Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Strange Story

by Laura Crum

As those of you who have read my blog posts know, my son’s horse went to colic surgery last year to save his life. They removed a stone as big as a cantalope from Henry’s large intestine as well as about two gallons of sand (which he didn’t ingest here) and smaller stones. The date of this surgery was Jan 31st.

So last Sunday, Jan 31st, I’m thinking about the whole ordeal, which is indelibly impressed on my mind. The sleepless nights, the worry, the anxiety and tears. I’m feeling glad we made it through and Henry is back to being a riding horse. Then I go down to feed the horses in the evening. Guess what I found? Yep, Henry was colicked. Exactly one year later.

He wasn’t colicked in any extreme way—he’d been bright eyed and normal all day. But he wouldn’t eat his dinner and he kept trying to lie down; he wouldn’t graze and he kept on trying to lie down when I got him out. He stood camped out, looked at his sides, and was droopy and miserable. He was definitely colicked. The scary thing was that these were all the signs he ever showed when he had the colic that led to surgery. He never got real painful, he did not sweat or thrash or have an elevated heart rate or respiration. But for 48 hours, as soon as the current dose of banamine wore off, he went back to showing these minimal colic signs. Exactly what he was showing now.

OK, I admit it. I freaked. I simply couldn’t believe it was happening. I yelled at my husband to walk the horse while I called the vet. My husband gave me a look. It was getting dark, it was Sunday night, I know we were both having the same déjà vu.

“I don’t want to do this again,” my normally very sweet husband said. “Just call the guy with the backhoe.”

He was kidding, sort of.

I ran up to the house and called the vet (cellphones don’t work here) only to discover that (hard times all over) they had no on call vet Sunday night. Nifty. Now my choices were to adlib (give banamine paste myself and walk Henry) or call a vet I’d never used for a first time emergency call. My husband and I looked at each other.

“Or,” I said, and I knew he was thinking the same thing. “We could just haul him to the equine center now.”

“Lets,” he said. “Let them deal with it. It’ll be worth it.”

We both knew that by the time we had a ranch call, holiday charge, after hours charge, emergency charge, exam charge…etc, the cost would be almost the same as what the equine center would ding us. And at the equine center, somebody else would be checking on Henry all night long. And if his colic went the wrong way, they could hook him up to fluids. They had the drugs, the equpiment, the big clean stall, the crew of interns to observe and do the work. I’m not sure I would have made this choice with another horse in different circumstances, but neither my husband or I could face a rerun of the two sleepless nights that led up to Henry’s colic surgery. We loaded him up and hauled him one hour to the equine center and I kissed him on the nose and dropped him off.

Well, as fate would have it, they gave him the dose of banamine that I could have given, they watched him all night and called me in the morning and said he was fine. I picked him up the next day and so far he’s been fine. So I pretty much wasted the five hundred dollars it cost. Oh well, hindsight’s twenty twenty. At least my husband and I got some sleep.

So how weird is that? Henry just happens to colic exactly one year after the colic that led to surgery? Do horses have "anniversary reactions" like people do?

I have to say, there are moments when I almost wish I didn’t have any horses. How about you? Any strange stories to share?

18 comments:

Kate said...

My mare had a colic (mild) last night that resolved without a vet visit or drugs (so far) - she has coliced twice before in the winter, but this time was mild (so far). I think horses are very affected by weather, which is why seasonal repeats make sense. Glad he's doing better - with no on-call vet, hauling to the clinic makes a lot of sense (despite the cost).

Susan said...

I can relate to the freaking out part. One morning a few years ago I went out to check on our two month old colt and his mother. The colt's nose was really swollen and I could see fang marks. He'd been bitten by a rattle snake. Talk about freak out! Tom was out of town, and it was the one time I can ever recall being on the edge of hysterical. When I came to my senses a few seconds (or minutes) later, I looked at the wound again. It was dry and scabbed over, which meant that it had happened the day before, and the worst was over. Which it was. Four or five days later there was no sign anything happened. That tough little guy is Hooper, the horse on the cover of my book.

Linda Benson said...

Wow, Laura. What a choice. I think you did the right thing, too, given Henry's history. I can so relate to your panic and worry and indecision. What to do? What to do? And bless those husbands, who know how much we love our animals, huh? Glad it turned out alright this time.

stilllearning said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stilllearning said...

What a strange tale! Glad it ended well...

Mrs Mom said...

No strange stories on my end, but sincere wishes that your sweet boy is over this and 100000% peachy keen fine.

Hang in there Laura!!

OneDandyHorse said...

I never had a colic story but in winter, given our super cold winter, I'm always worried that the water will freeze... if the horses run out of water or just don't drink enough, they could colic pretty badly. Fortunately, that never happened. I did have a good scare once.

