Colic is not the only condition that changes the mood on the farm from serene to chaotic. More frequently miniature episodes of mayhem appear out of thin air. They usually require quick thinking and brute strength to fix. Sometimes, the animal will have to correct the situation on his own while we wait and watch helplessly on the sidelines.
Occasionally, horses become 'cast', or physically 'stuck' on the ground. This happens when the animal lies down too close to a wall or fence. His legs are blocked by the barrier if attempting to roll completely over on his other side. Panic or complacency may result depending on personality and temperament of the individual. Careful human intervention may be the only way for the horse to correct his position and prevent injury.
At MRF, these episodes usually take place when deep snow complicates a horse's effort to rise up onto his feet. One midwinter day I drove up the driveway and was greeted by a most undignified sight. My horses, Zambi and Easau were nibbling on
’s Murray , (Where Attention Goes...Energy Flows), hooves which were sticking straight up
in the air! motionless. The bolt of fear that jolted
my heart rate also convinced my brain that the still form was a dead
horse! I jammed the car into park and exited quickly. Through the fence rails I squeezed wearing my good
coat and school clothes. The deep snow
resisted against my muscles pumped full of adrenalin. The closer I got to Murray the more confirmed I felt that he had in fact expired! Murray was lying on his back
Suddenly, one of his legs contracted reflexively when Easau chomped down with his teeth onto Murray's hoof. The prone horse also tried to move his head so that his ears, submerged in snow, could tune into my approach. He was alive! However, it was clear that he was stuck; really stuck. Despite the vulnerability of his position,
was not panicking. There was no telling
how long he had been like this.
He must have dropped down to roll in the snow and while his feet were straight up in the
air, his massive bulk compressed the snow beneath him causing him to
sink into a hole! Murray
Urgently, I ran to the house to alert Rod. After collecting a shovel and lunge line from the barn, I met up with my husband out in the paddock. We needed to dig out the snow that was creating a wedge on either side of
spine. Only then could he lower his legs
to one side and obtain leverage to stand up. Once on all fours the horse stood thoughtfully
for a minute or two before moving about the paddock. He seemed none the worse for wear. However,
his neck and mane were covered with ice from lying in the snow for what we
calculated to be at least two hours. Murray
Zambi found himself in the same predicament earlier this winter when in the middle of the night he chose to lie down out in the field behind his stall. During his nap, the snow melted underneath him causing his torso to sink to a level lower than his limbs. This left his legs at a useless 45 degree angle to his trunk preventing him from being able to rise. All he could move was his neck. The next morning when I went out to feed the horses before school, Zambi screamed many times to catch my attention. When I finally tuned into the urgency of his panicking whinnies I found him in the field. The big horse could only thrust his neck in an attempt to get control of his body. It was clear that Zambi was exhausted from straining to no avail. How long he had been stuck was unclear. Once again a shovel was required to dig him out of the snow. Rod arrived on the scene to help Zambi by pushing against him from the other side. Finally, the horse was able to get his legs underneath himself and heave his body out of the trap. Back in his stall, Zambi stood trembling while I, trembling too, examined him from head to toe. His wet blanket was exchanged for a dry one and an extra layer of fleece was added. Zambi refused to eat choosing to just stand quietly while his body recovered from the ordeal. Eventually, I had to hurry off to my job. Rod kept a close eye on Zambi throughout the morning. An email received at noon assured me that my horse was looking better and nibbling hay. By the time I returned from school the gelding was fully recovered with just a bit of soreness in his neck.
These occasional episodes remind me how fragile serenity is. The older I get the more appreciative I am of the days that go by without frantic incidents in the barn. On the rare occasion that mayhem comes knocking, I am thankful that the chaos is brief and just a temporary reminder of the fragility of all these gifts that my life continues to receive.
|Zambi, (with me), and Murray, (with Karly), look much happier in the upright position.|