The connections of a three-year-old standardbred filly are counting their lucky stars that they still have their horse, with much of the thanks going to the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust.
A week before New Zealand’s lockdown, Keisha, a filly by Sportswriter, faltered and went off stride at the 1300m point in the home straight during her race at Addington Raceway on August 13. She had been leading the race when she suffered a potentially life-threatening injury.
Keisha was diagnosed by the on-course vet with a serious injury to the near hind leg, with x-rays subsequently revealing a non-displaced fracture of the tibia — the bone between the stifle and hock.
“This type of injury can be catastrophic when it occurs mid-race, as with further weight-bearing, this type of fracture often propagates into a displaced fracture,” said equine veterinary surgeon Dr Bill Bishop.
Quick thinking by Keisha’s driver, Korbyn Newman, in pulling her up immediately, and the use of a horse ambulance to transport the filly with minimal stress to the Canterbury Equine Clinic, meant the fracture remained intact.
“We were very grateful for the help the ambulance provided without causing any more stress or hurt to the horse,” said trainer John Dunn.
One of the advantages of the horse ambulance is its hydraulic system that lowers the float to the ground. It means that if a horse is injured and cannot walk up a ramp it can enter at ground level, which also minimises further injury.
With supervised box rest over the next 12 weeks or so the fracture should heal with Keisha returning to full soundness. From nine starts this season, Keisha won twice and was second once, so her future is secure as a broodmare.
The primary aim of the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust is to give horses like Keisha, who are injured on the racetrack or in training, the best potential outcome for recovery.
There are now eight mobile units in operation, which are based in Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Canterbury and Otago/Southland. An ambulance is on track at every thoroughbred race meeting in New Zealand, most thoroughbred trials and all principal harness race meetings. A further two ambulances will complete the fleet, ensuring presence at all thoroughbred and harness race meetings, and will also benefit other equestrian sports such as eventing and show jumping.
The horse ambulances, designed and custom-built in New Zealand are a world-class asset and have helped highlight the importance of equine welfare in the community.