High Hopes For Horses Injured in South West Fires

Dr Rachael Smith treats a burn on eight-year-old thoroughbred Snoopy.
Dr Rachael Smith treats a burn on eight-year-old thoroughbred Snoopy.

ALL five horses receiving treatment at Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital for burns sustained during the South West bushfires are expected to make a full recovery.

Berti, Patrick, August, Snoopy and Secret have all made good strides since first arriving at the animal hospital earlier this month.

The quintet were among 33 horses stationed at the Western Edge Horseback facility near Logue Brook Dam that was devastated by the blaze.

Business owner Debbie Byett began evacuating the facility at 8.30am the morning of the fire and had ferried 17 children and 13 horses to safety before the inferno arrived at midday.

Incredibly, all 20 of the remaining horses survived the ordeal, with just eight sustaining serious burns.

Five of those eight are now at MUVH under the care of equine specialist and veterinarian-in-charge Rachael Smith.

August, a seven-year-old standardbred bay gelding, is the worst hurt of the five, suffering first and second degree burns to 20 per cent of his body –but Dr Smith is cautiously optimistic that even he will pull through.

“The full extent of the burns is often not apparent until about two to three weeks after the event when the latent damage begins to appear,” she said.

“Every day their burns are changing in appearance as we see deeper tissue declaring whether it is going to live or die.

“We are expecting all of the horses to recover but remain cautious – there are complications they can succumb to such as infection.”

Dr Smith said she had not dealt with an equine burn case in her 14 years at MUVH but was in constant contact with University of Adelaide associate professor of equine health Robin van den Boom.

“Dr van den Boom has been through a similar situation following the Pinery bushfire and they are now six weeks into post-fire period with their horses,” she said.

“All of their horses were home by four weeks so that is what we’re aiming for too – four weeks of intensive nursing and then follow-ups.”

MUVH is providing all care free of charge despite an estimated treatment cost of between $5000 and $10,000 per horse.