According To Plan

The last time I posted, I talked about having to euthanize one of my horses that I’d had for over twenty years. Well, as I write this I’m working on about four hours sleep and have another horse story to share.


Every other week, my husband flies down to see his daughter Katie who is still in the poly trauma unit in Florida. That leaves me by myself for three days – I’m a bit of an introvert in some respects so there’s lots of times I enjoy the solitude. However, it also leaves me alone to handle whatever crisis may pop up.


Years ago when I was in my twenties and working at a show barn, I was left alone to manage 40+ head of stalled horses in a blizzard – we don’t have blizzards in the southeast so it was a major event for us. Later on, I went to work for a family that wintered in Florida – when they were gone, I was completely alone and in charge. Since then, those years of isolation and independence have served me well more than once, especially this last year since Katie’s accident.


Friday, I came home thinking that I would have a quiet weekend. The kind of weekend where you casually get a few things cleaned up around the house, get some writing done, work a few horses and get a nap in when you feel like it. Unfortunately, that was not at all the case.


When I went to feed, I realized that one of our horses had not finished his grain from that morning, and he hadn’t touched his water. Cool, short for Mister O’Cool, has never been a fussy eater so I knew something was wrong. I immediately suspected he was trying to colic.


Generally speaking, colic refers to stomach pain in horses. There are basically two types of colic. There’s gas colic caused by a buildup of gas and pressure in the intestines. The other type of colic is compaction colic caused by compacted food in the intestine, or a twisted intestine. Both of these are extremely serious and can easily cause death. Because there’s as much as 80 feet of small and large intestine in the horse, sometimes it’s not so easy to determine what type of colic a horse is experiencing.


A lot of times with colic, especially if they’re in extreme pain, they’ll bite at their sides and roll. The danger with rolling is that they can twist their gut. Cool wasn’t to the point of being that distressed, but with his frequent laying flat-out, and general puny demeanor, I knew he wasn’t feeling well at all.


Fortunately, I already had some paste on hand with probiotics, electrolytes, and other stomach goodies in it just for this dreaded scenario. I immediately gave him a dose of the paste and started walking him. The movement from the walking helps to break up any gas and get the gut moving.


My plan was to watch him through the night and if he wasn’t any better I would call the vet in the morning. That night I checked on him religiously every two hours. Although he still wasn’t what I would call distressed, he laid down more often and wasn’t interested in anything to eat or drink.


First thing Saturday morning I called my vet. After a short exam, he estimated Cool could have a partial compaction. He put an NG Tube down Cool’s throat to push through any upper compaction he may have, and to get some lubricating oil directly into his stomach.


Needless to say, getting a one inch tube down the nose of a 1,200 pound horse is not an easy task. At one point in time, Cool lifted assistant vet’s assistant two feet off the ground with just a mere flip of his head.


A short while later, Cool was eating and drinking. Crisis averted – or so I thought.


Several hours later, Cool was back to feeling puny again, and he was hot and breathing harder than he had been earlier. I took his temperature and it was 106.2. The normal temperature for a horse is 98-99.


This time the vet rigged up two bags of IV fluid and gave him a dose of strong antibiotics along with medication to bring his temperature down and ease his stomach pain. He concluded that we might be dealing with an infection of some sort as opposed to a true colic case. The next 24 to 48 hours were critical. I set up a cot in the barn and made frequent checks to the round pen just outside to check on him.


By Sunday morning, he was eating grass and drinking water and ticked off because he wasn’t getting any feed like the rest of the horses. Although a good sign, we’re still not out of the woods yet. Because of the abnormally high fever, we still have to keep a watch out for laminitis, which is where the vessels in the feet die off from lack of blood flow and the coffin bone in the foot drops.


Fortunately, this morning Cool is still improving and I can go on it to work. I just hope I can stay awake!


After reading Stephanie’s post, I’m struck by the fact that you can think you’ve got your season, or weekend, all planned out and things just go in a drastically different direction on a moment’s notice. Stephanie’s done a terrific job of holding it together and been an example of grit!


How do you deal with sudden expected changes to your plans? Do you fall apart or do you dig in a little harder?

Mister O'Cool - aka Cool

Mister O’Cool – aka Cool