Exactly one week ago, my left hand had a close encounter with some big, yellow teeth. Yes, my horse bit me. Hard.
I’d never been bitten by a horse before, and the fact that it was my own, much loved Qrac who bit me hurt my pride almost as much as my fingers. In his defence I know for a fact that he wasn’t himself when he bit me. But when I pulled up at the stables last Thursday morning, all I saw was a horse fed up with the swarming flies, getting a little cantankerous with the horse in the field next to him.
I’ve led Qrac both in and out of his field many times in the past and he’s always behaved like a perfect gentleman. He’s always waited quietly for me to open the field, and has never tugged away until I’ve unclipped his lead rope. He’s never danced around me with excitement whether on the way in or on the way out.
So when I noticed he seemed a little fed with being outside, I immediately headed down to bring him in.
I knew things weren’t going to go as smoothly as usual the second I clipped on his lead rope. My adrenaline surged as I realized that the horse in the field next to him was also a stallion.
Seriously, what possessed the people at the stables to put two stallions in adjacent fields? And why hadn’t the electric current been turned on? Our fields are back to back, there is no security space between two horses, so if they start being silly or aggressive, chances are they might really hurt each other. I’ve never been too comfortable with this set-up, but that’s the way it is, and Qrac has never had a hissy fit or a willy waving contest with any of the geldings who have always been put out next to him. In fact, he’s always totally ignored them, going about his grazing and minding his own business.
But last Thursday morning someone screwed up and put another stallion next to him. The other stallion is much older than Qrac. He only arrived a couple of weeks ago, so I didn’t recognize him as I walked over to Qrac’s field, slipped under the wire and walked towards my horse with the lead rope.
Qrac let me clip it on without any problem, but it was when I began to lead him towards the wire gate that he lost his cool. The other stallion began trotting up and down the fence with his tail in the air, taunting him. Suddenly, Qrac rushed past me, slamming into the wire, then rushing backwards again, dancing. I should have let go, but I was worried about him racing around with the rope trailing, stepping on it and injuring himself. So I spoke calmly but firmly to him, struggling to unclip the bottom wire and then the top wire, while at the same time trying to keep an eye on my horse and shoo away the other.
It didn’t work too well.
One of my friends saw me struggling and rushed down to help me.
“Open the top wire,” I said, beginning to panic as Qrac pranced and danced.
She undid the wires. I got Qrac through, thought we were home safe, but the other stallion went ballistic, squealing and racing alongside us. Qrac spun around, I yanked the rope-chain with my right hand, yelled at him, but he’d forgotten all about me. Meanwhile, the two men who take care of the horses had seen what was happening and raced towards us, but they were a fraction too late. Qrac stood on his hind legs, boxed the air, I lifted my left arm to…well, actually I don’t know what I wanted to do…The next thing I knew he’d snapped at me, catching my left hand between his teeth. He didn’t let go right away, either.
I was shocked and scared and furious and, once he let go, tried to wallop him with the loose end of the lead rope, but before I managed to do so, one of the men grabbed it from me, yanked it a couple times, and led my temporarily demented horse back to his stable. Nobody realized he’d bitten me; it all happened so fast.
Frankly, I got lucky; I knew right away what could have happened, but still don’t want to think about it.
Feeling a little faint, I walked back up the hill and headed straight to the tack room/cafeteria, put my hand under the cold tap and stood there for ages. Qrac had nabbed me underneath my thumb, sinking his teeth into the side of my hand, crunching the fleshy part of my palm. Thankfully, I wasn’t bleeding, but nevertheless the skin was slightly scratched. Most worrying, my hand was swelling quickly and was throbbing like mad. Gingerly, I patted it dry, then swathed it in a thick, gloppy arnica gel. My friend rummaged in her first aid box and found a pre-packed cold, wet bandage which she wrapped around my hand. By now it really hurt, and I was beginning to worry that something might be broken.
Just then, one of the other horse owners, a doctor, showed up, noticed my haphazard, funky bandage and came over to see whether he could help. He examined my hand, made me move my fingers this way and that, checking for fractures and told me I’d been lucky, and that as far as he could tell, nothing was broken. He suggested I take an anti-inflammatory twice a day for a couple of days, that I go home and ice it, take arnica if I believed in homeopathy (I do) and see my doctor for an anti-tetanus shot as soon as possible, just to be safe.
By the time I got home the bitten part of my hand was huge. It was also an unpleasant shade of yellow, kind of like an uncooked chicken drumstick that has gone off in the heat. I spent the rest of the day alternating between nursing my hand under a bag of frozen peas, and slathering it with arnica gel. The arnica gel definitely helped avoid multi-coloured bruising, as over the next few days my hand remained a sickly yellow, whereas, presumably for circulatory reasons, my wrist turned blue and purple. The following morning, the hot doctor in my village (seriously, he’s really hot!) gave me an anti-tetanus shot ensuring a tiny, elegant colour coordinated bruise at the top of my left arm.
Of course, I was out of action riding-wise for a couple of days, which totally sucked as Qrac and I are working towards our first competition, scheduled for the 8th of July. Qrac had two days off, before being hacked out by another rider over the weekend. By Monday I felt a lot better, so scheduled a lesson with my trainer. My hand pinged a bit once in a while depending on how I moved my fingers, but overall I managed fine.
Has this incident affected the way I handle my horse? Frankly, I don’t think I’ll be taking him in and out of the field for a while; I’ll get one of the yard’s employees to do it. Chances are Qrac would be perfectly well behaved with me, but for the time being I don’t want any anxiety on my part unsettling him. He’s never showed any signs of aggression while being handled, he’s always been a very gentle, affectionate horse who loves being brushed and fussed over.
However, horses are horses. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re unpredictable and they can be dangerous. To complicate matters, Qrac is a stallion, and even though he’s been chemically gelded and is therefore far calmer than he was before he was vaccinated, rarely presenting any “stallion behaviour”, putting him in a field next to another stallion (or, heaven forbid, a mare!) is just asking for trouble. What happened last week taught me that because Qrac is a calm, gentle stallion, he’s even more unpredictable, since nobody expects him to get aggressive or “misbehave”. I’ll definitely be keeping all this in mind. And after this incident, I’ll also be far more motivated to have him surgically gelded this winter.
Have you ever been injured by a horse in a similar situation? What happened? How did it affect you?