I was hanging around in the barn last night after hacking Gina, watching small children have lessons on lazy ex-western pleasure horses and naughty ponies, joking with my friends, and feeling relieved that I was finally able to pick up the keys to the new house. The barn owner’s phone rang, and after a terse conversation, she turned to me and said, “Stephanie, C. is having some kind of horse emergency at her place and needs an extra set of hands- can you go?” Barn owner ended up coming with me because I didn’t know where our friend C. lived, exactly, and I grabbed my equine first aid kit on my way.
We were greeted by a frantic C. and a blood-covered pinto mare. It didn’t take long to find a deep laceration on the mare’s pastern, right above her heel. She had clearly been up and down several times, and the freely bleeding wound had painted her white areas a disturbing pinkish color. I grabbed some gauze squares from my first aid kit, picked up the leg, and tried to stanch the flow. Many gauze squares later, the blood flow slowed to a sluggish ooze and stayed that way until the vet arrived. The mare (who is a pasture pet) damaged some cartilage in her leg and will have surgery to repair the damage and a foot cast to keep the wound clean and closed.
Last night, I was very grateful for the equine first aid knowledge I gained as a member of Pony Club. Pony Club taught me to keep an equine first aid kit handy. It taught me what to keep in it. It taught me what steps to take when confronted with an ugly, messy wound. I can still remember studying for a rating and repeating, “Step one: arrest the bleeding. Step two: clean the wound. Step three: dress the wound. Step four: bandage the wound if necessary,” to myself. I learned to check a horse’s vital signs, and what typical ranges for those signs are. I learned to stay calm and gather as much information for the vet as possible.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been glad for the education Pony Club provided. Many, many years ago when I first bought Moe, I decided to take him on a hack down our quiet road. We were about a mile from home when he spooked at a car backfiring. He bolted straight over a metal culvert pipe and sliced open his pastern. I knew I shouldn’t lead him home with the cut open and bleeding, so lacking any other materials to work with, I took off my t-shirt and used it as a crude bandage. I’m sure we were a bizarre sight; a teenager in a sports bra, boots, and breeches leading a limping horse down the road.
All roads lead to Rome; I know many excellent horsemen and women who have never heard of Pony Club, and gained skills and knowledge through other organizations like 4-H, or through a college education, or simply through hands-on experience. Nevertheless, I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn equine first aid skills (among other things) as a youngster through Pony Club!