Happy Birthday Alec Guinness 2nd April 1914 - 5th August 2000
An actor is usually no more than an assortment of odds and ends which barely add up to a whole person. An actor is an interpreter of other men’s words, often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not, a craftsman, a bag of tricks, a vanity bag, a cool observer of mankind, a child, and at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerise a group of innocents.
Horses can be on the scary side anyway when you remember that they are the species most likely to send a veterinarian to the morgue. This is made worse when working with people that don’t really understand horses as well as they think they do.
The case that made me decide to stop mixed practice was a horse with over confident owners. The horse had cut itself on the inside of a hind leg, and was not the sort of creature that was happy to let you pick up its feet anyway, so even getting a half decent look was going to be hard, and suturing the skin flap under local would be impossible.
The decision was made, after discussing the various risks of anaesthesia, to knock the horse out and close the wound. I would have liked to have had a competent nurse with me, but didn’t have that option with it being a public holiday.
Horse anaesthetics can be dangerous, for everyone involved. The horse is a large creature with powerful muscles that can flail its limbs to devastating effect. While it is going under anaesthesia there is the danger of it falling badly, either on itself on on you, and they can go into an excitement phase where they kick, trash, or stagger around. If this happens, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop a disorientated 400kg+ horse except get the hell out of the way.
This horse did not go down quietly. It decided, as the anaesthetic took effect, to rear up and attempt to cartwheel backwards.
Now imagine you’re at the front of the horse when this happens. Neck and feet flailing in front of you as the horse rises higher and higher.
The owner, for some reason, was more worried about the horse’s safety than her own, and was trying to yank the lead rope down to stop the horse cartwheeling. This was a stupid thing to do because firstly you can’t stop the horse anyway, and secondly you’re placing yourself in the middle of the danger zone.
So I grabbed the lead rope from the owner, yanking it forcefully out of her hands and shoving her away.
It was then that the horse went over.
With me holding the rope.
Now I am not a frail lass. I’m pretty heavy, but that’s nothing to a full grown horse that’s proceeding to trip balls. I was lifted momentarily off the ground, hooves flashing near my face and the lead rope tearing through my hands.
Tearing is the right word. It burned. Texture in the rope tore away at the skin of my hands causing such pain coupled with fear that you would not believe.
I couldn’t look at my hands. I just couldn’t. They felt like they were on fire but I would have to drive myself to hospital and now the horse was anesthetized on the ground, I only had one chance to close the wound. No way on earth would the owner, who was now a mess despite the fact that they were not injured and I was, would allow me to knock their precious horse out again.
In shock, with hands that felt like they were still on fire, I started stitching up its leg. I wont claim it was my best work, far from it, because I was not in a good state and acutely aware that I was now kneeling at the back legs of the horse, which was probably a more dangerous position to be in once it started to wake up.
And I wouldn’t have long.
I got a few sutures in, my dexterity was awful and the surgical scrub stung badly, before the horse started to twitch and I was out of there. I made sure the thing recovered ok, left instructions and drove myself to hospital, clutching the steering wheel with the little undamaged areas of my palms, still not being able to bring myself to look.
It was a strange fear that played in my mind. Obviously i had survived because I was now driving, though probably not as alert as I should be. I was fearful for my hands, and my future.
You need enough feeling and dexterity to function as a vet. You have to be able to feel the texture of a mass inside an abdomen, perform delicate procedures through gloves, sense a vibration in a pulse when you’re up to your shoulder in a cow. If I lacked feeling or sensation, I would not be as good a vet as I should be.
When I was at the hospital I found out I had second degree burns on eight fingers and both palms. I also realized, as the adrenaline faded, that my glasses were missing and I had a bruise on my right cheek.
The glasses, as it turned out, had been crushed under the horse, and I hadn’t noticed.
In honor of the Kentucky Derby (and in the interest of
listening to at least ONE good song to re-calibrate our sensibilities),
we discuss two horse-themed Christmas tunes. “Sleigh Ride” by The
Ronettes is a refreshing treat with way more horse stuff than we
remembered. “Hang An Ornament” by Grandaddy and Band of Horses is a bit
more meandering in comparison, but still pretty impressive for a band
composed of literal horses.