Adventures in Shelter Medicine: “Midnight” Rescue

Dr. Catherine McManusSenior Shelter Medicine Resident Dr. Cate McManus blogs about her adventures with the UF VETS team rescuing a horse named Midnight.

On a crisp Florida winter day, I thought the highlight of my afternoon would be getting to touch a manatee… but I was wrong!

We had just finished kayaking in the Crystal River when UF Vet Med college director John Haven’s cell phone rang.  The caller was Perry Koon from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, and he was asking Mr. Haven for assistance.  Apparently, an owned horse was stuck up to his chest in the mud in Payne’s Prairie, a state preserve south of Gainesville. Mr. Haven said that we would be on our way, and we were.  In an hour and a half, we were at the scene.

The horse, Midnight, was wet and exhausted from struggling to escape the mud for four long hours. Unfortunately, every time he had struggled he went further into trouble. His owners were exhausted as well, yet hopeful when they heard that the best people in the state were there to help.

On meeting up with Dr. Roger Clemmons and the UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) large animal extraction equipment he brought, we assessed the situation. Since I practice shelter medicine and Dr. Clemmons is a neurologist (and not infrequent “wiener dog back surgeon”), I decided to call an equine veterinarian for assistance.  Fortunately, my fellow US Army reservist Dr. Randy Emmons, owner of Twin Oaks Equine, and his son Ryan were available to come out and evaluate the horse.  The rescue team was complete.

When we had arrived, Midnight was a few feet into the bog. Fortunately, he was on his side and not completely stuck in the mud.  After Midnight was sedated to calm his worried nerves, the team secured him with ropes, dug out his one leg that was still stuck in the mud and rolled him onto a transport sled.  Mr. Haven’s amazing system of pulleys enabled just two men to pull the full-grown horse along a plywood pathway out of the bog.

As soon as Midnight hit dry ground, Dr. Emmons administered some IV fluids and pain medications to him.  As we discussed reversing his sedation, Midnight decided to get up on his own!  After all of that, it was a great sight to see Midnight walk soundly and follow his owner to their trailer.

This rescue was such an amazing interagency effort between the University of Florida VETS Team, The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office of Rural Services, the Florida Park Service and Dr. Emmons.  I cannot imagine what would have happened to dear Midnight if these people and resources were not available. I’m proud to be a member of the UF VETS Team and I cannot wait to work with these people again – in a training capacity of course!

 

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