with one of their own lead ropes as a precaution. I kissed Black Beauty good bye.  I was still upset but at least I knew from experience that she would be getting the best care. I would try to comfort myself with that thought on the way home. 

The phone call: Beauty's large, long laceration had been cleaned, treated with antibiotics and sutured. Wonderful. Then came the "but". She had fractured her splint bone. Plus the pieces had exploded inside her leg. Not so wonderful. My heart sank even deeper. Well, I'll just keep her and care for her as best as I can, I thought. 

She needed surgery, of course, but they were " cautiously optimistic"  that she had a chance of complete recovery. Suddenly the awful "but" had turned into a tiny hope. I gathered up my broken heart and fought back the tears. I knew the equine surgeon wouldn't say so unless he meant it. 

The foreseeable future would consist of stall rest and dressing changes and antibiotics but I knew if we followed all the instructions to the letter, there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

So what had happened exactly? The most educated guess was that she had rolled near a fence. Perhaps thrust her leg through it causing the laceration and then panicked and yanked her leg back, fracturing the bone in the process. I searched the fence line and found a broken lower plank with tail hair caught in the board. The theory sounded plausible. 

So for the next several weeks all the barn pitched in.  Checking on her. Petting her when she cried to go out with her paddock mates. The surgery was successful and my local vet religiously performed expert dressing changes. Hand grazing followed, then twenty minute walks. Throughout it all Beauty was tolerant and cooperative. She seemed to understand we were all trying to help her. Bethje's turnout schedule was adjusted to baby sitter status so Beauty would not be alone in the mornings. After all, what's a big sister for?

May gave way to June and June to July. Beauty was being lunged now. Her leg was still a bit swollen but with movement it was improving. 

Tack walking followed. Then walking and trotting under saddle. After months of solitary grazing in a round pen, Beauty was reintroduced to the herd. They accepted her without incident, coming to greet her as a group. 

Finally the last hurdle: She cantered!!

With the expert medical care and the tremendous team effort Black Beauty, my side saddle horse, was back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty prior to surgery

Beauty Prior to Surgery

Beauty bone fracture

Pieces of Beauty's removed bone from fracture after surgery

beauty post surgery

Beauty Post Surgery

Beauty under saddle post surgery

All Healed! Marybeth and Beauty back to side saddle!

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Video Below to Left: Pre Surgery video of Black Beauty walking on fracture

Video Below Right on Top: Video of Black Beauty post surgery in field

Video Below Right on Bottom: Video of Black Beauty riding side saddle post surgery

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