Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Chilcotin Holidays

Late nigh equine vet care in the wilderness – or a story about the need to trust in your horse


In the city, the vet is usually only a phone call away, but it is totally different thing in the wilderness. The practicing vet for the Ranch is located in Vancouver and thereby a 6 hour drive away, nothing that is suitable for a treatment on short-term notice. The situation gets even more complicated when a horse gets sick in the mountains, because the territory is not accessible by vehicle but only by foot or horse.

Last summer, the worst-case scenario happened, and we got a late night call at the Ranch from one of our guides who had a sick horse in camp. Fortunately, it was one of the camps closer to the Ranch, because after some hours of observation, we decided that the horses needed medical treatment. The main issue is that the guide is all alone in making the final decision, because the only connection there exists with the Ranch is through radio or satellite phones. When the final decision was made, it was already around 8 in the evening and the Camp was a around a three hour ride from the Ranch. A friend of mine and me decided to meet the guide half way with the necessary medication and we quickly geared up the horses, packed our saddle bags with the meds, warm clothes, food and water. Fortunately, everyone works together at the Ranch in such emergency situations, so while others were saddling some of our fastest horses, we were able to pack our gear. We decided to take the slightly longer way, because it would allow us to stay in bigger trails where we would be able to ride in a fast pace.

In the forest, light is fading faster than in flat country, so vision was very limited. When operating with horses in the dark, it is not possible to use artificial light, as horses are less able to adjust to sudden changes in brightness and therefore use of head lamps is decreasing their ability to see in areas outside the light. The eyes of horses are very sensitive to weak light, so they are able to see fairly well at dusk and they actually have a superior night vision. Studies have proven that horses are capable of distinguishing between different shades of low light, including moonless nights and wooded areas. So, the inability to use artificial lights left us with one option: trust the horses to get us safely to our destination. Fortunately, all the horses at Chilcotin Holidays know the trails by heart and are able to navigate without guidance by the riders. After roughly two and a half hours of riding at the fastest possible tempo, we finally met the guide coming down from camp. The horse’s situation had fortunately already improved by walking, something usually happening when dealing with colic or other stomach related problems. However, we still treated the horse with the medicine we brought along and took it with us to the Ranch. We arrived back around midnight with three tired, but healthy horses and after a couple days of resting, they were all good to go again.

This story shows how different life is up in the wilderness and what kind of obstacles one can experience that are not common in the city. Living in the mountains requires to be able to think ahead of potential issues and think outside the box. Fortunately, those “adventures” do not happen very often, as the Cayouse Horses that are used by Chilcotin Holidays are rarely getting sick. All our guides, learn about equine vet care, both in general and in the wilderness, so that they are able to treat any diseases or assess whether further treatment through medicine is necessary.

Lea, Germany

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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