Life with kids and horses
I just spent the last 3 days dealing with an ‘is it colic’ issue with my horse, Moose. After nights in the barn, constant checking for the magic poo, the money manure, the pièce de resistance. I thought I might help a fellow equestrian out by sharing my magical manure filled, or unfulfilled weekend....
My horse, Moose, has been in my life since he was born... He’s a hilarious 10-year-old jokester. Although, some might call him a dangerous beast (he makes me laugh out loud). One time while leading him into his paddock, he decided he must drag me over to a snowdrift so he could jump into it. Another time he thought it would be funny to attack a riding lawn mower. Like, attack it. Luckily, it was my riding lawnmower. He should have his own Instagram account, he’d be famous. Moose also loves my kids. He is always curious to see if they’ve got a carrot for him (which is like crack and literally makes him insane -don’t give carrots to Moose!)
However, there are limits to his love considering he must keep up his tough-guy persona. When my daughter came bounding into the house to announce that Moose ‘let’ her sit on his back while he was laying down, the alarm bells went off... That was sign number 1.
Out to the paddock I went to find Moose laying quietly in the paddock's corner. Now, laying down isn’t abnormal, but his paddock mate, Snickers, wasn’t going to be allowing me to join the party. He went on the defense, and tried to stay between Moose and I as I tried to near my lazy beast... sign number 2.
I got Moose up, which he didn’t really want to do... some horses will insist they continue their lovely nap, so this might not be a sign of trouble for you, but Moose? He’d usually be up and perky before I could get out my camera for a photo... sign 3.
Up and around he went as I made him walk about. I did this to see if he would try to lay down again. This my friend is a sure sign something is amiss, and you need to call the vet. I’m not being a horse helicopter parent here, colic can cause death, and the longer you wait to call the vet, the more danger you could be in. Moose, however, was just perturbed that I was making his sorry butt walk about. Nothing to see here.
I watched him from a far for a few minutes so I could really get a grasp on what was going on, plus, Snickers wanted blood, so I was better off on the other side of the fence (choose your battles I always say).
During that time, he started pawing and nipping at his sides... sign number 4. So, this tells me he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to make his tummy feel better (no I am not a vet but you get the idea).
Time to start the process.... First, I ordered Pizza. Ok, no. First, I gave him Banamine. I always have Banamine on hand for colic. It’s part of my medical kit. It can decrease the severity of a colic if caught fairly quickly, and I was pretty sure he was fine 4 hours prior when I went out to throw them a flake of hay. (hey, my drug of choice is for my horse - check with your vet before you start a Banamine pizza party of your own).
Then, I started walking him, and walking him, AND WALKING HIM... and, while I was walking him, I ordered Pizza. Hey, my kids need to eat, and I’m probably going to be out at the barn until the end of time. I didn’t need hangry children, but honestly, do we ever need hangry people? Pizza solves that. BONUS ALERT... having a pizza party in the barn is EXCITING, and my kids were even more willing to go on the colic adventure.
When Moose tired of walking, he let me know by attempting to attack me and rearing and carrying on like a wild beast, so... I decided it was time to put him in his stall (maybe my daughter did give him carrots?).
Honestly though, I know he started feeling pretty good because the Banamine was kicking in. I made sure there was no hay in his stall because if it was an impaction (literally the worst), then feeding him hay would make it worse. His drug induced boisterous hand walk had also made him tired.
Pizza arrived, and I pulled a chair up to his stall to monitor him... This is when I had some time to think... is it gas colic? or an impaction? or something completely different? I’m a horse person, so I started acting like I’m googling a skin irritation. Never put yourself through that. IT’S JUST A BUG BITE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
So, here’s an important step... between pizza bites, I listened to his gut... right near his flank, and thankfully, I heard a party going on. HONESTLY, IF YOU HEAR CRICKETS, YOU NEED TO CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY. STOP EVERYTHING. STOP PIZZA. DO IT. Lucky for me, I got to continue eating pizza.
No gut noise is a BAD SIGN, and you need to leap into action.
With facts in hand, I called the vet. It’s always a good idea to give your vet a heads up they may be invited (or required) to come to your pizza party and help you with your ‘mildly’ colic-ing horse. I told her all his symptoms, and she suggested we do a ‘wait and see’ approach but to call her anytime in the night if something changes.
Throughout the night, I walked him, and checked on him until we finally saw some of that magic manure. But one dropping doesn’t mean you are in the clear. If it is an impaction, your horse might just be relaxed enough to get manure out that was on the other side. You’re not out of the woods until they are disposing of their hay and grain on the regular again.
Morning arrived, and Moose was banging down the stall door for a flake of hay. GOOD SIGN! He had 2 more golden piles, and I was ready to cash in and call it a colic free day.
Not so fast.
By 4 pm, he was looking a little sorry for himself again. His sides were tucked up and his face said, ‘I’m sad and sore’. He had wet marks on his side and holes pawed into the bedding. He hadn’t lied down, but he was definitely irritated once again. Another dose of Banamine was given, and we started the whole process over.
Luckily after his ‘Colic in the Night, The Sequel’, the Banamine had worn off and he had enough poop in his stall to earn a gold medal. Colic Survivor.
I have lost a horse to colic before, so please don’t take colic lightly. The situation can change quickly. A horse that looks mildly colic’y can turn to an emergency in a heartbeat.
During Moose’s brush with colic, I had the horse trailer ready to go, kept in touch with my vet with all changes, and had help from some lovely friends who would hold down the fort if I had to make a trip to surgery. Planning is EVERYTHING.
I hope you never have to deal with colic, and if you do, I hope your colic ordeal includes a pizza party, friends and an action plan. It’s important to know that you shouldn’t leave your horse’s side during a colic. If you can’t be there the entire ordeal, enlist a knowledgeable person to help take shifts.
Disclaimer... I have owned and cared for horses for over 30 years. My vet and I have worked together for a long time. Every situation is different, and every vet’s approach is different. Trust your gut. You know your horse best, and your vet will help you through the process!
*this article was originally featured in 2018 and reposted from the archives of my endless computer files.