At 4:50pm, my phone rang - it was the BO. "Its your mare. She was down in the field and not eating. I put her in the round pen. "
I'll admit to being a little overstressed with life recently and a little quicker to ignite than normal. In all my years of boarding, I have never once lost my temper or become angry with a BO. If something can't be resolved, we quietly leave with no hard feelings just a realization that what we want is not available at that barn. This time was different. I snapped.
"Are you feeding her? Is she getting any hay? This is ridiculous!"
He hung up.
I called Dusty who called a vet and I headed to the barn. Gem was in the round pen with the largest bucket of grain I have ever seen. Seriously, I think he dumped an entire bag of grain out in it. There was a tiny little pile of hay. She was eating neither, but was standing bright eyed staring at me.
I got her halter on and began walking her, hoping she would just pass some stool and this would be a false alarm.
An hour later the vet pulled up and she hadn't passed anything, but wasn't looking in overt pain. A quick exam revealed good color to the gums, a good resting heart rate, and quiet but still present gut sounds. She was tucked up and uncomfortable.
She was given banamine and, per Dusty's request, I asked her to draw blood for a panel just in case. The vet confirmed her weight loss was not my imagination and we opted to tube her with mineral oil and water.
After the procedure, I continued to hand walk Gem around for another 2 hours. The temperatures dropped with the sun to 25 degrees and I was not prepared: no gloves, no hat and tennis shoes. I was a popsicle when Dusty came by to check on us.
At that point she was trying to stop to snag some grass and we decided to put her in a stall for the night with plenty of water to see if she would relax and we would check on her during the night. If she looked worse or was laying down we would continue the walking and call the vet again.
At the 2 am check she had finally passed some hard stool and so we gave her a small flake of hay and said goodnight. This morning she was back to herself.
A mild case, for sure, and caught early, but the big thing here is why did it occur and how do I prevent it from happening again?
The recipe for colic can be simple:
Sudden change in weather
Check to all the above.
When I pressed them about the lack of visible hay in the pasture, I was told that they get 2 1/2 bales of hay once a day. For 14 horses. With no other means of forage. And somehow I am supposed to be applauding this? Wrong. That is not enough.
The BO has always overfed grain, simply because it is easier to store and cheaper to feed. This is fine when there is also enough forage and water to go with it. A lot of starch and sugar with no fiber and no water is asking for trouble.
When the mares kept pouring into the pasture, he added a second water trough which is great. Except it was put right next to the other one. A mean mare can easily guard both. If you are going to have two troughs, they need to be separated.
Gem is the lowest of the low in the herd. She dropped about 100 pounds over the course of a month or so and the reasons are simple: she was getting run off her food and had no access to any hay that was being put out.
Not enough forage, too much grain, dehydration.
Then winter decided to show up and the highs dropped 30 degrees overnight with lows in the 20s. Gem is a hardy mare, having lived in the north most of her life, but she needs the sustenance to get her through.
It was foreseeable and I am angry with myself for not seeing it. For not doing something. So now I am doing something. I will write about that in the next post.