I have always prided myself on the fact that none of my personal horses have ever coliced. I’ve had a handful of horses for numerous years with varying temperaments and eating habits and not one has had a colic issue. I’ve always chalked it up to my consistency in feeding, good deworming practices, and overall good horse keeping. Well, I was wrong. Apparently no matter how hard you try to keep your horsey friends from colicing, you may not be able to prevent it.
It all started the day before Thanksgiving. Horses have a way of always timing their vet visits with the most expensive and inconvenient times possible. He was laying down when I went to feed him breakfast at around 7 am that morning. “That’s odd,” I thought. Kona does like to sleep laying down more than your average horse so I told myself he was just napping. He got up and immediately came over to eat as normal. I shrugged my shoulders and went on with chores. Later, I took my daughter into town for some errands and as I drove by Kona’s pasture I saw him, again, laying in the sun. This struck me as slightly odd but still not much cause for concern since he was such a big sleeper anyway. The clincher was when I fed him in the afternoon. I drove up to the pasture in the gator and there he was, laying down in a different location in the pasture. He immediately got up and ate his small dinner with normal bright eyes. However, instead of sticking around for a drink or licking the tub for crumbs as usual, he turned on his haunches to go lay down. I freaked. I walked back to the barn and figured I needed to finish feeding everyone else before we called a vet. I decided to walk him down to the round pen in order to watch him more closely. He pooped while he was laying down. I was relieved he pooped, but laying down?? I had never seen that before.
I called my trainer. I called my husband. I called our vet friend. Maybe it was gas? Maybe it was worse. “It’s never as bad as you think,” I comforted myself. Right?
We had to pick up another horse at the OSU Vet Teaching Hospital in about an hour, so we made the decision to go ahead and take him in. He hadn’t been loaded in about a year and the times before he had refused to back out of our trailer. I was afraid if he tried to turn around again at this age he simply would be too big and either injure himself or me. We had to get there, though. He walked right onto the trailer like a seasoned champ and we drove the few miles to the vet school. It’s times like these that I am so thankful for the position I am in with our boarding barn and having attended OSU. The vet on-call was an old friend from college and the vet assisting (the vet I had called earlier) was none other than one of my full boarders. We got there about 5:30, after hours, and they immediately opened the doors with a team waiting for us. Talk about service! I nervously climbed into the trailer with Kona and unhooked his trailer tie. He turned his head as if to judge the huge drop-off from the trailer to the ground. His eyes went white but he started to slowly back out. Success! He had grown up and learned to back out. That was a great feeling, knowing he was putting trust in me that I wasn’t leading him off the cliff of death.
Once inside, they weighed Kona and put him straight into the stocks. They proceeded to pull blood and start ultra-sounding his abdomen. It was such a relief to hand him over to vets I knew and trusted. The ultra-sound looked pretty normal. Dr. Whitfield rectally examined him and found the issue. It was an pelvic flexure impaction. He removed the blockage and then we made plans for Kona’s recovery. They pumped his belly with a boat-load of mineral oil and gave him a good dose of banamine. Kona stayed the night at the hospital in order to get fluids and watch for more colic signs. Dr. Baumruck called me in the morning with the go-ahead to pick him up. I was so relieved to not get a phone call in the middle of the night. Kona was in the clear and ready to go home.
It took a few days to gradually put him back on his hay and grain, and the poor guy was so hungry! We all joked that no horse should go hungry on Thanksgiving! I’ve definitely learned a few things from this experience. One being to always trust my gut. That morning when I fed, I sensed that he wasn’t okay. We may have been able to avoid an over-night stay at the hospital if I had acted on my instincts then, instead of waiting. Two, that horses all experience pain differently so it doesn’t always appear the same. I have never seen a horse behave quite this way to a colic, but it definitely was a serious colic that would not have got better without help. Lastly, make friends with your vets because you never know when you might need their help, no matter how good a horse owner you are.