by John L. Fuhring

The Emergency

     We saw Bob’s appy walking very strangely and heard Bob anxiously ask what was the matter with his horse.  Several people voiced their opinions that it had a stone in its foot or a cactus spine or some such nonsense.  I’m no expert, but I could see right away that it was "tying up inside, that it had colic" and said so.   Because the horse had not been drinking, I had been expecting it to develop "impaction colic" at any time - and sure enough it did.  After a few seconds, some of the more knowledgeable agreed that it was "tying up" (had colic) and since it wasn’t just me that was saying it, Bob too came to realized that his horse was in trouble.  He went directly to the dumbest of the dumb and asked them what he should do about his horse - he certainly didn’t ask me what to do !

     To my utter disgust and astonishment, the more vocal of the "old hands" earnestly advised Bob that he NOT call a vet as it could get us in trouble with the filming company and the Humane Society (who had reps. on the set).  If you can believe it, these same dopes told Bob that a Vet would kill it by putting a tube down it and that, as every real horseman knows, putting tubes down horses is sure death.  What was really stupid was that Bob believed them and followed their advice!

     They told Bob to walk this poor dehydrated animal around in the hot sun and just wait for everything to be all right.  I was so mad that I felt that this idiot deserved to have his horse die, but on the other hand I was really sorry for the horse.  In the face of all this ignorance I felt helpless so I said nothing more.  Of course, the appy was disqualified from the afternoon shoot and Bob walked it the couple of miles or so up to the stabling area and waited for us to finish filming.

          At this point, I want to say something about the Humane Society.  We owe them much thanks for stopping  the movie companies from filming the mistreatment, crippling and killing of animals for what depraved moviegoers used to consider "entertainment."  Having said that, my brief encounter with the Humane Society at this filming has left me with the impression that they are worse than useless when it comes offering any real help.  They came around with their ridiculous long lists of silly fool things to do to baby our little pets, but nothing of any practical sense at all.  Where and how they came up with those lists of "do’s and don’ts" I can’t guess except maybe a bunch of foolish people got together and brain-stormed during a week-long pot party with "Bamby" playing in the background.

     Some of the cavalry extras really needed the work and they were in great fear that the Humane Society would find some silly little thing wrong, file a complaint and that would be enough for the filming company to immediately send us home.  As it turned out, a mule went down in its traces and was dragged along by the other mules in the team during one of the scenes.  The mule wasn’t hurt, but the incident looked bad.  Evidently the Humane Society complained so the wagons were gone from the remainder of the shooting.  I think that the "old hands" had every reason to be concerned about loosing work if the Humane Society would find out that one of our animals was sick.  Instead of offering us veterinary help and making sure we had adequate stabling, feeding and watering for our horses, their only function seemed to nit pick us out of a job.  The relationship between the Humane Society, on the one side and the filming company (with us caught in between) appeared to be strictly adversarial.  Enough said, back to the story.

     Later that evening, when the filming was over, we returned to the stable area and by then the appy was worse.  Bob had not called a vet while there was still time in the afternoon (again taking the advice of some very stupid people).  Bob was very upset and (believe it or not) I felt sorry for him and especially for his horse.  Against my better judgment I offered to examine his horse and tell him if he really needed a veterinarian.  At first Bob didn’t want me near his horse, but gave in when the other guys said to at least let me have a look.  I looked at the horse’s gums, felt its sides and listened for gut sounds with my stethoscope.  I saw that the gums were quite pale, but the flanks were just slightly tender and tight and there were faint gut sounds.

     I told Bob that in my opinion, the colic was not terribly severe at this point and the animal could be saved, but we had to get a lot of water down the horse quickly or the colic would soon become fatal.  I had some paste electrolyte I was saving for emergencies. I put the paste in the horse’s mouth to try to increase its thirst and then we squirted in water from small water bottles (since there wasn’t any running water out there).  This treatment (drenching its mouth with running water) had worked for my horse when he had a similar colic (then I had a hose and unlimited water), but, to tell the truth, this treatment is no where near as effective as a stomach tube.  The horse did drink some, but not nearly enough and it was pretty clear that professional help was needed.

