Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dances With Horses

Cavalry ballet
Photo by Dawn Hill
Riding for the Army has its hazards.  You just never know when your horse is going to react to something in the air or on the field when you least expect it.  Last Friday, one of our troopers was surprised by his young mount, Ruger, who decided he didn't want to play during the charge.  His lack of cooperation was enhanced even further when the cannon went off.  Luckily neither horse or rider was hurt, but you sure couldn't tell by this photo.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cal The Lion Fighter

Wounded warrior
Debbie and I picked up Cal from Phoenix today and brought him home.  The staff at Arizona Equine was very good with him.  The interns groomed him daily and loved on him every chance they got.  Cal is not a great patient, so I'm sure he appreciated their efforts to help relax him.  

The wound is looking better, so they say, but we haven't taken the bandage off yet.  It will be changed tomorrow.  He may still need a skin graft at some point, but the wound is doing well right now.  The tendon and bone did not lose there blood supply, so he didn't lose them as we feared.  

He withstood the three-hour trip back to Whetstone in the trailer without a problem.  He was a little nervous when he got out, but he soon settled down.  He knows where he is and that he is safe.  

We will have to change his bandage every two days for a while until the wound heals over and stops draining.  It won't be pleasant, but we will have help and hopefully everything will go okay.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Un-exploded Ordinance In The Horse Pasture

The hazards associated with working with horses are numerous. Over the years, I've been injured in just about every way you can imagine--bucked off, thrown, trampled, stepped on, rolled on, dragged, and bitten. Normal horse stuff.  However, since I manage horses in Arizona, I also have to deal with poisonous insects, plants, and snakes, plus mountain lions, bear, and wild fire. Well, now I have found a new hazard--unexploded WWII ordinance.  
Bazooka round.  

After the incident with Cal, I decided to go out into the pasture to see if I could find any mountain lion tracks or sign of where the attack occurred. While hiking through the grass, I saw what appeared to be a length of rusty, old pipe.  I went over to pick it up and noticed the rusty, old pipe had a conical warhead attached to it. It was an old bazooka shell.  I stared at it for a while trying to figure out what to do.  The temptation to pick it up was pretty strong.  It would make a great souvenir for the office.  However, a little voice in my head reminded me that we aren't supposed to pick up unexploded ordinance or UXOs.  

I did not have any flags to mark it with (like anyone would be walking around with UXO marker flags), so I stacked some rocks around it and then laid a line of rocks across a nearby horse trail pointing to the UXO. Satisfied I would be able to find it again, I returned to the stables and promptly forgot about it.  I didn't really forget about it, I just didn't have time to deal with it.  The horses were out of the pasture and it wasn't likely anyone would be walking around out there except, maybe, illegal aliens. And, since the shell had been sitting there for about sixty years, I didn't think another day would hurt.  
The EOD convoy.

The fifty-eight acres of land that is now our horse pasture was once a training ground for soldiers on their way to Europe during WWII.  There are all kinds of interesting artifacts and ordinance scattered throughout the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains.  I had found old rocket casings before, but not an unexploded shell.  

When I called the range control people, they came out pretty promptly with the military police and representatives from the Safety Office.  I took them out to the location of the bazooka shell and they decided that there was no way to determine if it was still live and that they would have to call the Explosive Ordinance Disposal  (EOD) people.  However, it would probably be the next day before they could come.  They told me to close the pasture and they would be back.
The C4 crater.  
 The next day an entourage of range control, safety office, military police, fire fighters, and medical personnel showed up at my pasture.  A convoy of all these vehicles went trundling out into the pasture to go deal with this bazooka shell.  A police vehicle blocked the gate after the convoy had passed through.  About thirty minutes later I heard and explosion.  About thirty minutes after that the convoy reappeared and went back to wherever they came from.  The range control people called me and said the UXO was destroyed, but that they had caused a small fire, which all the fire trucks put out.  

Sometime later, I went out to the site to see what they had done.  I was disappointed to see that the C4 they had used to detonate the bazooka shell left only a small dent in the ground.  The grass had, indeed, caught on fire, but they kept it from spreading too far.  
The remnants of the brush fire.  

Now that the area was safe, I resumed my lion hunting expedition.  I didn't find any lions, but I did guessed it...another UXO. Fortunately, this one was already exploded, so it was only an XO.  

Just another boring day at the office.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lion Attack

Debbie and I were getting ready to put some steaks on the grill Saturday night, when I heard the hated warbling of the Bat Phone.  As it was just after 6 PM, it could only mean that the weekend pasture feeder had found an injured horses.  Sure enough, it was trooper Mike calling to inform me that one of the horses had a badly injured rear leg.  I asked him to bring the horse in to a stall and I'd be there as soon as I could.  
The wound prior to being cleaned.

As Mike is a new trooper, he didn't know which horse was injured.  As we drove to the stables, Debbie called Mike and asked to describe the horse.  Based on his description, we decided it was Cal, a notoriously difficult horse to treat.  

When we arrived at the stables, Mike's wife, Stephanie, was waiting for us.  Mike had been unable to move the horse out of the pasture and was somewhere in the wash that runs the length of our horse pasture.  After about five minutes of searching we found him and, as we suspected, Cal, down in the creek bed.  The wound on his left, rear leg looked bad, but Cal was able to bear weight on it and Debbie walked him out of the ravine.  She put him into a stall to give him some water and bute, while I contacted Arizona Equine in Phoenix to see if they could take Cal.  They said they could, so we loaded him up and began the three-hour journey to the clinic.  There were no local equine vets available and they would not have been able to handle the wound as severe as it was.  We suspected an animal attack as there were recent bear sightings on Fort Huachuca.  
Claw marks.

The trip to Phoenix was uneventful, but we received numerous calls from the military police and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the possible bear/lion attack.  I'm not sure how we arrived at the conclusion that it had been a lion attack, but the USDA agent said that bears attack from the front and not the rear where Cal had been wounded.  They searched the pasture with infrared optics, but did not find anything but deer out there.  They did find lion tracks, but they were old.  

When we arrived at the equine clinic, Cal was immediately tended to.  There was another horse there for emergency care with a similar wound (not caused by a lion), so we didn't feel as bad about getting everyone out to work on a Saturday night.  Cal's was heavily sedated so the doctor could clean and examine the wound.  The claw marks and teeth marks were much easier to see and it was clear that a significant amount of tissue was missing from the wound.  Both the tendon and cannon bone were exposed.  

It was determined that Cal wound have to stay at the clinic for continued treatment as there was a risk of infection to the exposed tendon and bone as well as to the soft tissue around the wound.  AZ Equine provides the best care possible in Arizona, so we left Cal in good hands and returned home.  It was 4 AM before we could get to bed, but there was no other course of action we could have taken.  Hopefully, Cal will recover in time and eventually return to work.  

Me trying to hold up Cal's heavily sedated head.