Well I was only two days into my barn owner / landlord role and what happens? I arrived at the barn for evening feeding at about 5:30. As I began to clean Val's stall out I heard Cowboy calling out to me in an urgent way. He hadn't come to greet me as usual so I went over to investigate. He was very lame with an extremely swollen leg. I called the owners, got some bute out and started cold hosing the leg. He had had some swelling in the same fetlock just a few nights before which confused the issue somewhat.
The confusion was cleared up pretty quickly. While cleaning his pen we discovered a very dead water moccasin, who had gotten the business end of a hoof or two. He was frozen on the strike posture and cut nearly in half.
Now comes the fun part. While the owners came to grips with the reality of the situation, I contacted the nearest equine vet. I got hold of the doctor on call (of course it was after hours) and she walked me through the options. Nearest anti-venom was located about a six hour drive away. This presented several problems as it was questionable how effective anti-venom would be that many hours after the bite. It was also questionable whether we could even get Cowboy on the trailer at all, but especially without him getting agitated. We tried for about 15 minutes but it wasn't happening. The (very accommodating) vet agreed to call in the meds he would need to our "local" practice (still 1 1/2 hours drive) , walked me through how to care for him overnight and what to look out for until we got antibiotics in him.
I dreaded going down to the barn this morning, but was ecstatic to find Cowboy, super hungry, standing on the bit leg and looking bright and alert. We were able to get the im penicillin in him to my relief... besides not loading well he's also bad about shots. And you should see the size of the needle - I'd want to avoid that shot myself.
His leg looks pretty terrible but the swelling seems to have peaked. The owners have a complicated treatment and recovery to look forward to, but if we avoid infection he should be alright.
Big thanks to Dominion Equine in Suffolk, Va. for giving us the assistance we needed in an emergency. We will be recommending them in the future. (but I hope I can avoid needing their services!)