     There was no telephone within miles and no transportation (we had missed the bus a long time ago by now).  I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the extras returned to the motel and called a vet for us and a couple of hours later a young veterinarian did show up.  After examining the horse, the veterinarian told Bob almost verbatim what I had said earlier.  When I heard what the vet had to say, I was very relieved that I hadn’t given out any harmful or false information.  He then put a stomach tube through the nose and pumped a lot of water mixed with electrolytes and a small amount of mineral oil directly into the horse.  The animal seemed  much better later that evening.   All of our personal gear (except my wallet) was back at the motel, 40 miles away.  I was the only person there with any kind of ID with them so I had the veterinarian put the $175 bill on my credit card (you know what they say - no good deed ever goes unpunished).

     While the vet was talking with Bob I stayed away so as not to interfere or give the impression of interference.  When they had finished talking and Bob had stepped away I had a little chat with the vet myself.  Since I wasn’t listening while Bob was there, I asked about the treatment and the follow up.  I was very relieved to have him confirm my earlier opinions because I did not in any way want to be the one to disseminate false information or advice.  It seems that this vet knew all about our trailer accident the day before because the horse community in Santa Fe was buzzing about it and it happened almost in front of his clinic.  He also knew all about a horseback game I was very fond of playing - Polocross.  Seems like several of his friends are still playing the game to this day.

     To tell the truth, I very much enjoy chatting with vets and this added to what turned out to be a very pleasant night (now that the horse was out of danger).  As a matter of fact, years ago I remarked to a vet friend of mine that if I had been born a little smarter I would have liked to have become a vet myself.  He stared at me and said quite earnestly, "John, you would starve."  I was somewhat insulted and asked what he meant.  He said that I wouldn’t know how sweet talk the clients and I would be too abrupt with them.  I thought about it and well, when you’re right you’re right.

     We stayed up quite late before we were able to arrange a ride into town.  It was a warm, clear and moon less night, the milky way was so bright that you could actually see by it;  it was a very beautiful night and even under these circumstances, I was glad to be there and not in bed.

     Later on that night we were able to get a ride back to town.  One of the extras, who was staying at our motel, had earlier gone back on the bus with everybody else as mentioned.   It was he who had arranged to get us the vet and then came up the 40 miles to pick us up.  We sure owe this guy a big thanks and should have taken up a collection to at least buy gas for his truck.  This fellow is a local rancher who knows his stuff about live stock in this dry land.  When he heard of what happened to Bob’s horse, the first thing he suggested we do is "get us some of that Morton Lite Salt" - Bob finally became a believer since both the vet and now this rancher were saying the same thing.

     The next day was Sunday and there was no filming.  As soon as we got up, the other guys wanted to have breakfast at the truck stop across the street rather than go directly out to see about the horses.  After what we had been through the night before, I couldn’t believe it and was a little put out about the delay, but said nothing.

     Instead of going to breakfast, I went across the street to a food store and bought some more Lite Salt and some sugar.  I then asked some local people where to find the nearest feed store that would be open on Sunday.  When the other guys got finished with breakfast, I asked them to stop at the feed store because I wanted to buy a sack of bran.

     I wanted to mix some bran with Lite Salt, sugar and lots of water so as to make the salt palatable to the horse (moist bran is the best electuary I know of). As expected, Bob objected to my idea because the vet had told him not to feed his horse any grain.  I agreed that grain was bad under these circumstances but that a very wet bran, salt and sugar mixture would be the best thing for his animal.  I finally got Bob to go along with the idea.  I prepared a mixture of  about 4 (level) tea spoons of Lite salt, a quarter cup of sugar, about 1/4 bucket of  bran and then filled the bucket to 1/2-2/3 with water.  (I didn't measure the ingredients out very carefully, so those are only approximate values.)  When we fed the horse this mixture, the poor creature just sucked it up with loud slurping noises.  We gave it a similar dose that evening and by Monday’s shooting, the horse was 100%.

     Based on my experience, I really feel that we could have saved us all a lot of time and money if we would have given the horses this Lite Salt treatment before we left Simi Valley  or while we were still on the road like I originally suggested.