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Horsemanship and veterinary care lessons learned at Grandpa’s knee.

By Bob Moats DVM

My Grandpa came to Saskatchewan from Gus Iowa in 1902. He had grown up on a hog farm. He moved to my hometown of Riceton in 1908. He was not a horseman in the sense that we think of it today. The tractor of his farming career was Percheron horses and mules. When I left home I had never seen a horses foot trimmed with its foot off the ground. Grandpa used bull trimmers which were a giant long handled pair of cutting pliers with bevelled head. These were used by trimming off excess usually flared hoof with the foot on the ground.

I often say that by the age of 10 I had learned the wrong way to do everything. This is by and large true, but there were many lessons to be learned just the same. In the 1950’s My Grandfather religiously put waste oil on every cut that occurred. In my very early memory, probably 1953-54, I remember one of our draft horses with a “frozen turkey” cut. That is a horizontal deep cut across the chest, 1-3 feet in length. These were called frozen turkey
cut because they looked so big that you could throw a frozen turkey in the hole and lose the turkey.

Billy Mitten, the trainer who had taken “Duke” the stallion to the Toronto royal fair and won many awards, said to put waste oil the cut. Billy “knew everything” so Grandpa did. Grandpa was diligent and the cut over time healed beautifully. In Grandpa’s mind this validated the use of waste oil on all cuts.

What Grandpa didn’t know, and many people today don’t know is that “frozen turkey” cuts will heal beautifully in spite of us rather than because of our treatment efforts no matter what they are. Cuts in this location and on the arms and gaskins are best allowed to heal unmolested and do beautifully.

As an aside you may recall advertisements in horse magazines extolling the virtues of wound remedies and showing a series of pictures to “prove” it. What these ads missed is that left alone wounds in these locations do just as well. The important veterinary issue when a horse is cut is to be sure the tetanus vaccination is current. There are of course many body locations that require very specific and diligent treatment.

One very prominent old-timer in the Fraser valley says quite correctly that frozen turkey cuts should be treated by turning out in the pasture the farthest from the house so no one will see it and it will heal with little or no mark.

The story above shows that even before “DR Google” misinformation and blatant falsehoodsvwere part of the world of veterinary medicine, but there were and are still lessons to be learned from it.