Arjun, Orient Express and It’s My Style of the mounted police would have been trotting up and down the streets had there been a horse hospital to treat their broken bones.
Unfortunately, the police didn’t have any facility to treat injured horses on their roster and the trio had died within a week of their accidents over the past decade.
Cut to 2014. Tipu Sultan, a 14-year-old champion charge from the mounted police stables, was lucky to escape the curse of fatal fractures. He became the first patient at the Calcutta police’s full-fledged medical unit for their ailing horses, especially those who had suffered a broken bone or two in an accident.
“Injured horses were left untreated in the past and most of these animals succumbed within a week or so. When Tipu Sultan suffered a heavy concussion injury on the long pastern bone of its right hind limb, we decided to operate on it and felt the need to set up this unit,” said a senior officer at Lalbazar.
Tipu Sultan, the winner of several awards at national-level tent-pegging competitions, had a successful surgery a couple of months ago. He was found limping in his stable one morning in June and it was suspected that the 450kg horse had hurt itself in sleep, which is not uncommon among animals.
“It was the first Calcutta police horse to undergo an operation. Tipu Sultan is currently recuperating in an air-conditioned unit of the mounted police headquarters on SN Banerjee Road,” the officer said.
“Recovery takes time… if he walks again, we may consider him for light duties,” said Arvind Mishra, the officer-in-charge of the mounted police.
Veterinarian Surajit Basu, associated with the mounted police, said the medical unit has facilities for ultrasound tests, muscle stimulation, nebulisation and ECG. “We will have a physiotherapy machine for the horses.”
Basu, a specialist from Tolly Club, and three surgeons from the West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Science performed the surgery and the fracture was fixed with two 4.5mm cortical screws.
The limb has been put in a fibre cast, similar to ones used for treating human fractures.
If Tipu Sultan does not get “fit enough” for duty, he would lead the life of a “retired police horse”.
The mounted police have 70 horses on their roster, of which 10 are “retired” and enjoy “post-retirement benefits”. “The retired horses enjoy the same facilities… and they go for morning and evening walks,” Mishra added.
Tipu Sultan’s surgery was not the first in Calcutta. Officials at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club said injured racehorses or the ones attached to the club’s riding circle undergo surgery at their medical facility.
“Nearly 80 per cent of horses with small fractures return to the racecourse after surgery. But post-surgery recuperating period varies from horse to horse,” said a senior vet of the RCTC.