Injured brood mare flown to hospital in helicopter harness

  • A brood mare with a leg injury had to be carried suspended from a helicopter on her way to hospital as the snow at her home near Zurich was too deep for her to be transported by road.

    Maya Jones’s 13-year-old Rheemah is still in hospital, and fighting a mystery infection, but Maya is hopeful she will be able to come home soon.

    Maya told H&H she found Rheemah unable to get up, in her stable last Friday morning (26 March).

    “I had no idea what had happened,” she said. “I thought she might be trying to give birth too early as she was pushing and couldn’t get up. It was a mystery.”

    The vet found a small swelling on one hind leg, which was found to be a dislocated fetlock.

    “I don’t know how it happened,” Maya said. “She may have twisted it in the field; she was born here and knows every stone and corner, but maybe she stumbled on a rock, which has happened to me too.”

    The vet put a cast on Rheemah’s leg.

    “Once he’d given her some medicine, we managed to get her up; it would have been dangerous to leave her lying so long,” Maya said.

    The vet also said Rheemah needed to be treated in hospital and owing to the yard’s mountainous location, and the 50cm of snow that had recently fallen, the only way was by air; in a special harness carried by a helicopter.

    “The guys who took her were so professional,” Maya said. “They knew exactly what they were doing. They put a heavy cast on her leg, and then sedated her to just the right level, so she could still stand, but not be nervous.

    “They put a mask on her so she couldn’t see anything, and put special little ‘tampons’ in her ears so she couldn’t hear the helicopter. When I saw her being lifted, I thought ‘oh gosh’, but she was perfectly calm. It was hard to watch but they were so professional, and you’re just focusing on helping her. All the what-ifs came later, as you just want to get her to the clinic as soon as possible, and that was the only way.”

    Continues below…

    Maya has since learned that this sort of air rescue is common for horses and cattle in the mountains, although she had never needed it before. After a short flight, Maya was loaded on a special trailer and taken to the clinic in Zurich.

    Vets at the hospital treated the injury, and although Rheemah may suffer arthritis later and so not be able to carry a foal, things were looking bright. Then, sadly, she lost her foal and picked up a mystery infection.

    “The vets did everything but they couldn’t save her baby,” Maya said. “They’re trying a new antibiotic now, so I hope that will help but the only thing I can do at the moment is pray and hope, and ask my friends to do the same.”

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