Dandy had a really bad abcessed foot, so I put poultice on it and wrapped it for the night after cold hosing it. The next morning, I go out really early because the abcess worried me. I found Dandy in the pasture, laying on her side, tail to the side and head rested really good. I gave her a call, usually she comes to me right away. There was no response on her part... so I do it again, and again... panicking at the same time. So I open the gate loudly to try and get her to put her head up... no, nothing. I walk all the way over there, panicking like crazy inside, all the while walking, she was about 500 feet away, and yelling her name. No response, no tail swish, no ear twitch, nothing. So I get to her, look at her for 2 seconds, I couldn't pick up any rib movement by just looking, so I decided to go for broke and screamed "DANDY". She promply lifted her head up just like anyone would when awaken the same way. She was sleeping! She probably had a sore leg. The mistake I made was wrapping it, since it held the heat in and probably didn't allow for swelling and cooling. I panicked so much because we had just lost Pearl's foal (you can read the story on my blog) and this was all flashing back into my head. I was so panicked that it took a good 15 minutes after the fact to get my heart under control. I called her a fool and told her never to do that again!! Certainly made my stomach turn and my heart sink! Silly horse!

Laura Crum said...

So far Henry seems perfectly fine, but I have been trying to get him out every day for walking and grazing if its too wet to ride. I'm guessing it was just a typical impaction colic due to not moving around enough and not drinking enough water--due to the rainy weather. Hope I'm right...

Shanster said...

My mare would colic each spring... I don't know if it was the exact date anymore tho my vet's file could tell me.

My mare is a huge whimp - groaning and throwing herself against the sides of the lean to.

One year she needed fluids and I stayed up all night with her. And then they became more and more mild. The past 2 years she hasn't colicked at all.

Our theory is that coming back into cycling each spring - the hormones - is what caused it and now that she is older and mature it isn't an issue. Tho each spring I find myself anxious...

Shanster said...

Oh and I'm so glad that Henry is just fine!! Hooray Henry! Hind sight is always 20/20.. IF he would have needed more care it would have been completely worth it for him to be there. It's always a little hard to shell out the bucks when *in hind sight* you coulda done it yourself... :)

Laura Crum said...

Shanster, you're so right. The bottom line is that I'm really grateful Henry is OK. He came galloping up the hill to greet me this afternoon when I checked on him. And that was my thought. Its not about the money--I'm just glad you're OK.

lopinon4 said...

YAY! So glad that he's okay!

I know you'll think I'm weird for this, but animal communicators tell us that we communicate with our animals all the time. We are connected to them, whether we like it or not. And, they see the images in our minds. Is it possible that Henry saw the vision in your head of his colic from a year ago, when you were thinking back on it? The mind is a powerful thing....

Just a thought.

Laura Crum said...

lopinon4--I don't think you're weird at all. I have been puzzling over the odd coincidence and I think your idea makes more sense than mine--I was wondering if Henry somehow "remembered" the trauma. He nickered when we hitched the trailer up on Sunday night--as if it was quite clear in his mind that he was going to be hauled. I dunno what the answer is, but I could easily believe that some odd psychic thing was behind it. I swear, Henry seems extra full of life since he came home, almost as if he is "affirming" his recovery of a year ago. Uhmm, maybe I'm the one who's weird.

KB said...

I'm so glad Henry is okay. I know that was terrifying.

Laura Crum said...

KB--It was partly how weird it was that made it scary. I could just not get my mind past the oddness of it all. But Henry seems fine, knock on wood. So, I'm trying to focus on that.

Breathe said...

I'm sure the anniversary made you all the more cautious, but you really don't know how these things will go. We've lost a friend (Spirit - a horse of a friend of ours) to colic. And it's all about that immediate treatment, it seems.

Glad he's okay.

Laura Crum said...

Breathe--that's been my experience, too. If you jump right on a mild seeming colic and treat it, you don't seem to have as many problems as if you go the watch and wait route. For many, many years I have jumped to treat any colic signs that came up, and sometimes the horse was fine by the time the vet got there. But my track record is pretty good, knock on wood. I've lost one horse to colic and he had been prone to it his whole life (we owned him since he was seven) and he had to be put down at twenty-one because he was not a candidate for surgery for medical reasons. I felt good that we had got him through at least a dozen bouts of colic during his liftime and he lived to a decent age and had many happy seasons turned out in our pasture. I am a big fan of immediate treatment of even minor looking colic. Good advice.

Oddly enough (and sad, too) some friends of ours lost their mare to colic the same weekend Henry had his incident. So, no, I never take it lightly, in any of my horses. But Henry's timing was just too weird.

HorseOfCourse said...

Oh Laura, how strange? So glad to hear it worked out, and that Henry is feeling fine.
I would have done exactly the same, hauling him to the clinic. Better to lose some money than a horse.