Worth every minute: horse who fractured skull in freak accident survives to win national recognition

  • The owner of a horse who fractured his skull and badly injured his leg in a freak field accident hopes his return to health will be of comfort to anyone in a similar situation.

    Cecilia Dean’s Hanoverian dressage horse Overstone Monet was a finalist in the recent Petplan pet awards survivor of the year category, three years after he was found stuck in a tree.

    Cecilia told H&H she had bought “Monster” as a dressage schoolmaster, and on the day of the accident, she had arranged to ride with a friend after work.

    “I met my friend on the drive and she said ‘Monster’s stuck in a tree’,” Cecilia said. “I thought, what?

    “I don’t know to this day how he did it but we found him lying down, with his back leg wedged between two trees, about one to two feet up. He was trying to get up but couldn’t work out that he couldn’t, so he kept trying, and smacking his head back down really hard on a tree root.”

    Cecilia had had to have two of her older horses put down on the same day, two weeks beforehand.

    “I was a bit of a broken woman,” she said. “We called the vet but I said ‘Sorry, mate, I can’t watch my horse of a lifetime trying to kill himself’. My friend said she’d stay with him because I couldn’t handle any more.”

    Cecilia went to a nearby farm, and told the farmer what had happened.

    Picture by Alex Sharp Photography

    “He said he’d had the same happen to cows and got out a chainsaw; I said ‘you can’t use that!’” Cecilia said. “He said ‘do you want him out or not?’

    “So good old Robin and his chainsaw came. I was a gibbering wreck, but thinking as long as I could hear the sawing, he was still alive.”

    Monster was freed but would not get to his feet, so the farmer went to get a tractor, with the aim of digging underneath and putting down rugs, to try to get the horse back up the hill towards the yard.

    “The vet had been the one to put the other two down and he said ‘I’m not giving up’,” Cecilia said. “It goes without saying that it was raining and getting dark; my dad thought it was all over.

    “I needed something to do so I mucked out his stable. Everything was awful but then I heard something. I went outside, and there was my friend, leading Monster.

    “He was a mess, covered in blood, but I was hugging him and wouldn’t let go.”

    Monster had not needed to be helped upright, as the noise of the tractor had scared him to his feet, but he had “a few issues”, the vet said.

    He had fractured his skull and damaged a tear duct, but the leg that had been stuck looked fine, at that point.

    “He got better but about a month later, my friends sent me away on holiday, and when I came back, there was pus coming from somewhere on his leg. All the tissue had died, so although it had looked absolutely fine, it was quietly dying underneath. The vet cut it all back, until you could pretty much see the bone.

    Warning, very graphic wound images

    “I asked if he was going to be ok, and the vet said his chances of survival were about 50/50.”

    Monster could not be given any more antibiotics, so the vet said his best chance was to have the wound scrubbed with a toothbrush, twice a day.

    “It was the most vomit-worthy thing ever; it was dripping with pus,” Cecilia said.

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    “It was so grim — but anything for Monster. I scrubbed it twice a day, every day; I wanted to vomit every time but I wasn’t going to lose him. And he got better.

    “It was a real honour to be a finalist in the awards, and nice for him to be recognised. There must be other people going through similar situations, and sometimes they do end well.

    “He fought his way through and hopefully other people can take heart from that.”

    Monster will not compete again, but Cecilia said this does not matter to her.

    “He’s an old boy now anyway and I’m so glad I’ve got him,” she said. “He can go for the odd plod round the roads but if I couldn’t ride him, I wouldn’t have cared.

    “It was all absolutely worth it. He’s my horse of a lifetime who’s done everything for me; a hero of a horse who owes me nothing, I owe him everything.”

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