Finally, I was getting to do some horse work. The only reason for this was that the boss and his family were away on a holiday, so for a couple of weeks, I was feeling like a real horse vet. The young colt was nervy, ears twitching, eyes rolling, ready to jump and fright at the slightest movement. I eased up to him, let him sniff my hand, and took a while to let him get to know me. I rubbed him between the eyes for a little, and some of the tension started to relax out of his body. Then he started chewing and licking at his lips, and I knew he would be ok with me.
“He’s a lovely little fella, isn’t he?” I said to the owner.
“Yes, he’ll make a grand gelding, that’s for sure,” he replied.
I went back to the truck and got all the things I needed together – a syringe loaded up with a sedative, a bucket with antiseptic to clean up before making the cut, scalpel blades, a couple of syringes of local anaesthetic with a long needle attached to numb the testicles with, cotton wool, tetanus injection, and me, nervous at my first ever horse castration on my own. I took a deep breath, checked that I had everything I needed for the tenth time, and then picked it all up and walked back out to the horse. I took the lead, and gently tipped his nose towards me, as I slipped the needle into the bulge of his jugular vein, drew back a puff of blood, and then slowly injected the sedative into his bloodstream.
“He’ll be sleepy in a minute,” I said, covering up my nerves with outward confidence. “Just keep quiet, let him settle…”
“OK, I will do,” came the reply.
We stood quietly in the sun for the next five minutes and the little horses head nodded slowly towards the ground, bottom lip hanging loosely. It was time, so I had the owner stand to the same side as me, and keep the horses nose tipped towards me. I gently eased my way along his side, stroking, and being careful to keep my left hand on his hip, so if he kicked out, I’d be pushed away, safely. I had the bucket with me, and I soaped up and cleaned the surgical site. Then came the nervous bit, inserting the needle. I held the syringe in my teeth, and got a firm grip on the far side testicle. I positioned the needle, and then flicked it right in! He twitched a little, and settled, and I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. I attached the syringe, and gently, slowly, squeezed a generous amount of local anaesthetic into the testicle. I repeated this with the near side one. He lifted his hind foot, this time, just a little, but enough to make my heart jump into my mouth.
I left him for another 10 minutes for it all to go very numb indeed, then got back into position – disturbingly vulnerable, and very close to his hind legs. I made a bold incision in one stroke, and then clamped and cut off the testicle with the special crushing and cutting tool, holding it as tightly as my hands could grip for 5 minutes before releasing it’s grip, and again breathing with relief when there was no bleeding. I did the other side, cleaned him up, and gave him all the injections, before heading off to my next call.
Suddenly the radio crackled into life.
“The horse you just saw!” – her voice was tense with urgency, and my gut tensed up in response – “the owner says he got cast in his stall and was down struggling for a bit, and now he’s got something hanging out of the wound. You’d better get back as soon as you can and see what’s going on.”
I was already turning around, and I flogged that poor old ute unmercilessly, seeing visions of disaster, a major hernia, a terrible bleeder, having to euthanize the horse, how the boss would respond when he got back, my mind a whirl of fear and tension. I don’t think I drew breath for the whole quarter of an hour it took me to get back there.
“He’s in the stall!” a pale, worried face informed me.
I rushed in, and found him quite contentedly nibbling on some hay. I had a look underneath, and there was a bit of a blood clotabout two inches long hanging down, but he was just fine.
“He’s ok,” I told them, with a big grin of relief. “He must have just torn the skin wound a little when he was down, and there’s a bit of bleeding form that, but nothing serious.”
I got back on the road, very relieved indeed.