Moose River Farm Blog

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mayhem: Colic Part I

      Good Evening,
      For weeks at a time MRF's soothing rhythm taps quietly in the background of my life.  Daily encounters with animals intoxicate me with happiness.  My lowered blood pressure, lowered stress levels and elevated mood keep time with this same beat.  On my way out to the barn each morning, I mumble daily affirmations including the well being of us all.  Famished muzzles that plunge into grain and hay confirm my wishes.  Occasionally, however, my hopes are dashed when mayhem arrives.  Spikes of adrenalin rudely interrupt the rhythm jolting me into ulterior action.  
      My Thoroughbred gelding, Easau is susceptible to spasmodic and gas colic when the temperature changes drastically from day to day in spring and fall.  It's always difficult to assess the degree of seriousness in this condition and with E it is even more difficult because he has a rather low threshold of pain.  A small cut on his leg is difficult to treat.  By lifting, swinging, pawing and any other motion that makes dressing the minor wound impossible, E is able to avoid the stinging sensation that he anticipates.  
      During a colic episode he paws the ground and throws his whole body against the wall of his stall.  These actions are rather alarming prompting me to hover close by.  E seems to quiet down if I stand near and rub his face with my hands.  Once I walk away he begins to paw and thrash again.  At this point I am convinced that he is indeed feeling the abdominal discomfort of colic.  Usually his episodes subside within one or two hours.  After passing a couple of piles of manure and/or gas, he is back to his robust self.  I can tell because he doesn't appear to need me anymore, choosing to join his herd mate in the paddock.  Instead of taking this personally, I feel immense relief.  
      About five years ago on a Sunday afternoon in May, (Mother’s Day to be exact), Easau’s symptoms began moments after we came in from the ring where I had been riding him.  The training session was uneventful and ended with a long walk around our property.  But once back in the barn, my large bay gelding showed no interest in the carrot that is routinely offered once the saddle and bridle are removed.  Instead he pawed at the ground and nudged my arm with his muzzle.  Usually, exercise encourages gas and sluggish chyme or partially digested food to move along the digestive tract.  In fact the first thing Easau did once I brought him into the wash stall and secured him on the cross-ties was poop!  
      Fearing that he was indeed beginning to colic, I lead him out of the barn and walked him around the driveway in the warm sunshine hoping to dislodge a minor gas bubble at the root of his discomfort.  After 30 minutes I injected the painkiller, Banamine and walked the horse another 15 minutes.  But, anytime I stopped to assess his condition, Easau was ready to drop down on the ground.  In the waning afternoon of a family holiday I made the decision to call for veterinary assistance.  I wanted the veterinarian to come before I disrupted any special dinner plans.  Within two hours, he arrived.
     Although we had never met it turned out that Dr. Burbank and I were Cornell animal science undergrads at the same time.  He was the vet on call for the weekend and considering that he had a large Mennonite family, he appreciated my earlier, rather than later emergency call.  His specialty was cattle but I had no doubt that he was just as comfortable working around horses.  Easau was still displaying acute colic symptoms, preferring to buckle at the knees to seek relief from rolling on the ground. The danger of this comes from the intestine's vulnerability to twist with gas built up inside.      
       I led E back into the barn where Dr. Burbank got to work pumping several liters of fluids into his body to hydrate his system.  The vet also reached into E’s rectum and removed a small amount of manure with his gloved hand.  More painkillers were injected as well to ease the discomfort that was making Easau think what he really needed to do was roll.
      Within four hours Easau was acting more normal and after a good night's sleep he appeared fully recovered in the morning.  Considering the degree of his colic episode, I did not fully let my guard down until he survived the next several days symptom free.  
      Thankfully, all of the colic episodes at MRF to date have been minor and temporary.  Needless to say, all of them have induced stress and worry.  The truth is, its never clear whether a colic episode is serious or not until the horse completely recovers and sends mayhem on its way.

Next week; Mayhem: Colic, Part II


 Eastern Salute's, (Easau), baby picture was taken a year before I purchased him as a two year-old.

Easau and I have been together in sickness and in health for 11 years.




1 comment:

  1. Colic in horses and diabetic cats (you know what I mean). Enough to raise the stress level in anyone! Good post Anne!

    ReplyDelete