horse eyelid laceration wounds, pruritus, pet health and welfare educational for animal
lovers, excerpts from The
Glamorous Vets, Singapore, sponsored by AsiaHomes Internet.
Never judge a book by its cover
"This racehorse is guaranteed to win for my girlfriend," said the Owner wearing a gold Rolex watch, a heavy gold chain round his thick neck and blew a blue circle of smoke from puffing the best Lucky Strike cigarette. His girlfriend was slim and could be mistaken for his daughter. She had long wet glossy black hair, a very pale heart shaped face, as if she had not seen sunlight. More foundation powder on her face made her look anaemic. Black seemed to be a favourite colour of Singapore's office girls at this time. I guess black contrasted very vibrantly their fair complexions and enhance their youthful beauty.
The Owner was feeling good. "Doc, you put some small bet and you will not regret," Mr Tan said as he watched his horse do the final gallop at the sand track at 6 a.m on a cool tropical dawn. This final gallop would be what the thoroughbred needed just two days before the race.
It would be a four-horse race. Seven runners were entered for the race. One had stomach ache or colic, another sprained its front tendon and one was tied up on its right shoulder and scratched from racing by the veterinarian. The race had to go on for economic reasons for the Club as well as the punters.
The economic recession had killed off many horse owners. Fewer horses were available for racing in this class. The Club earned its money from a percentage from the betting pool after taxation. If the administrators cancelled the race, there would be no revenue and expenses in running a top racing Club are higher than anyone could imagine and every cent counted in such bad economic times.
Competitive horse racing would require more than three horses. Ideally, I estimated that ten runners would be best but I had seen twenty runners in one race which was unusual.
The racehorse was bathed and went back to its stall and given its ration. It would be given its multi-vitamin drip to boost its reserves and make it a winner. It would be rewarded with good lucerne grass, specially imported from Brazil. The lucerne grass was placed in a wired container above its head level.
At 3 p.m, the horse would be taken out for a slow walk round the stables. The trainer noted that its right eye was swollen and watery. Thick white pus gravitated towards the medial canthus where the upper and lower eyelids met near the nose area.
"Could Small Chief be sabotaged?" I asked the trainer as the syce or stablehand brought me to check out the horse. The right eye was normal. The lower left eyelid had a tear. The horse was feeling uncomfortable as small flies buzzed around its injured eye, attracted by the smell of blood and dirt.
The eyelid wound must be severe as an eye bag of swelling formed so quickly on the lower eyelid. As if the horse did not have enough sleep. An intense blood red colour was seen on the conjunctiva.
What was the cause of this cut? Was there any sharp ends inside this stable? Nothing was found. There was a basket made of wire containing lucerne grass hung just above its eye level.
Although Small Chief was one of those gentle thoroughbreds, it had enough of pain from my irrigation of its eye with a 30-ml syringe of clean water. As I tried to squeeze the antibiotic eye ointment onto its eye, it just lifted its head high up. No violent objections like kicking or moving away like some highly strung thoroughbreds before the race. The syce twisted a loop of rope round its nose. The rope was attached to two holes inside a baton-like piece of wood which was held up by the syce's right hand.
"It would not be able to race," I said. The trainer did not need to be told. He had twenty years of experience and had seen such injuries. "Give him an antibiotic injection," the trainer requested. I gave an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection after making sure that the cornea or the transparent part of the eye was not ulcerated. The horse had to wear eye protectors to prevent dirt and dust from accumulating on its injured eyelid. Twenty four hours later, the swelling of the lower eyelid had subsided and the horse was busy eating when I reviewed his case.
"The horse should be kept in an air conditioned stable," I advised. The trainer had only two air conditioned stables which had been reserved for his two champion horses which had prospects of winning the Singapore Gold Cup. Small Chief could not be accommodated. He was given personal attention by the stable manager and trainer. It would still need to be exercised daily. The eyelid healed slowly as the horse must have rubbed its eyelid sometimes when the eye protector was taken off. It was not humane to put it on for twenty four hours a day as advised by any veterinarian. The syce felt sorry for the poor horse.
The eye protectors worked well to prevent flies laying maggots onto the eyelid and causing more itchiness. The bacterial and fungal
micro-organisms were everywhere and all too ready to colonise the injured tissue.
You could see that Small Chief was bored to death. When I saw him 2 days later, it was biting the piece of wood for two seconds as it breathed in air. Its chest would expand as the air went into its respiratory system. It repeated this for a good 5 minutes.
It displayed like a conditioned called wind sucking, a vice described in horse veterinary books. It had tried to rub its right eye on the stable wall when the eye protector was removed. I thought he was feeling some pain or itchiness in its right eye and that might be relieved by grinding its teeth on the piece of wood.
After two weeks, the horse did not wear the eye protector. It took around six weeks for the eyelid wound to reduce to a small area.
Small Chief had to go through its training programme and it started to win minor races for the next two years. The economic recession had receded and it had to compete in more than 3-horse races. It qualified for the Singapore Gold Cup as it won the Queen Elizabeth race in Kuala Lumpur, a big race four weeks before the Gold Cup.
It was one of those cool race horses as it was paraded round the parading ring for the veterinarian and stipendiary steward to inspect. A jockey would then mount the horse which would be led to the parading ring for punters and committee members to preview before placing the bets.
"What do you think of Small Chief's chances?" Mr Tan asked me. As if horse veterinarians have all the insider tips and can pick out winners so easily.
"I don't know," I said. Small Chief was being led round the first parading ring for veterinary inspection prior to going out to the main parading ring for punters to inspect.
"Do you think Small Chief will win?" my assistant asked me. "No, "I said. "It looks sleepy and it is a small horse. It will not have enough stamina to last the 2,200 metres." I rated it as having no chance to win the Singapore Gold Cup as it was less than 15 hands in height compared to the bigger competitors. Some were really highly strung and nervous as if they could feel this would the final battle.
My assistant was not going to miss a chance to make money. He had studied all the handicaps and had an elephant memory of all the racing history of every horse in Singapore and Malaysia. Still he wanted various feedback when he had to put his money where his mouth was.
Twenty top superstars from the three turf clubs in Malaysia and one in Singapore were competing for half a million dollars of prize money. The starting stalls could normally accommodate fifteen horses. Another starting gate with ten stalls were requisitioned. It was a most exciting race when you had twenty racing superstars.
"Never judge a book by its cover" could never be more correct. Small Chief took home the Gold Cup. It did have a stayer's blood in its pedigree. "Stayer" refers to racehorses which could run long distances as contrasted to sprinters.
Whether Small Chief won by a neck or by any finishing length against the best, I could not remember but I learn never to judge a book by its cover.
I realise that, for any horse, the eyes are very important as it cannot fend for itself and fight against flies, bacteria and fungus by itself once its eyes get injured.
I often wonder how the zebra could survive if their eyelids get cut. I guess they would become blind after weeks of irritation and rubbing. Infection would set in and it would be blinded in the eye as it would not know how to heal itself. As for the cause of the cut in Big Chief's lower eye lid, a small line of blood was seen in the basket containing lucerne grass. Its lower eyelid could have brushed against the basket and got nicked. No more baskets or any bars containing water bowls or feed bowls were installed in the stables after this incident.
Small Chief's case reminds us that we must take good care of our eyes, our soul to the world. For Small Chief, its eyes were the ticket to winning. And to earning its keep as I doubt the racing administrators would permit a one-eyed horse to race, fearing that there would be racing accidents as one-eyed horse were said to be unable to race normally. It would be euthanased if it was one eyed as I remember a case whereby the admiinstrators prohibit the horse with eyelight in one eye from racing.
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