Horse who crashed through fence with suspected heart attack was suffering reaction to nettles

A racehorse who was thought to have suffered a heart attack or spinal injury when he was actually having a reaction to nettle stings has been back in the winner’s enclosure.

Vet practice Baker McVeigh Yorkshire shared a video of the thoroughbred in great distress, to raise awareness of the effect nettles can have.

Vet Camilla Nock told H&H the owner thought at first the horse was having a heart attack.

“He sent me the video and I set off immediately, but I was an hour away,” she said.

“By the time I got there, he’d improved and stabilised. We found the swellings on his side and it became apparent nettles were the most likely cause.”

Ms Nock administered corticosteroids but the priority was keeping the horse safe.

“He was falling over every time he tried to get up so we had to keep him down, but we could do that without sedating him,” she said.

“He’d already crashed through a post and rail fence before I got there so he was lucky not to have badly injured himself – he only had superficial cuts and scrapes but it must have been incredibly scary.

“When he first got up, he was wobbly and we wondered whether a spinal injury or neurological problem was the cause and that had caused him to fall into the nettles. But when he made a full recovery, we knew there was no underlying problem.”

The incident took place in early summer and Ms Nock said the horse has raced – and won – since.

She said the practice shared the video to raise awareness, but that she was surprised by the number of people who commented to say they had also experienced the issue.

“Nettles are quite widely used for horses as a supplement, and they have a lot of benefits, but it’s not unknown for them to cause an adverse reaction when a horse rolls in them,” she said.

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“If it does happen, don’t assume they’ve got some terrible injury – some people said they thought the horse had fractured its pelvis – just call the vet and try to keep the horse lying down if it’s not safe on its feet.”

Ms Nock added that “plenty of horses” roll in nettles without negative effects, and it is possible the fact this was a thin-skinned thoroughbred, turned out just after he had been worked, had contributed to the severe reaction.

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