Written by – Kylie Savidge, Owner, Southampton Station.
In my job, my dogs and horses are not only team members but are also part of our family and very much valued. I take good care of them and they take good care of me.
A well-educated stockhorse and working dog are vital tools in the management of a livestock business; they can be the one thing that prevents a disaster or severe injury whilst working cattle.
Some of the readers may remember some of the dogs and horses that featured in my last blog; I want to tell you about Zoe, a little red and white Kelpie x bitch, and Shine, my retired Australian Stockhorse.
Zoe has been my main dog for six years now and whilst she has had some bad bumps and bruises has never managed to get too badly injured. At Easter time this year that changed.
When cattle are let out of the yards they are steadied so they don’t rush out and hurt themselves or if handling cows and calves to make sure the calves don’t get left behind and lose their mothers or worse get trampled by the mob.
Cattle that are well handled and quiet are a much better asset and a good indicator of a well-managed operation.
On this particular day as the cows and calves were let out of the cattle yards a cow broke away from the main mob and I sent Zoe and a few other dogs to bring her back and looked away to see what else was happening. I heard a yelp but thought nothing much of it until Zoe didn’t reappear and as the mob was giving us a little bit of trouble I couldn’t go and find her straight away.
When we had steadied the cows up and I went looking for Zoe, I found her doing her job with her right side back leg swinging side to side. My heart almost stopped. Here she was, in who knows what pain, still faithfully steadying up the lead of the mob. “Yeah I might have a broken leg boss but these cows need to mind their manners!” she seemed to be saying, dedication at its highest. Broken legs are never good and this break whilst clean was high up on her leg and very hard to splint. The cow must have jumped on or trodden on her as Zoe was bringing her back to the mob. I called Jack and he came and carried her back to the house for me. She was in pain and all we could do was make her as comfortable as possible, splint her leg and take her to the vet.
The vet, after looking at her, told me that amputation was really my only option as putting in a steel plate and rod may or may not work and could end up with the leg amputated anyhow. None of these options are cheap either, so with heavy heart the decision was made to amputate.
Zoe came through her operation with no worries or complications apart from adding a few extra “silver” hairs to my head. Her recovery went well and she is as happy on three legs as she was on four and is back on light working duties but don’t tell her I said that!
Whilst now she is limited to a few hours of work here and there, her bloodline and the fact she is still with me and I can breed from her at a later time is invaluable.
I was lost there for a few months as she was recovering but now I have my mate with me again and all is well.
Merribah Reality Shine is a bay stockhorse gelding who has been my main horse for nearly 15 years. He was retired in 2010 and he and Wilbur, another retiree were turned into the “long yard” to live out their days in relative comfort, only being brought in when Meghan was learning to ride and doing a tiny bit of work here and there.
As we all know time moves on and we all get older, this creeps up on you faster than you expect most times and can catch you off-guard.
Shine has been my mate, my go-to horse when I needed a horse who could handle a tough mob of cattle or the horse I could take my kids for ride on for many years.
When the phone call came from Mum to say she thought Shine had come home to die I was shattered, I was in town and getting ready to head to Toowoomba to pick up Jack from boarding school as the June/July holidays were about to begin and school was out. I couldn’t go out there to Shine and I felt that I was letting him down. I spoke to my Dad who said he thought two things could be the issue, 1) had he eaten something he shouldn’t have; or 2) he had come home to die, (but Dad didn’t think so).
He was lying on the ground outside of the feed shed, getting up periodically but then immediately lying down again.
What was I to do?? The best I could was to get Jenna and Sven, our backpackers, to make sure he had water and hay at his disposal and hope and pray for the best until I could get there on the weekend.
My parents along with Jenna and Sven were caring for him and it was the best I could do. Mum was emailing me reports every few hours and by the afternoon of day two he was up and wandering around quite happily to my immense relief.
I had made Dad promise to put him down if he became too distressed and then extracted a promise that yes, he would bury him for me if the worst occurred.
We think he must have eaten something he shouldn’t have and had a very bad tummy ache but WOW did he scare us all.
He is poking around now being pampered by Jenna who has a rather soft spot for an old horse who is quite the charmer.
Our animal partners are very much a part of our day to day lives and when these things occur it really does impact on you emotionally.