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The Day We Fixed the Pony

Our veterinary clinic in Trochu, Alberta, Canada, received an ordinary call one spring day. The woman calling asked that the doctor come out and "fix" her son's pony. These folks were not clients and lived about twenty-five miles from the clinic. Our receptionist said, "Fine”. The doctor would be out the next morning.

It was a beautiful morning and we had other calls beyond the pony call, so my partner, John, came along with me. No one was at the farmhouse, but a note on the door informed us that the pony was in the field beyond the barn.

We drove through the log fence gate and spotted the pony at the end of the field. This "pony" was about 16 hands tall and immediately started trotting towards us. I got out of the car with my lariat and John followed to chase the horse past me. As the horse came closer he picked up speed and laid his ears back along his head. It was with some surprise that we both simultaneously realized that this "pony" was after us, instead of the other way around.

We dashed back to the car just as he began to rear up and strike out. He actually chased the car as we hastily retreated into a large corral in front of the bam. John got out and slipped through the log fence to quickly slide shut the gate logs behind the horse. Luckily he did not strike at the car for he was fully intent on reaching us.

We retreated safely to the barn and contemplated our next move. One thought was to leave the premises and forget about the "pony." The other was "if any stud deserves to be cut, this one does." Choosing the second alternative, we decided on a strategy. John would slide the barn door open and I would throw the lariat, hoping a lucky throw would connect while John would secure the door before the horse could enter.

It took only about six tries before I got lucky - or maybe not so lucky. When that rope settled around the animal's neck and tightened down, that horse went insane. John managed to make three wraps around the comer log of the barn and start pulling. After about three lunges by the horse, the log pulled out and the barn collapsed. The entire corner came down. Fortunately, we both were only bruised but not hurt.

We rolled under the corral fence and secured another wrap around a heavier upright log and both of us reefed on that rope until the horse's head was right up against the bottom of the fence with his trachea closed. I have never seen such fury in an animal's eyes as he ran out of oxygen. I reached through and quickly injected Sucostrin into the jugular vein. This drug paralyzes the muscles. We then released the rope so he could breathe and I commenced the surgical task at hand.

I must admit, I had up to this time never enjoyed neutering a horse, but this one was just fine. I had never been confronted with a horse that wanted to kill me either. We probably should have increased the Sucostrin to end his life, had we only known the whole history of the animal.

We left him alive but still down, greatly subdued and relatively quiet. Stopping at the neighbors' house, we learned from them that this stallion had jumped their fence and attacked a mare, kicking in her rib cage and literally tearing part of her lung from her body with his teeth. Such behavior had hitherto been unknown in a horse. The boy who supposedly owned the "pony" was a mentally handicapped thirteen-year old who was terrified of the animal. The parents were a bit strange and also afraid of the horse, so that was probably why they did not stay home that day.

We did not check back and never heard from them again. And, they never paid the bill sent to them. The barn was not a very good barn anyway. So - another day passed in the life of a large animal veterinarian in Alberta, Canada.

Many years later, I met up with my ex-partner, who unfortunately had the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease. He hardly knew me or even where he was, but finally he commented, "Hey, remember the time we cut the "pony?" Some things leave an indelible mark on one's memory, I guess.

Methow Valley resident Denny O’Callaghan, DVM, is a retired large-animal veterinarian.
He has written stories of his experiences in the 1960’s - this was one.


Have a comment? >>

Great story!! I really enjoyed your writing!

Agnes Almquist