A fate­ful jour­ney

Af­ter a long trailer ride, my horse de­vel­oped a case of ship­ping fever that nearly claimed his life.

EQUUS - - Eq Case Report -

Un­til last year, I’d only ever had one en­counter with ship­ping fever. When I was a kid, a big draft mare ar­rived at our farm with a cough. My Dad told me she had ship­ping fever. The mare spent two weeks iso­lated in a makeshift box stall in the heated work­shop, cough­ing and sput­ter­ing mu­cus. She got bet­ter, just as my Dad said she would, and---to a kid like me, at least---it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

Now I know bet­ter. In late spring of 2015, my Quar­ter Horse geld­ing, Page Martin Parker, came down with a case of ship­ping fever af­ter I made a series of mis­guided de­ci­sions while trav­el­ing home from an event. He quickly de­vel­oped pleu­rop­neu­mo­nia that nearly killed him. He needed weeks of care, in­clud­ing hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and dozens of in­va­sive pro­ce­dures, to bring him back from the brink, fol­lowed by sev­eral more months of rest and re­cu­per­a­tion.

It was a very big deal. Here’s how it hap­pened. planned to leave im­me­di­ately af­ter the award cer­e­mony, but a huge storm sys­tem rolled in, and blow­ing dust se­verely re­duced vis­i­bil­ity on the roads. We de­cided to stay one more night and leave in the morn­ing, tak­ing a more northerly route to avoid a line of thun­der­storms. This de­ci­sion would add a few hours to our trip, but at the time, that didn’t seem like a big is­sue. We rolled out at 5:30 a.m. on May 12. We made sev­eral stops the first day, and at each we of­fered hay and wa­ter to the horses and checked the tem­per­a­ture in the trailer. We had the op­tion of stay­ing overnight just on the eastern edge of Ne­braska, but we wor­ried about a fast­mov­ing storm headed our di­rec­tion. Rather than risk the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing stuck wait­ing out a snow­storm, we de­cided to keep mov­ing. So, af­ter 16 hours on the road, we ar­rived in Min­nesota and stopped for the evening. We had only two hours of driv­ing ahead of us, but we were ex­hausted and needed to sleep.

We un­loaded the horses and walked and hand-grazed them be­fore ty­ing them to a high­line---a rope strung above eye level be­tween two trees---for the night with their hay and wa­ter. The horses had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with this setup, and we would be sleep­ing TEAM­WORK: Parker and De­bra Martin com­pete in ver­sa­til­ity ranch horse events around the coun­try.

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