Few things elicit a sense of dread among horse
owners than the warning signs of impending colic. We all know what to look for,
whether it’s the horse with the voracious appetite that suddenly stops eating
or the usually energetic horse that seems not quite right. Once the pawing and
rolling begins, we’re on the phone to vet at the same time we’re running for
the halter and lead rope.
pocket of gas trapped somewhere in the horse’s digestive tract. Those of us
who’ve eaten one too many slices of pepperoni pizza can empathize. Yet colic also remains the number one killer
of horses, despite advances in surgical procedures and techniques. In fact,
colic surgery should never be seen as a sure-fire magical cure-all. It’s
expensive, and things can become extremely complicated once the horse is on the
So, needless to say, all of us would be happier if
we never had to deal with any sort of colic episode. Yet not long ago I found
Danny lying down in the afternoon, a time of day he never naps. I offered him a
carrot, and then a juicy red apple, and he seemed uninterested. When I haltered
him and forced him up, and began to lead him around the paddock, he promptly
folded his knees and plopped to the ground.
Thankfully, my vet was in town and came right away.
All it took to cure Danny of a mild impaction was an oiling and some Banamine.
In retrospect I realized I had been feeding him too many pellets all at once,
so I reduced the condensed feed and went back to more grass hay. Now, whenever
I do feed him pellets, I soak them well with water first.
One of my riding pals wasn’t quite so lucky. Last
week her horse was acting peculiar: He wasn’t finishing his meals and seemed
lackluster and aloof. Turned out that he had quite a large impaction, yet the
vet believed that with support he could pass it through and recover. During the
next four days the horse had three oilings and several doses of Banamine.
Meanwhile, my poor, stressed out friend was sleeping in her car outside his
stall each night. She was on the verge of hauling him to the vet clinic for IV
infusions of fluids when he finally turned the corner. The telltale sign was a
giant oil slick covering his hindquarters and a heap of manure in the back of
Isn’t it true that when you love a horse with colic
there’s no lovelier sight than a big pile of manure streaked with mineral oil? Only
then can you allow yourself to believe that your horse will recover. Yes
indeed, I’m quite certain that horse people are the only folks who pray for
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