Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yesterday was true horror (long post/graphic photos)

This post contains some truly horrifying photos, and they might upset some of you. I think it's important for me to share them, but I understand if you can't look at them.

Let me preface this post by saying this: Everyone is going to be 100% okay.

Yesterday, we had a trailer accident. Driving down the highway, we hit a patch of black ice. The horses in the back (two of them), must have shifted in the trailer because it started to fishtail. The icy roads caused the whole situation to escalate quickly. Truck and trailer fishtailed all over the highway for approximately 600 yards. Several times I thought I had us straightened out, only to lose the trailer again. The roads had no traction to speak of. Finally, the trailer jackknifed hard into the truck bumper, popped off the hitch, and flipped onto its side.

Until I heard the loud boom of the trailer flipping behind me, everything was in slow motion. After the bang, my mind is a complete blank. Somehow the truck stopped, and my traveling companion and I got out. The truck and trailer were sideways, blocking the entire highway.

I wish I had the words to express what I felt when I looked into the back of that trailer. I think hopelessness is as close as I can get. After asking my companion to call 911, I remember saying out loud "I can't do this. I don't know how to do this."

The inside of the trailer was just a jumble of bodies and legs. The way the trailer had fallen, my companion's horse was on the bottom, but propped up halfway by the roof of the trailer. His legs were mostly free, but one was in between the slats of my trailer. I was afraid to open the trailer doors, in case he decided to back out and twist it. Guinness was on his side completely, his halter and breakaway lead still attached to the trailer. His head was twisted up, and his neck at a 30 degree angle against the front of the trailer. Both horses were breathing heavily, and their eyes were wide. Neither was panicking or moving, which was a miracle.

I must have simply stood at the back of the trailer, staring inside helpless, for a few minutes before a group of local men and volunteer fire fighters started to assemble. They blocked the highway with an astounding number of pickup trucks and came right over to help. These guys were absolutely phenomenal. They jumped to help me, and took every direction I gave. Even though they clearly had just as little experience with this situation as me, they were quick to leap in with ideas as well as brute strength. I know for a fact that at least two men had to stand the entire time with the weight of the left trailer door held over their heads. I don't know how they did it, but they were amazing.

My companion's horse was the first big issue. With his leg between the slats, and his other back leg precariously balanced on the edge of another slat, we had to be careful he didn't kick or back out. Three of us carefully extricated him from the divider (knocked free in the flip). Guinness helped us a little here by thrashing around a little. While terrifying, Pig's kicking actually pushed him into the other horse, helping that horse stand up a little more and get into the position to climb out.

The other horse carefully looked around, gathered himself, and somehow managed to step over Guinness' body as he turned around and walked out of the trailer. My companion caught her horse, whose halter had popped off during the flip, wrapped a lead rope around his neck, and lead him into the adjacent bean field. He walked off completely sound.

Guinness was still down in the trailer, and starting to panic. He kept starting to kick and thrash, which was moving him further into the front of the trailer. While he would stop kicking and thrashing when I would yell at him, he ended up curled into the fetal position on his side with three legs stuck in the manger portion of my trailer.

Having no idea how we were going to get him out, I crawled on top of the trailer, to hopefully find a halter for my companion's horse. I had spare halters in the tack area of the trailer, but wasn't sure I could get to them the way the trailer was flipped. My fears were confirmed, the halters were at the bottom of everything, and I couldn't reach them without crawling all the way in. I asked a man to see if he could get them out for her. Then, I dropped down into the top manger window and into the manger above Guinness.


From here, I pet his nose and tried to calm him. I stripped the Velcro from his trailer tie, releasing his head but leaving on his halter. He had kicked off one of his shipping boots but was still wearing the other three. He also still had on his Dover turnout sheet, and head bumper. I pulled off the head bumper. It was getting in his eyes, and I was afraid it would pull his halter off.

I asked the firemen if anyone had anything to help me pull Pig out. One guy had a tow strap, and he ran to get it. While he was gone, I gave the firemen a run down of the plan. We would wrap the strap around Pig's left stifle, then they would pull him back slowly while I reached down and untangled his legs from the side of the manger.

This process took forever, and I was constantly crawling in and out of the manger, as the divider wasn't very strong and I didn't want to fall into the trailer while Pig was thrashing. In a surreal moment, I was on top of the trailer while the firemen pulled on Guinness, and watched as the man I asked to help my companion was helping her bridle her horse. All he'd been able to get out of the tack area was her bridle.

