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When I saw one of my horse’s hooves stuck in the gate, my heart sank as I could not easily envision a positive outcome. I was alone, and I could not wrench the hoof from the gate. Horses can get themselves into all manner of unlikely predicaments that evade comprehension, and , like any creative horse owner, I lost no time finding a solution. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was to get help fast, very fast. There was no time to lose. Spyri, my sweet 23 year old Standardbred, stood like a statue, but I worried that he might start to panic and then all would be lost. I knew that he could not have been there long as I had just checked on them less than an hour before. 

The first call went out to barn helper and equestrienne extraordinaire, Diana, who lives very close to my farm. The next went out to my handyman, Dave, who is a MacGyver that can fix anything and has proven resourceful in the past on many occasions. Next, I called two neighbors who are strong and capable. We ended up in short order with two very handy, smart men and two horse people. 

Diana and I reassured Spyri and tried to keep him quiet and confident that his people would extricate his hoof from the gate. The two men took the gate off the post on their end (which required a drill) and I held it on the other while Diana held the horse. My heart was pounding, but I knew we all had to remain quiet and calm if we were to have any hope of saving the horse. Dave, Don, and I were able to slowly lower the gate to the ground and roll it flatly down so Spyri could free his hoof.. Once the gate was flat on the ground, Diana backed the horse slowly so that the rest of us could get the gate out of the way entirely after which point Spyri and Diana rushed briskly to the safety of a stall while the rest of us let out a deep sigh of relief. The other horses seemed relieved as well, and anxious to get back to the barn as well to join their friend. 

With great luck, Spyri walked away unscathed. I had the vet come out anyway, and she concurred that he was both fine and fortunate. She added that she has seen gate and fence issues before and that usually, the vet is called to sedate the horse and if the horse can get free, she would then treat typical injuries such as muscle tears, lesions, fractured bones. 

Unfortunately, there is no real way to train a horse not to paw at the gate or elsewhere. Injuries occur as a result. I have replaced all the gates with the kind through which a horse cannot paw. It is also impossible to predict every accident that may happen, but I went to bed that day feeling extremely blessed that my horse was calm and safe, and that we had the very best kind of friends and neighbors, people who will come to help in an emergency to save a horse. Farm communities are filled with good people who are eager to share their knowledge and experience to solve a problem or meet a challenge to assist any creature in need.

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 11-02-2021
I started riding as a child and have always loved everything equine. I've been involved in training, breeding, and several disciplines over the years. I live on a small farm with my horses. I am a teacher and a writer.