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We Are Flying Solo

March 5, 2013

The C Word

No, not that word.  Although I hate that one too.  But I have now officially decided I hate this one more:


It sends a shudder down any horse owner's spine, that unpredictable monster hidden deep in your horse's guts which can twist and cramp and snatch his life away from you in a matter of hours.

Yeah, it scares the living bejeezus out of me.

Sunday night, I was on feeding duty and noticed Encore had stopped eating mid-meal and walked out of his shed.  He stood making funny faces for a minute and I watched with concern, as he is a steady, if slow, eater who works his way through the meal, then goes and gets a drink.  He returned to eating and I continued my rounds, but with a yellow warning light in my head.

As I finished turning out the herds, I returned to my pasture and found Encore standing rather pitifully by the shed divider next to Solo, with a sad eye and a half-finished meal.  He peed and it appeared he was dehydrated.  Now that light turned to red.

I led him down the barn, his head hanging, his feet dragging at a slow walk, which hardly helped as this TB usually takes a big swinging step that I can't keep up with.

I called the vet on the way down and put him in stall with warm water while I simultaneously crouched in the dark with my ear against Encore's belly and tried to carry on a conversation with Dr. Bob's junior vet.  He got some very mushy food with bute mixed in and I went to hang out in the BO's house for an hour to see what happened.

I was kindly fed a delicious dinner while I worried, but I came out to find my horse perky, with good gut sounds, and when I led him up to his pasture, he took a drink from his trough and wandered off to comfort an annoyed Solo.  Driving home, I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed an "all clear" text from the BO Monday morning.

Yeah right.  Never worked for him either.
So you can imagine my blood pressure when instead, my phone rang at 10 am and I answered it to a, "Well...."

Encore had eaten his breakfast, but was laying down in the field.  He may have wanted to nap in the sun, but BO put him on the hotwalker to keep him in sight for easy monitoring just in case (Encore's owner may or may not have a reputation for being the crazy lady...).  The horse got some more bute and mushy alfalfa pellets, but no more dry hay, and he was relegated to a prison cell for water and poop monitoring.  His owner was forced to drive to Southern Pines for a work presentation, a fine chance to work on her stomach ulcers.

After flying back north following work, I arrived to find Encore pouting quite noisily in his cell, demanding release after knocking one water bucket over, although hopefully at least drinking part of it.  I stirred a possibly illegal amount of salt and electrolytes into an alfalfa pellet mush and confess to being slightly shocked that he actually ate it, albeit stopping and slapping his tongue out after every bite at the brine component.

Oh, because we have a really important thing in 5 days!
He was left in his prison last night, in hopes that the salt would force his mouth to eventually shrivel up and force him to drink.  His guts were moving so he is allowed to be pardoned pending empty buckets.  I await my notification this morning with guarded optimism.  He will certainly be kept on electrolytes for the rest of the week.

Our insanely bipolar weather is no doubt to blame, although the biologist in me finds it completely nonsensical that weather should have any effect on a endothermic animal's digestive system.  But Dr. Bob and his junior sidekick were all over the place tending to moaning horses, so it wasn't just us.  When it is 60-20-50-30-70-20-55-20-30 all of us are just damn confused.  It will be 70 today and then 42 again tomorrow.  I curse they bones, climate change...


  1. Oh boy, do I know how you feel. My girl has been scoped for ulcers, been treated twice despite not having any ulcers to speak of (even cleared for hind gut ulceration), and continues to have low grade colic every once in a while. The vet's diagnosis? "She's just THAT sensitive" ****, Sherlock!

    Those TB types, New England weather just doesn't sit well with them...

  2. Ever since my horse had mild colic due to dehydration a couple years ago I'm constantly shoving electrolytes in him.

  3. I knew exactly which C word you meant when I saw the title on my blogroll. I hate that C word too. HATE.

    I am so glad Encore's feeling better. Colic is scary as crap. Sending good thoughts for even more recovery!

  4. I'm with Lindsay... I knew which one you were talking about(And I hate them both too). Wishing both of you well as we wait out pitiful March!

  5. Thank you for well wishes! He is definitely being salted to death and I've kept him on u-guard tummy soother ever since I've owned him. Little (big) brat did not drink much in his stall last night and kicked over more buckets in protest, so finally gave up and turned him out. At least it's raining so everything he eats is wet!

    We're not supposed to have New England weather in North Carolina! *cries*

    Solo is such an indestructible rock when it comes down to the big things, he spoiled me. I think you could throw him off a cliff and he'd just get up and shake off the dust. This stuff just gives me bad juju.

  6. I've only had 2 horses colic on me but its AWFUL. Glad he's sort of OK. I'm suprised no one at our barn has coliced because we are having MAJOR temp fluxes too.

  7. I still don't know why Vannah had a colic episode back in September. And yes, it scared the crap out of me, too. I'm not usually an owner who calls the vet out at a drop of a hat, but Vannah's actions gave me bad juju that evening. It's just a bad feeling, that bad juju. Vannah's been a happy camper since - but I've given up the pelleted feed for plain oats and supplement. Hopefully the red young'un will follow in her venerable hoofprints and be healthy (if only for your coronary health).

  8. Yikes. The worst feeling. Hope all is well.

  9. Thanks -- it is a horrible feeling. I feel better after chatting with the most lovely of our barn helpers tonight, she understands the horse mom worry! He was reported looking well this afternoon, perky and grazing and now everything is soaking wet, so he can't even lick his lips without getting moisture, LOL!

  10. oh god....jingling it all ends ok in the next few days!

  11. Colic scares me like few others can. I keep Harley on ABC's Plus as part of my management/prevention plan.

    I hope Encore is feeling better. Remember that climate change involves pressure changes as well as temperature changes. I think it is the pressure change that reaps havoc on their GI system, especially when it comes to gas colic.

    I blame climate change in part for my horses allergy problem. Sure it could have flared up because he is aging, but I think having a warm winter(s) that did not kill stuff does not help any.

  12. Im soory! We are dealing with bi-polor weather too. The other bad C word is choke which I have had a few of

  13. I've always been parinoid about colic. I've walked many a colicy horses until the vet arrived and stuck around doing everything the vet suggested. I always thought my paranoia would save me from ever losing a horse to the C word. But sadly it wasn't the case and I lost my best boy last summer. Now I am on even more high alert. My heart stops when I see my horses laying down even if they are just taking a nap...

  14. Val, it really must be the pressure, and it makes sense given the interesting tweaks in management I noticed with the horses at very high altitude when we were in the Andes. We had to be very very careful with food and water or they would colic at the drop of a hat. Oh and I agree with your allergy theory -- we are seeing the same thing in people, like my boss, who has terrible sinuses!

    And ugh, I HATE choke, I have seen and helped with some ugly ones. Poor horses, I feel so bad for them when they can barely breathe and I am helpless!

    KK, so sorry about your body. I seen two lovely horses get taken by colic and though they weren't mine, it was absolutely devastating and I too give everyone a very paranoid stare when they are laying down.