After we pulled his back legs free, Guinness kicked a couple of times and then sort of went into shock. He was breathing hard, and his eyes were open but glassy. It was obvious he was just sort of frozen, and not going to move.

The way he'd rotated when we'd pulled him back made continuing to pull from his stifle useless. With his body laying prone, I couldn't get the rope under him anywhere. So, I ended up crawling out onto his body and ran the tow strap through his turnout sheet, threading it under from butt to shoulder and passing both ends back to the firemen at the back of the trailer. They pulled, and like a miracle the turnout sheet held as his body slid 2/3 of the way out of the trailer.

As Guinness' body rotated, the sheet finally gave, ripping straight down the middle. I'm astounded it was so strong. I don't know that we would have gotten him out without having it to pull with.

From here, I was able to  stick the tow rope under Pig's shoulder and into one of the slats. A man crawled under the trailer where the wheels were holding it up. He was able to grab the end of the strap and guide it back and around the rest of Pig's shoulder, handing it back to the firemen. Pulling this way, Pig's body rotated the rest of the way around and his head was sticking out of the trailer. He still wasn't moving, and was breathing hard. I jumped down off the top of the trailer and came around.

I grabbed his lead rope, trying to get him to snap out of it and try to stand up, but he completely catatonic. The firemen wanted to give him a break here for a minute, but I asked them to keep pulling him out. I didn't like how quiet he was. They pulled him a little more, and his front legs touched the ground. The moment his feet made contact, he snapped into motion, standing up and pulling himself out.

While the firemen untangled the tow line, I grabbed his lead rope and walked him into the field. He followed me without appearing to be in much pain. Out in the field, a man with some horse experience held Guinness while I stripped him of his boots and checked his legs obsessively. Other than a few cuts where he kicked himself, they were just fine. The helpful man stuck around, walking Pig while I ran to get his cooler out of the truck and threw it on him. He kept walking him and letting him eat while I dealt with the cops, helped the firemen transfer our belongings, watched the trailer get pulled upright and get carted off, and thanked everyone who had helped us.
 
At this point, things start getting a little more fragmented in my memory.

I remember a man grabbing my hand and saying "I was driving behind you on that hill, and I don't know how you kept that rig on the road like you did. I thought you guys were goners. I can't believe you got out alive."

I tried to call my husband to let him know what was happening. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay on the phone, there was too much commotion. He tried texting me to ask if anything was wrong, and I couldn't manage to type out what was wrong. I sent him a photo of Guinness being pulled out of the trailer. In my haste, I didn't give any clarification to the photo. He thought Guinness was dead. He has since threatened to kill me if I send him another photo of one of our animals looking dead. I can't blame him.

A local vet had been called to the scene, in case we needed to give sedatives. He offered to give Pig a 10cc shot of Banamine. I gratefully accepted the offer.

While I had been working with the firemen to get Pig untangled, my companion had been busy phoning everyone to let them know what happened. Her calls set us up to be off the highway faster than we otherwise would have. Our BOs immediately jumped out the door to come pick us up, and the fire chief showed up with his stock trailer, still hooked up from hauling cattle that morning, offering to give us a ride to his farm to wait for the BOs to arrive with their trailer.

Amazingly, both horses leapt right into the cattle trailer. We tied them in and followed the trailer down the road to the chief's farm. I can't thank him enough for this. He brought us hay and a bucket of water, which both horses gratefully set into. He opened up his equipment barn to us so we could get out of the wind, and he let us walk the horses all over his lawn to keep them from getting too stiff.

It was here that Pig started to really come out of his shell. He finally started acting like himself, licking my hands, and sniffing my pockets for the mallowcreme pumpkins I'd hidden there that morning. I checked over his legs again, finding that the scary looking cuts on the backs of his back legs were actually pretty superficial.

Eventually the BOs arrived with their trailer, and we loaded both horses in and headed back home, where the vet was waiting to give both horses a look. She proclaimed us the luckiest group of people and horses alive, and said both horse's looked to make a 100% recovery.

My companion's horse was in much better shape than Guinness, just having a couple of cuts on him and having not gone into shock. Guinness has a few significant bruises on his front right knee and is taking turns favoring each back leg. We don't think there's anything significant going on, just bruising and stinging from the cuts. He's very stiff and sore, and that's only going to get worse for a day or two.

