Freak Accident


Freak. Accident.

Webster’s dictionary defines an accident as “a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury.” The word “freak” means “one that is markedly unusual.”

As I drove down the barn driveway this morning I rolled down the windows, loving on the sunshine and cool breeze that flooded my car. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror. I noticed the wide, white veterinarian truck in the distance behind me. A farm call on a Saturday made me wonder.

But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending. It does involve Bute and a few missing teeth, but…

It all started with plans for a simple trail ride on a gorgeous post-Fourth of July Mid-Atlantic Saturday. The little Arabian gelding had a history of tantrums at the hitching post. But his owner thought he was over it. She tied him to the post and went about her business. When he started to yank and pull, she wasn’t able calm him down fast enough. And when the too-thick break-away strap on his halter didn’t break, he pulled harder, panicking and twisting

The halter gave in eventually (one of the metal squares that hold the noseband pieces to the cheek pieces snapped). When that happened, the little gelding fell over and hit the ground. It happened so fast nobody knows exactly what happened. His jaw must have taken the impact, because it gave too. It broke, along with three teeth. There was blood. There was confusion, terror and tears. And a phone call to the vet. He got there fast and made everything better. The horse lost two teeth, but with painkillers, antibiotics and a lot of TLC, he’ll be OK.

Broken Halter
I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of the horse. He was woozy and in pain.


But two questions lingered as I rubber-necked from the aisle, grooming my horse. Number one: would my break-away halters be flimsy enough to break away, if and when they are called up to do so? And number two, exactly what was the lesson learned here?

Barn Swallows
Meanwhile, the barn swallows nesting in the injured horse’s stall went right on with their meal.


I asked the vet question #2 before he left. “No lesson learned here,” he answered, a little glum. “Just a freak accident.”

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  1. Was the horse tied up with a safety knot? If so the owner should have been able to pull it so the horse could have backed away safely. Or a safety link should have been used

  2. I refuse to tie down my horse after experiencing a similar situation many years ago. I have heard horror stories like this way to often, so I purchased a tie ring that allows my horse up to 12 ft of rope if there is a panic situation. It works wonders! For example, My horse was tied with the tie ring on my trailer one day when A friend failed to secure the back of the trailer when she retrieved her horse. A huge gust of wind came and my trailer door flew open with a bang. My horse jumped back about 9 feet, accessed the situation and calmed immediately. I was about 20 feet away so a safety knot would not have helped in this situation, I would never have reached him in time. I have learned if a horse has room to react, he will usually calm himself down if he doesn’t feel constrained.

  3. My trainer always uses a safety knot, but I have a “stingy” performance mare that is so strong and does more than “set back”, she panics, just like this gelding. She damaged her face once and the last time, she broke her coffin bone (yes! Vet= “a freak accident”!) I choose not to tie her and even though she dances around, no “freak accidents”!


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