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Six-inch piece of ‘deliberately sharpened’ wood found deep in horse’s neck

An 11-year-old boy has been nursing his horse back to health after she had to have surgery to remove a “home-made projectile” that was found embedded in her neck.

Vets suspect the wooden object they removed was “deliberately sharpened” and may have been part of a javelin or fired from a crossbow.

John Howard’s 14.3hh mare Wedi (Private Expresso) was initially thought to have been kicked in the field when a small wound was discovered under her left ear on 18 April.

“I had gone to get the horses in and Wedi is usually the first to the gate but when I called them she stayed at the other end of the field,” said John’s father James, who keeps the horse with his daughter-in-law Hannah Tolley near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.

“When she eventually came to the gate she was standing as if she was concertinaed. We gave her a look over and there was a small hole in her head — at the time we had no idea how serious it was.”

James said Hannah rang the next day saying they needed to call the vet as the wound had become infected. Although the vet investigated, he had been unable to see anything on scans and X-rays owing to the amount of gas, dead tissue and fluid.

“She was given antibiotics and pain relief but it got to the stage where it wasn’t getting worse but it wasn’t getting better — the swelling in her neck wasn’t going down and our vet, Kieran from Patterson Equine, said the easiest thing was to refer her to the veterinary hospital,” James added.

More sensitive scanning and X-ray equipment at B&W veterinary hospital in Gloucestershire located a foreign body in Wedi’s neck that had travelled around 12” from the entry wound. She required surgery to remove the six-inch spike of wood — which had been in her neck for 10 days — and drain the infection site.

She remained at the hospital for two weeks and has recently returned home, where she is still on box rest as the wounds heal.

“She is quite perky at the minute and is lifting and dropping her head down a lot easier than she was, so she is slowly getting better although there is still dead tissue and discharge from the wound,” said James, who has faced a £6,000 bill for her treatment.

“The vets at the hospital have asked for some pictures to see how she is progressing and we are hoping she might be able to go back in the field for a few hours soon.”

James added that it had been “hard on everyone” but that John had “coped well” with the injury to his horse, who he has ridden for the past two years, and had kept the spike of wood “as a memento, although not a very nice one”.

John successfully competes Wedi at dressage, winning the NSEA grassroots intro championship at Kings Equestrian in December last year, and is a big fan of Carl Hester.

“We are hoping it is just a tissue injury and that Wedi will make a full recovery and go back to competing — initially she was holding her neck at an odd angle but now the swelling has almost gone and she seems to have movement back,” James added.

The family had not seen any suspicious activity near the field before Wedi’s injury but has now stepped up checks on the horses.

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“We can’t point fingers as we weren’t there when it happened, so we can’t be certain someone did it deliberately, but the police think it’s possible,” James said.

A spokesman for West Mercia police, which was called after the wood was found, said: “We were called at just before 1pm on 7 May to a report of horse that had been found injured in Tanyard Lane, Ross-on-Wye. It was not possible to determine if the injuries were suspicious or if they occurred accidentally.

“We gave advice to the person who was caring for the horse and our local safer neighbourhood team will continue to monitor the local area.”

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