I doctored up his cuts and turned him out. Keeping moving is the best medicine for him right now. We're planning to keep him on bute for a few days while his injuries settle down.
Banged up, but going to be okay

The BO called last night and this morning with an updates, and I checked on him this afternoon. While his back left leg is a little swollen, he's walking alright and is cheerful and curious. I'm anticipating the swelling will get less severe over the next few days, but I have to admit it's making me a little nervous.

Photos (Warning! Some are graphic.)

 
The picture I sent to my poor husband. I swear to god! He's not dead! Just exhausted and in shock.
 
At the fire chief's farm.

One of his leg cuts from kicking himself.

One of the cuts in my shipping boots. So glad he was wearing these. They are life savers.
The rip in the blanket we used to pull Guinness out of the trailer. The Dover people aren't kidding around when they say these blankets are tough!

Napping in the sun today. The best sight ever.

44 comments:

  1. I know everyone is OK and safe but I couldn't stop myself from tearing up anyways. I am so grateful that everything turned out for the best. I don't know what I would have done in that situation. It's terrifying to even think about. Wishing you and Pig a speedy physical and mental recovery.

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  2. Oh my god how awful, so sorry this happened and you had to go through something like this. Happy to hear everyone is ok, you guys are so lucky!

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  3. How terrible for you!!! I am so sorry that you all had to go through that. A wreck in the trailer is our absolute worst nightmare. I am so very grateful that you are all okay. You handled a terrifying accident with grace and extreme courage. I wish you all a speedy and full recovery. Hugs, Karen Sweaney (Bakersfield Dressage)

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  4. I was freaked out whenyou texted me this yesterday and I know what the story is and I read this post anyways and cried because I am so happy you guys are okay.

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  5. Such big hugs to you! I'm so glad that you and Pig are alright.

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  6. Oh my god Austen. This made me cry! I am so so glad everyone is OK. I cannot even begin to imagine how you must have felt during this whole ordeal. Wishing everyone smooth and quick recoveries from their thankfully minor injuries.

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  7. I am so happy you are alright. That is incredibly scary and you guys are so lucky. Wishing Guinness a speedy recovery.

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  8. oh my god. I know exactly what you were going through. I know that panic you felt with Pig seemed to give up. I'm so happy that it turned out okay. I don't think I could have taken another tragedy.

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    1. I'm glad we were able to give you a story with a positive ending. Too much tragedy recently.

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  9. Oh my goodness Austen that's horrifying. I'm so, so happy everyone is okay and walked away from the accident with just bumps and bruises. Huge, massive, hugs from the east coast. Your guardian angels were certainly looking out for you!!

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  10. All of the blood drained from my face as I read your first few sentences, my mouth stayed agape for the whole reading, and then I cried at the end. I wish I could just give you the biggest hug ever. I'm thinking about all of you <3

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  11. Oh my god, that is so terrifying. Sounds like you had an amazing group of people there to help you out. I'm so, so glad to hear that Guinness and the other horse are going to be okay, and you are your friend are too!

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  12. That is terrifying and awful! Good for you for keeping it together and directing people on how to help in a useful way. I'm so glad Pig and the other horse are okay- hopefully he'll feel better soon!

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  13. Holy crap, that's my worst nightmare! Thank goodness everyone was ok!

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  14. I read this holding my breath the entire time.

    I don't know how you wrote such a detailed recap. I'm shaking just READING about it, let alone actually BEING in it. I am so thankful you, your companion, and the horses got out alive and almost untouched. What an amazing response by the emergency personnel - what a miracle you did not have to face that alone.

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    1. An absolute miracle. Everything happened in slow motion for me, I think that's why the recap was so detailed.

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  15. Oh my gosh. Seriously held my breath until the last few paragraphs. That's so scary, I'm so thankful that everyone got out and are okay!!

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  16. What a nightmare. I'm reeling from just reading it. Can't imagine actually living through it.

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  17. Thank you for prefacing the post that everyone was ok, what a horror story! I am so glad you all survived none the worse for wear. Your poor hubby must have been terrified receiving that message then unable to contact you.
    I hope all involved make full & speedy recoveries!
    *bighugs*

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  18. WOW that's definitely one of my biggest fears in trailering, having to deal with an accident and especially one this bad. It must have been completely horrifying to go through but it sounded like you guys handled it incredibly well. I'm so glad that everyone is going to be okay! Poor Pig- what an ordeal for him! And your poor husband getting sent that picture with no explanation! But phew that everything worked out as best as it could.

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  19. I started to read this, and had to compose myself to go to a meeting and finish later. I can't imagine how scared you were. SO HAPPY you and both ponies are okay. That is truly a nightmare.

