The wrong side of a horse kick


An elephant dose - plus one -of sedative wasn't enough to keep this horse from kicking my unlucky colleague

Dr. Mark Justice explained the events of the previous night with a mixture of regret and relief. I had met the horse in question before, and nothing he could have told me would have surprised me. The critter was huge and stupid. When I say huge, I am not joking. This thing was over 16 hands tall and must have weighed 1,400 pounds. That wasn't the bad part. The horse was spoiled by its owner and would kick, bite, paw and demolish anyone who made it do anything it wasn't in the mood for.

Mark had been called out the night before to repair a giant laceration on the horse. The following events led up to his referring the horse to us in Lamesa. And he was calling to apologize.

At sunset, the owner called Mark in hysterics. Her horse had run into something in the pasture and sustained an 18-inch slash on the front of its rear left leg. The cut was close to a joint and had severed a large blood vessel. Blood was squirting, and muscle tissue was hanging out. The owner met Mark at the truck with tears flowing, panicked as she described the situation. Little did he know what he was getting into.

Since it was after hours, Mark asked his new bride to come along and see what a typical farm call was like. She followed him over fences and through barns until they came to the critter in question. The lady was right: The cut was deep and in a dangerous place. But she had failed to tell him about the look in its eyes. Having worked on thousands of horses, Mark knew when one might be a bit snakey. This horse was snakey, and Mark could tell it from across the pasture.

After about 15 minutes of chasing and sweet talking, he finally got a halter on the beast. When he stuck the needle into the vein to give the sedative, the horse reared up, pawed and tried to bite him. He decided it might be prudent to up the dose a bit. Even with an elephant dose of sedative, the horse was still kicking at him when he tried to clean the wound. So Mark gave more.

Let me paint the picture here: Mark was standing in the middle of a pasture with only the lights of a pickup to see what he's doing. A frantic owner and his new bride looked on, each worried about one of the parties involved. The horse was so tranquilized it could barely stand, but it still kicked with fly-swatting accuracy. Mark had given an elephant dose — plus one — and now was trying a local block with lidocaine around the area so he could suture the laceration.

He gently slid the needle holding the numbing agent into an area of the skin that needed to be sutured. To his surprise, the horse just stood there. Maybe the sedative had finally worked! When he started instilling the medicine, the horse suddenly kicked. The kick hit his hand and sent the syringe flying 20 yards across the pasture, where it stuck in a pecan tree. So he gave some more sedative.

Funny thing about that sedative — it makes a male horse extend his "boy part." After the third dose of sedative, the critter finally let him instill the local anesthesia, but now the boy part was hanging down, right in the way of the suturing job. It was hitting Mark all over his head as he tried to sew.

Do you know how hard it is to squat down and sew up a horse but remain in a position that allows for a quick exit if the situation calls for it? Do you know how hard that is with the added complication of a boy part slapping you in the face? The good doctor finally had enough and reached over to move the annoying part. This, of course, caused another vicious kick that sent the needle flying into the darkness of the pasture. The new bride was getting concerned, the owner was apologizing, and Mark was giving another dose of sedative.

With both hands bruised, a missing pair of needle holders, a syringe stuck in a pecan tree, a worried wife, and a nagging owner, Mark decided it was time to send this horse to Lamesa where there was a set of stocks and a way to fully anesthetize the monster.

The next day his voice was filled with regret and relief. All I could do was laugh as I listened to him apologize for sending me such a mess.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Brock, visit

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