On December 11th, I (Ulla) went to the Turf Club to take pictures of horses and jockeys. The overall handling of the horses was sad to see, they arrive in open trucks, together with the grooms and jockeys, all standing very close together on the loading platform, reaching the race course already stressed, then after offloading, getting tied to trees. No vet is in charge to check their conditions.
I saw Mr K, a white gelding, strikingly calm under a tree, showing obvious signs of body pain. He was in a depressed mood, his dull coat showed he was in bad condition, moreover, his hind legs had some superficial injuries that were treated with blue antibiotic spray. I asked why they want him to race in this condition.
The groom denied my observations and said he would be ok. At the race track, he suddenly was hyperactive, I can imagine they boosted [drugged] him. After 2/3 of the racecourse, he fell down. Mr K injured both front legs, he wasn’t able to get up. People were standing around, no one seemed to be able to handle the situation. The jockey said the horse tripped over a plant, which can be possible. The race course is never maintained, has holes and long dangerous climbing plants on the ground.
I eventually spoke to the owner and asked him if I should call a vet and he agreed. After calling all horse vets in Accra, I finally got one who accepted to come see the horse later at the stable in Labadi (Stable Labona Beach, Accra). No one could be convinced to come to the race course in Tema (a bit out of Accra). Veterinarians usually shy away from the horse community in Accra because they've had bad experiences working with them, a whole issue on its own that needs to be changed.
At the racetrack, they simply pulled Mr K to the side and continued the race. Two more rounds were to go, no one ever checked the track for holes or other trip hazards.
Later, I went to town on my own to meet the grooms and horse at their stable in Labadi. I was glad I hadn’t seen the transport: they literally squeezed Mr K into a tricycle, lying tight together with neck and legs, when they reached the stable, they had to pull him out, another traumatic moment for the horse.
Dr. Enoch Obeng arrived and scrutinized the front legs. At first sight it seemed that there was no fracture, but injuries at ligaments. He gave painkillers and anti-inflammatory, and we agreed he'd return the next day.
While all this was happening, I had been in contact with Eva Lydeking [whose ranch, HorseSafety often uses while raising money for their own]. She told me to get kickboxing or football shin guards to support Mr K's legs.
On the second day of treatment, Dr. Obeng gave Mr K injections.
When I came on the third day to check on him, I found him at 1pm alone, lying dehydrated in the sun, sweating, without water around, no person in sight. I spoke to the owner earlier in the day who said he had “treated him” - meaning given food and water. Eventually I got some kids and the jockey to help me, getting water and giving him food with supplements that I brought along.
The main issue was that the stable could not provide a clean and shady place for Mr K, he was lying in the heat, grooms did not manage to pull him into shade or to provide the care he needed. It became obvious that the horse would not survive at the current place and Eva offered to take him to her ranch. The owner of Mr K also agreed that I could take him. It was obvious that he himself, as the owner, would not be willing nor be able to provide further treatment.
With the horses that HorseSafety took already, I experience how owners appreciate deeply how they transform and heal, how their horses enjoy the healthy environment, they won’t take them back anyway. In case of Mr K, he will never race again even if he gets back on his legs, he only would be a burden for the owner.
So I arranged the transport to Eva's ranch, but first we were going to get him x-rayed. When we reached the clinic in the morning, it turned out to be a misunderstanding: the x-ray machine could not be dismantled as discussed, Mr K obviously could not walk into their rooms, so he could only get a new dosage of painkillers and tranquilizers for the road. It was very frustrating to have done this extra journey to the clinic with him, then not getting the x-ray, but at least he had some medications for making transport a bit easier.
When we reached Eva's place, it was again a challenge to get Mr K out of the truck (already to get him inside we had several men lifting him), but we did, with support of a tarpaulin that made it easier to pull him. Finally he got in his stable, could get feed and water and rest. Eva then made a better bandage, some days later a cast.
Today Mr K shows strong mental will, a good immune system, and a very kind character. He gets up and down regularly to change position, eats, drinks, and digests well. He is stressed from anything hectic, he is deeply traumatized, he must have been through a lot.
We are confident that the ligaments will heal. The challenge are his wounds from lying in sawdust all the time. Eva and her grooms, Eddie and Emma, do the best they can to treat them constantly. For the moment there is no sign of infection.
Another challenge is the funding of the costs we incur from this treatment. We could raise a little money when the accident happened, but getting regular donations is still difficult.
At the same time is Mr K is helping us a lot to get more visibility and recognition in the race community. He is a well known race horse, people talk about him and his healing. If we get him back in physical and mental health, it will be a great promotion of our work, and of course it will be wonderful for Mr K.