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  20. Oh my... Just so... No words. I'm glad you all got out safely! That really was a horrific experience, I do hope everyone recovers quickly and without drama. Wish you guys the all the best.

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  21. i am so glad you are OK!!! what a terrifying experience - those pictures are the stuff of nightmares... you and your traveling partner were so composed under pressure! wishing everyone a speedy recovery :(

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  22. That is terrifying. Thank you for prefacing the story that everyone got out ok- otherwise I don't think I could have made it through. Cheers to your level head in a crisis!

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  23. I'm so glad that everyone came out of that as well as they did, but am very sorry that you had to go through such a terrifying experience. Are you doing okay?

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    1. I think so. I'm actually glad I took the photos, because the whole ordeal seems completely surreal right now. The whole thing just replays in my head whenever I shut my eyes. I'm hoping that will pass.

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    2. I'm so sorry and hope that it stops soon too. The shock of an experience like that tends to make it feel surreal. Take care and sending hugs.

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  24. Every horse person's worst nightmare, for sure! So thankful you are all ok and hoping Guinness works out of his soreness in the next few days! Keeping you all in my thoughts :)

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  25. I'm glad you guys are ok!!!! That is one of my worst nightmares.Thank you for prefacing that with everyone will be alright! I used to haul with a head bumper but got out of the habit because Mikey was able to slid out of his halter. Maybe I should pull it out of storage (he still wears his boots).
    I hope both horses heal quickly, and you have some time to decompress.

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    1. I've always been absurdly safety-conscious when shipping. Pig travels like he's decked out for war, and we get made fun of for it a lot. But, it really paid off here. I have no regrets for being so safety-minded. Head bumpers do make halter come off easier. I found they stayed on better if I alternated which side of the halter ring I snapped it to on each side.

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  26. Oh my God, I am so sorry. This is just horrifying. I'm so, so, so glad it turned out okay for everyone. I hope that you and Guinness both are recovering okay. I can't even imagine what you were feeling.

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  27. Oh my God that is horrible! One of every horse owner's nightmare...Hope that all of you recover quickly!

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  28. Whoa - I just found your post. Thanks for the note at the beginning - couldn't bear hearing about another tragedy.

    Holy cow lady - you've got nerves of steel. It was super hard just reading this. A horseman's worst nightmare, and a timely reminder about safety gear. Thank goodness everyone's okay. I hope Guinness is feeling better now that he's had a few days.

    Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year to you and yours!

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  29. Here from Amanda's blog,
    I wouldn't normally say anything, but you made it through a nightmare of mine, and I had to say something...
    such good solid work you did - and what a horrifying thing to happen
    so relieved everyone seems to be OK

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    1. Thank you. I'm always obsessively safety conscious about trailering, and it paid off here. Sometimes those fears lead to luck.

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  30. OMG I am so, so glad everyone is okay! Thank goodness for the kindness of all those strangers who came to your aid!!

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  31. Many years ago, I helped pull 8 horses out of a stock trailer that had flipped into a ditch. It was a horrifying experience, and one that I will never, ever forget. And yet somehow, like your two, all the horses walked away with nothing more than a few scratches. Thank goodness for the miracles in this world and the kindness of all involved - I am so glad that you, your passenger, and both horses are OK. Hugs to you and healing thoughts for Pig - I am sure he'll be 100% in no time!

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    1. Oh my god. 8 horses. I can't imagine! I wonder if stock trailers are less or more safe than horse-type enclosed trailers. I've been pondering that for a few days now.

      Thanks for your story and your well wishes. :)

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  32. One thing we found after having a minor accident was that the best place for a spare halter and lead rope is in the tow vehicle.

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    1. I agree! I always have ropes in the tow vehicle, but unfortunately my halters were in the trailer. Lesson learned there.

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  33. You mentioned the trailer accident in your 2014 review so I had to come read this and I cried the whole way through it even though I know you all are okay. That must have been an absolute nightmare to go through. I'm terrified of hauling horses and this is why. I'm so glad you are all okay!

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  34. Oh my god. You are amazing. I am so incredibly impressed with how well you handled this. And I'm so very, very sorry that you had to go through it! I don't trailer that often and we don't have black ice, but accidents happen everywhere. I'm definitely going to think more about how I load him and what we can do if something like this were to happen. Man. You handled this so well.

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    1. Thanks, Beka. I hoped that sharing this story would give other people something to think about when hauling horses. It can seem safe, but I really think the extra thought we put into our hauling methods and safety gear pays off.

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