Don't Panic!

A Guide to Dealing with Unexpected Injuries

Written by Herder Shala
in partial fulfillment of
the Herdercraft Journeyman Project

Problem Detection
It is helpful to take a close look at your runner when he is healthy so you'll know what's normal. Begin by viewing your runner from a distance. How much time does he spend standing, how much time lying down? What's his general conformation? Does he have any old splints, lumps or bumps? Run your hands over all four legs and get used to the natural form of your runner's body. Observe your runner's normal eating habits, Does he eat his food slowly or does he gobble it? Examine your runner's ears, eyes, and nostrils.

There are several ways that you can tell whether your runner is dehydrated. Each sign must be compared to that particular runner's normal situation. First look at the gums. Normally they are moist, but they become dry and sticky in the dehydrated runner. Next take a pinch of skin on the runner's neck and notice how long it takes to fall flat again. The dehydrated runner's skin will remain in place for several seconds. With severe dehydration the runner's eyes will appear sunken.

When Trouble Presents Itself
The first thing to do when your runner is in trouble is to stay calm and think clearly. Put a halter and lead rope on your runner and keep him calm too, to prevent further injury.

Don't try to move a injured runner until you're sure that you won't cause further harm. Send someone for help while you stay with the runner but keep your own safety in mind above all else. Sometimes there is no way you can restrain the runner and it might injure you because of fright or pain. If you can't hold the runner leave him alone until help comes.

There are a few cases where slow walking is necessary to prevent further injury to your runner. Walk the runner during a bad colic episode (see Matison's lesson on colic for more details) or a severe case of itchy hives.

Immediate life-threatening situations include bleeding and broken bones. If you see an obvious fracture, or a protruding bone or a strange angle to the leg or if the runner won't put any weight on the leg, don't move him until help arrives.

Wound Care
Most scrapes and cuts aren't life-and-death situations. Runners have a lot of blood and any cut will bleed a little. Small vessels usually stop bleeding on their own. If an artery is cut you will see a spurt of blood with each heart beat. Injuries to larger veins will ooze continuously. A clean cloth held onto the bleeding area will stop the flow. Apply continuous pressure for several minutes rather then dabbing or wiping at the area. Always call the beasthealer if you can't get the bleeding to stop within 10 minutes or so. After stopping the bleeding wipe the cut or scrape off with warm water. Even if the cut or scrape appears small, proceed with your cleaning until you see all the edges of the cut and only pink flesh. Gently spread the cut open to see how deep it is. Close examination of a seemingly minor wound may reveal a deep puncture or cut. Don't worry if the washing causes the wound to start bleeding again, just stop the bleeding again and apply a wrap. The bandage stops dirt and flies getting to the wound.

Remove hair around the wound with clippers so you can see it better and so the hairs wont irritate the injury. Since matted hair will resist your clipping efforts, soften and moisten the area with warm water so your clippers will be effective, or alternate clipping and washing to remove all the dirt and hair gradually.

Now that you've cleaned the wound and can see the entire injury, you must decide whether to treat it yourself or call a beasthealer. Wounds in certain areas should always be evaluated by a beasthealer no matter how small or minor they seem at first. Any cut that is over a joint, in a tendon or below the pastern can cause long term problems and should always be seen by a beasthealer. Also cuts at the heel area and any coronary band injury should be examined by a beasthealer.

Don't wait for your runner to go lame before you start thinking about your runner's legs. Spend a little time each day look and feeling your runner's legs. Feel each part of the leg so you know it normally feels like. After an injury you will feel the leg the same way, feeling for heat and swelling or searching for a sore area. Use your fingertips to feel for soreness, swelling and bumps and the back of your hand to feel for heat. If your runner flinchs or draws his leg away, compare the reaction on the opposite leg to be sure he's really sore and not just reacting normally.

A strain is the stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are fibrous bands that attach muscle to bone. As a rule tendon injuries can be serious and can take months to heal.

When a tendon injury first occurs apply cold water or ice packs immediately or prevent inflammation and swelling from becoming severe. Keep the cold on the leg for twenty minutes at a time and apply a supportive padded wrap between sessions. You must call a beasthealer if your runner has a tendon injury. A sprain is stretch or partial tear of a ligament. Ligaments are fibrous bands and connect bones and support and runner's joints. The ligament can be injured when twisting or pulling force is applied to the joint. Severe sprains can cause a fracture if a small piece of bone is pulled off at the ligament's attachment.

Sprains cause cause heat, swelling and pain around a joint. When a runner gets a sprain your first pirority is to keep the runner fron injuring itself further. Apply ice while you wait for the beasthealer. Don't allow the runner to walk on the leg any more then necessary.

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