When I was called out to see a weanling who was lame behind I had my reservations about whether I would manage but I was happy to have a go and hoped it would be an easy one. When I arrived the owner and his son were holding onto a pair of colts in a large stable. I chatted about the history before stepping inside to introduce myself to the wee bairn, who was clearly suffering from some pain in his hind leg. After letting him sniff my arm I went to reassuringly rub his wither only for him to leap four feet off the ground taking his elderly handler on a safari of the deeply strawed stable. I was just about to choose my waiting ground carefully when the second weanling kick-started into action. The next thirty seconds felt a lot longer while I tried to duck the flying hooves and dodge the blindly panicking beasts with their determinedly clinging handlers. It was quite a show and I was trying to control my rising alarm over how I was going to see this case through 'in my condition', determined as ever not to admit defeat too early on.
When order was restored I tried again only to be met with a similar response from the weanling's typically fast hindlimb. This little fella was not going to let me touch his quarters let alone examine his distal limb - this was going to be tricky. I asked about his character and whether this was at all normal. The son casually informed me that the colt had never had his legs touched before. I stopped all attempts and tried to hide my disappointment at the situation. I was genuinely surprised that no one had thought to mention this already - I wondered how they expected me to deal with this? In a non-pregnant state I may have persisted a little longer, however surely no one can be expected to teach a weanling how to tolerate having it's legs handled in one visit whilst said horse is already feeling vulnerable with a painful hind limb? It was this thought that made me realise that pregnancy is not a reason to start becoming safety aware. We should be doing it all the time! Pregnant or not, this was a less than ideal situation to be in and I was never going to be able to examine this horse's leg without the help of some hefty sedation. And even then, should clients be expecting us to put ourselves in these positions because they have not put in place the appropriate training to allow examination of their animals in such circumstances? Or is that too much to ask? I think it would be reasonable to expect to be warned at the very least.
This reminded me of the time a friend's husband, who is a pilot, was complaining about the local small animal vet who had asked him to start muzzle training the rescued terrier he and his wife had recently acquired, after it took a violent dislike to being vaccinated. The pilot was outraged that someone would shirk from doing what he believed he was paying him/her to do. He compared it to asking one of his passengers to fly the plane for him. My attempts to liken it more to asking him to fly with a violent drunk in the cockpit fell on deaf ears... clearly deliberately putting ourselves in the firing line is seen to be part of our job, unfortunately.
Needless to say, examination of the weanling following sedation was fruitless and while I suspected this was a foot problem the volume of "Domo and Torb" required to touch the leg rendered the weanling's response to palpation and hoof testers inconclusive. This really was a frustrating case that provided a perfect example to me of how pregnancy does not always create "special requirements" for practicing as an equine vet. However it does highlight issues we all may face any time and perhaps it should make us consider them very carefully.