My horses' caretaker very calmly texted me on this first day of 2010 with words that every horse owner dreads: "Cricket may need stitches." Well, there goes the 2nd cup of tea I was planning to linger over with my favorite book, still in my p.j.s! I bundle up (the thermometer hovers around zero) and head out to the barn.
Upon arrival, I see Cricket happily munching hay with his buddies. But wait! What's that? Yep, bloody icicles (fondly referred to as "blood-cicles") dangling from his whiskers on the left side of his muzzle. And blood smeared on his left front leg from rubbing his nose on his leg.
These things usually look worse than they are, and Cricket's injury was no exception. I could tell there were several components to the overall injury and it was starting to swell. Also, there was one deeper gash that would probably need a few sutures.
Luckily, our tack room is heated and large enough to have a calm horse stand in. Cricket wasn't too sure about coming through the doorway (scary door mat), but once inside could look outside through the door and seemed pretty calm about his new surroundings. Having spent many hours working on horses outdoors in frigid temperatures, this setup was truly luxurious: clear sunlight streaming through the door lighting up the area, warm water at hand, a trusty helper, and the ability to feel my fingers while suturing. Heaven!
A little sleepy juice and some numbing juice, and Cricket was perfectly happy to have me poking & cleaning the wounds. It quickly became apparent that the wounds were a bite - and the most likely culprit was my big dog Killian. Killie lives at the barn currently while I am busy housesitting, and is food aggressive. Cricket and his buddy, the pony Mo, eat a senior feed & beet pulp mash and are allowed to eat while loose in the driveway, to prevent the younger (read: fatter) horses from stealing the goodies. Killian must have gotten to the dish first (horse food is probably 3rd on his list of favorite foods) and bit Cricket on the nose when Cricket came up to eat. Yikes!
The biggest problem with fresh wounds like this in January in Minnesota is the weather. The injured tissue will freeze very easily, and we are in the midst of a cold snap with overnight lows tonight around -20 with "dangerous" windchills of -30 to -40. It's difficult to use any type of ointments or creams because they will freeze to the skin. And, I can't protect the area with a bandage. So, I decided to put a couple quick sutures in to hold the edges of the largest gash together to speed the healing. Now, we wait and see - hoping he doesn't rub the sutures out by itching, hoping the tissue doesn't freeze & slough off, and hoping an infection doesn't set in. On the other hand, there are no flies to bother the wound!
Of course, I forgot to take "before" pictures, but "after" it looks good! You can see 2 dark purple suture knots between his nostril & his upper lip. There are also a couple of small punctures & the obvious scrape in the nostril.
When the drugs wore off, he went back out to pasture with his buddies, cuddled up to "his" mare, snorted a few times, and picked up where he'd left off munching hay.