When 14-year-old Jasmine Price and her pony, Penny, set off for a session with Jasmine’s riding instructor just before Christmas, she had no idea that the lesson would end in trauma.
Jasmine was putting Penny through her paces on the cross country course at Poplar Park Equestrian Centre. All was going well until, at one of the jumps, a flag was suddenly caught by a gust of wind, taking the pony by surprise and causing her to ‘spook’ to the side. Despite Jasmine’s best efforts to stay on board, she eventually fell off and Penny bolted. Jasmine’s mum, Juliet, watched the incident and said “Penny was clearly in a panic and she was heading towards her own field. In order to get there, she jumped a post and rail fence”.
When she had checked that Jasmine was OK, she went to catch Penny and saw some blood trickling down her back legs. It didn’t appear to be serious but Penny had come to a halt and, only when Juliet was standing at the front of the pony, ready to lead her away, did she see a large wound on her chest. “It was huge” she said “and at that stage, I didn’t know what had caused it. I assumed she had caught it on something when she jumped the fence”.
By this time, she had been joined by staff members from the centre, who had come to help. Penny refused to move and, as they were planning a course of action, they noticed a swelling on her right side. A call had been made to the local veterinary practice, Ryder Davies, and by the time the vet arrived the swelling was quite pronounced. The shape was unusual, almost square, and led them to wonder whether a piece of the fence post had caused the chest wound and was now protruding beside the rib cage.
It had been agreed that Penny should be sent straight to Newmarket Equine Hospital as it was clear that major surgery would be required. A trailer was parked in front of her and she was almost lifted into it to make the journey.
On arrival at NEH, a team led by Consultant Surgeon Matt Smith was ready to receive her. She was admitted immediately for emergency surgery and, on examination, it was obvious that the protrusion in her side was indeed a section of post which, presumably, had broken off as she jumped the fence.
Matt knew that his first task was to locate the exact position of the piece of wood and remove it, while doing as little internal damage as possible. What he had not anticipated, however, was that despite it not being visible at the wound site, the section was 70 cm in length. “I have seen a wide range of traumatic injuries” he said “and removed a multitude of foreign bodies; but this was a first. When I started to extract it via the chest wound, it just kept coming. It is quite remarkable that it didn’t damage any vital structures, and avoided penetrating the thoracic cavity”.
Having removed the stake and checked thoroughly to ensure that no remnants remained inside, Matt then set about reconstructing the wound, whilst ensuring there was sufficient drainage to prevent development of infection. To achieve this, Penny was in the operating theatre for approximately one hour.
Jasmine and her family were hugely relieved to learn that she had survived the surgery but this had to be followed by a period of hospitalisation, initially in NEH’s Intensive Care Unit with round the clock care.
One of the main concerns following an injury of this nature is development of a pneumothorax – when air gets into the chest cavity, causing collapse of the lungs. Penny was monitored closely for any indication of this. Thankfully, she started to show early signs of recovery and proved to be a model patient.
Juliet and Jasmine were both surprised and delighted to receive the news that, just three weeks after this traumatic incident, they were able to collect Penny and take her home. “I just can’t thank Matt and his team enough” she commented. “From the time we arrived with Penny, to the time we picked her up, they have been incredibly kind and supportive. We were so worried about Penny but we knew she was in the best possible hands and I was confident that if anybody could save her it would be NEH”.
Penny still has a long way to go. It will be some time still before she can start to do any exercise, but surgeon Matt Smith is optimistic that she will return to full function and Jasmine was clearly delighted to be reunited with her pony.