SHERIDAN — By the time rider, skier and horse cross the finish line, at least one athlete is dripping sweat and huffing, muscles rippling after sprinting down a snow-packed course under an unusually warm February sun. Horses negotiated melting snow by midday Saturday during skijoring, which led to an early shut-down of the event Sunday afternoon.
Twenty-year veterinarian Sarah Schreiber was prepared for almost anything this WYO Winter Rodeo. With one major injury on Saturday near the finish line, Schreiber said the incident was exactly what she and her colleagues are watching for and prepared to treat.
Course conditions were better in the morning than afternoon Saturday, when the man-made snow pack softened and increased the likelihood of a horse injury, Schreiber said. Rodeo staff were on site to salt the course throughout the day as necessary.
Saturday afternoon, a horse fell front-end-first though did not appear to roll, Schreiber said. Vet staff were concerned about the horse for the first 24 hours of care. As of Monday morning, Schreiber said the horse is doing well.
Three trailers were staged around the course with equipment for intravenous fluids for horse treatment if necessary. While perhaps not the ideal location for on-site veterinary care — in the midst of a packed crowd along Broadway Street — Schreiber said event organizers and surrounding businesses “rolled out the red carpet” for vet staff.
After the horse fell, Schreiber said they immediately transported the horse to one of the trailers and to the Moxey Schreiber Veterinary Hospital where they took videographs of the injured area, which were sent to specialists in Red Lodge. Initially, the specialists saw fractures, Schreiber said, but now it appears the horse sustained only soft tissue injuries.
Schreiber has been a rodeo vet “on and off” for 20 years. This was her second year as a vet at the skijoring event and on the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board.
“We are here in case something catastrophic happens,” Schreiber said. “A horse goes down — any kind of major injury that we need to be here right now.”
She has treated a variety of injuries and conditions during summer rodeo, from broken legs to sole abscesses. Schreiber said she has been impressed with Winter Rodeo the past two years for the lack of animal injuries, despite a few unfortunate human crashes.
She treated one horse for general medical needs unrelated to skijoring Saturday. Schreiber and her eight colleagues checked the course regularly for ground conditions when horses started to stumble and monitored a group of people on horseback helping to slow the racers down at the end of the course.
“Once a horse leaves this snow and hits asphalt, it’ll fall down at a run,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber’s associate, Sammie Perkins, watched horses at the starting end of the course to ensure they were “sound” — that none looked lame or had an obvious injury. In her conversations with riders, Sheridan’s skijoring course has higher quality terrain than others. Some horses at the event Saturday were shoeless, whereas it’s important to have horses shod on icier courses, she said.
Perkins and Schreiber communicated via radio in preparation for if a horse went down on the track. They were ready to treat animals on site if possible, depending on the severity of the injury, Perkins said. In just the second year of a town-favorite event, the WYO Rodeo Board set the tone for a safe environment for equine competitors, on and off the course.