Meet Reuben – 12.8.2017


The recent Creek Fire in Los Angeles County displaced hundreds of horses and even more people.  There were many, many heroes that rescued horses, people, and property.  I was called to be part of that effort:  a very small part.

One of my responsibilities was to oversee the care of three horses injured in the fire.  One of the horses was singed by the fire, but mostly unharmed.  Another suffered injuries so serious that she had to be put to sleep, even after three days of round-the-clock treatment efforts.  The third is Reuben.  In case you’re wondering, I’m posting this (and future updates) with the permission of Reuben’s owner.

Reuben is a 12 year old stallion – I’m not sure his breeding, but he looks mostly like a Quarterhorse.  He’s used for escaramuza (the Spanish word for “skirmish”), where female riders in traditional Mexican costume twirl and dance through a high speed equestrian ballet.  It looks like this:

Reuben had a rough time in the fires.  He came in quite sore, with obvious superficial burns.  The heat from the fire was so intense that it caused red blood cells inside his body to pop.  His urine was almost the color of coffee.  He’s been on intravenous fluids, topical wound care, antibiotics, and pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs.  He’s doing OK, all in all, given all that happened to him.

I’m writing this because of the intense interest that’s been generated by this fire disaster, as well as others.  I don’t need anything, or any donations, or any direct help.  I know how much interest there is, and I thought that you might want to see how Reuben is doing from time to time.

Reuben’s face is pretty swollen.  He took most of the heat on the right side of his face.  When he came in, his right eyelids were almost swollen shut, but his eye was OK.  Over the next few days, his eyelids have gotten less swollen.  He’s got a few areas that may peel some skin – it’s a little too early to tell yet.

You can see where he got burned.  Honestly, he’s lucky it wasn’t a lot worse.  He may lose some skin in some of these areas, too – it can take a couple of weeks before the body gets everything sorted out.

On the side shots, you can see that there’s a lot of swelling under his belly (and under his chest).  According to those who have treated far more burned horses than I have, this happens.  It’s a result of all of the trauma and heat.  This should go away in a few days, with any luck.

Right now, Reuben is getting pain medication twice a day, and he’s getting his wounds cleaned and dressed daily.  Even after his third bath today, we’re still washing charred hair out of his very short coat.  I’m using a mixture of silver sulfadiazene (SSD) cream and raw honey to treat his wounds,  Honey is used in human burn wards, and my friend in south Australia, Dr. Elizabeth Herbert, who had to treat a number of such horses that were burned in fires there a couple of years back, found that it worked really well for her.

He’s eating and drinking well.  His temperature today was 101.2 degrees Fahrenheit – just very slightly above normal, but about what I’d expect.  He’s getting walked around a bit to help with the swelling.  He enjoys the attention.  So far, so good.

Now, for some thank yous.

Thanks to the Valley Hive on Topanga Canyon Blvd, Chatsworth, CA, for donating the largest jar of honey that I’ve ever seen.  Check them out at  They’re wonderful people, and they have a really cool demonstration hive inside the store.

Thanks to Zoetis.  Zoetis is a big pharmaceutical company.  They reached out to me today, and are sending some fluids, antibiotics, and a few other supplies that Reuben might need.

Thanks to Patterson Veterinary Supply and to Henry Schein Veterinary Supply.  They are chipping in with some additional supplies.  I’m going to put Reuben on some ulcer medication – obviously, he’s had a stressful few days.  And we’re going through the SSD cream pretty quickly – as you might imagine, it takes a good bit of that to cover most of a horse.

All of this help means that Los Angeles County won’t have to cover any of the medication costs.  LA County is covering the costs for care out of the “Noah’s Legacy” fund, set up to take care of animals in trouble.  Although there are always animals in need, in lots of places, if you’re so inclined, I know they’d appreciate your help.

Lastly, thanks to Dr. Rachel Sechar, who worked along with me on the first day.  Thanks to Cammie, the intrepid LVT from LA County Animal Care, who stayed up for 30 hours until they told her she had to go home – and then came back six hours later.  Thanks to Megan for overseeing the efforts at Pierce College, and to Lisa for trying to sort out the whole mess.  We’ll thank those caring for Reuben now a bit later.  Like I said, there are lots of heroes out there.

Stay tuned.  I’ll try to post updates every week or so – maybe more often if anything significant happens.  Right now though, Reuben’s doing OK.  Keep your fingers crossed.

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