Horse Care


September 2009

Cherry Hill's
Horsekeeping Almanac

Health Care
on a Small Acreage
Horse Housing
Horse Handling
& Grooming
How To Think
Like A Horse
Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
Horse Housing
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill

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Rattlesnake Bite !!

  2009 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Day 1 (continued)

8-28 - Friday SHOCK DAY

Each soaking would require 2-4 cups of Epsom Salt.

Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. In this application, Epsom salt helps reduce inflammation as it dehydrates, or draws excess fluid through the skin.

As the vet drove away, I looked at my poor mare, barely able to lift her foot an inch off the ground and with swelling now so massive in her forearm and elbow area as to create a sharp shelf of tissue with a deep crease all around her forearm and into her chest. A horse's skin can't really stretch to accommodate such massive swelling - it is painful and could even rupture so my job was to get the swelling down as fast as I could. I did this with cold hosing and massage until Richard got back from the closest town with a grocery store - he almost wiped out their Epsom salt supply.

As I waited for Richard's return, I got things ready for my SCRAM therapy which is what I was telling the swelling - SCRAM !!

SCRAM = Soak, Compress, Rinse And Massage. SCRAM.

The SCRAMs took place in our wash rack, or wash stall, which is an 8' wide by 12' long space open to the main aisle of the barn at on end and with a sliding door to the outside tie area at the other end. It has cross ties at both ends so a horse can be positioned to face in either direction. There is a sink with hot and cold water along one wall and it has a concrete floor that slopes to a center drain.

When Richard got back, I did the first SCRAM session - taking HANDS ON to a new level !!

We devised a method whereby he lifted Seeker's hoof up off the ground about one inch and I quickly slipped the empty bucket in that space and we simultaneously placed her foot and the bucket down with her hoof in the center of the bottom of the bucket. I'd then add the Epsom salt solution (2 cups per gallon of warm-hot water) to the bucket. While Seeker's left front soaked, I mixed up another batch of Epsom salt solution to use for compresses. I put on cotton gloves and rubber gloves over them to protect my hands from the salt water. I plunged terry cloth towels into the compress mix bucket, then partially wrung them out and wrapped them alternately around her knee, forearm and chest floor. I'd hold them in place and gently massage but even that was obviously very painful for Seeker. Her skin was stretched to the max. She kept her left foot solidly in the bucket but when I did something too painful, she bobbed her head and tapped the toe of her right hind shoe on the wash rack floor.

After the twenty minute soak, we removed the bucket in a reverse procedure to the bucket placement, dumping the water as I tipped the bucket to remove it.

I rinsed the salt off Seeker's leg and then buffed her leg dry adding as much massaging as she would tolerate. I found that one thing that seemed to be soothing to her was to gently scratch her leg (I have medium/short fingernails). This seemed to relieve some itching that the swelling was creating. Another method that seemed tolerable was to grab her entire forearm with both of my hands like a football, for example and gently rock my hands back and forth to stimulate the skin layers. As time went on I tried various types of manual massage and pressure to help in moving fluids out and get the hard swelling to turn into a softer, more normal tissue.

A full SCRAM session took 30-45 minutes.

I turned Seeker back into her pen, leading her down to the far end so when I turned her loose I could watch her walk of her own volition. This was a helpful means of monitoring her progress. Usually as soon as I turned her loose, she would either walk over to her water barrel or back to her sheltered eating area, her favorite "cave" where she rests 95% of the time she is in her pen.

We bedded the stall adjoining her pen deeply with shavings and allowed her to access any of the areas as she desired, the stall, covered pen or open pen. I wanted to give her a comfortable place to stand. I doubted if she would lay down because it would be difficult for her to do so with her leg so swollen, and even more difficult for her to get up. We added several more tractor buckets of pea gravel from our stockpile to the central area of her outdoor pen so she could have a softer place to stand out there. But horses, being creatures of habit, Seeker mostly chose to stand in her rubber matted eating area of her sheltered pen where she seemed to feel very safe and content. We secured two buckets of water along one side of the matted eating area and one inside the stall so that Seeker could drink in any of 3 places depending on where she was, and without a lot of walking.

The 4 puncture wounds seeped small amounts of serum and blood.

I gave Seeker three more SCRAM session that first afternoon, about every 2 hours.

After each SCRAM, about 20 minutes later I would observe droplets of serum and blood dried around the fang marks.

I designated 7AM and 7PM as med times, so at 7 PM, I administered the bute and penicillin.


There are quite a number of Dos and Don'ts associated with IM injection of antibiotics so if you are not experienced with the procedure, get full guidance from your veterinarian.

Liquid antibiotics like the Procaine Penicillin prescribed by my vet, must be kept refrigerated and yet they need to be mixed by shaking and warmed to room temperature before administering.

For IM injections, into deep muscle, you need a long needle, 1 ½" long. To allow the thick antibiotic to flow, you need a fairly large needle, 18 gauge. To prevent possible contamination, you will need a new needle for each injection. After injection, dispose of used needles safely.

Use various sites on the horse for long term therapy because repeated injection in the same site can cause extreme muscles soreness. Rotating between the two sides of the neck and the hamstrings (buttocks) is often the best way to go. Again, confer with your vet.

About 9:30 PM I did the final SCRAM of the day.

I got up once during the night about 2 AM to check on Seeker and she was standing peacefully in her stall in middle of the deep pile of shavings.


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