Nora colicked today, as I write those words I have to choke back tears fear, relief, and joy. Colic is one of a horse owners worst fears. Its heartbreaking to watch your horse struggle with pain like that, it feels like a cruel game of Russian Roulette. You don’t know if this time it will be deadly, or if it will be okay…….
I saw Nora’s lip twitch and lift up as I tied her in the indoor arena. I was going to give my friend, Mary, a lesson with her today. I stopped what I was doing and watched. She relaxed and took a deep breath. “Ok,” I thought, “it must have been a muscle spasm, or gas, she’s okay.’ I went to get Mary and asked her to groom her as I helped with the rest of morning chores.
The barn was busy, horses were hungry, and my friends were enjoying helping me feed. I walked by Nora again and saw her lips twitch and her move like she felt some pain. I stopped again to watch, but then she relaxed. I moved off to get the saddle and saddled her up. I left her there for a few minutes to let her soak up the warm sunlight and for her saddle to warm up before I tightened the girth. After a few minutes I returned to her, she looked sleepy and quiet, she was taking deep breathes, and her eyes were half closed, but as I untied her she stretched down like a dog bowing and let out a big yawn. I handed her to Mary and asked her to walk her around before she mounted up. I finished a few more chores then asked Mary to go ahead and mount up.
Nora moved out like she always does, a little slow but willing. After a few minutes I asked Mary to trot, my heart sank as I saw Nora’s lip lift up again, then she stretched out her neck, this was not just a muscle spasm or a gas pain, something else was going on. I told Mary to stop, and get off quickly and Nora took that opportunity to try to lay down, we kept her up and got her saddle off. I quickly drew up some banamine and shot it in her mouth to see if I could help with the pain, then I called the vet and asked him to come out, and uttered the dreaded words, “Nora is colicking.”
We led Nora around, we could see every time a pain shot through her body, her lips would lift up in a grimace and she would paw the ground. We decided give her a break, she stood in the sunlight and put her head down to rest, I could tell the banamine was starting to take the edge off, but she was still in pain. She became dull, and sluggish. I put my forehead against her back and waited with her as the sunlight warmed us both.
The 20 minute wait for the vet started to feel like hours. Finally! I hear the barn door open and footsteps coming towards us, Nora shifted her weight and lifted up her head. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that help was finally here. He took her temp, listened to her heart and lungs, then he moved to her gut where he heard an increase in gas sounds. Her heartrate and other vitals looked good, he tells us it’s probably a gas colic, which is good news! We decide to tube her with mineral oil, give her some pain meds and see how she does. She wasn’t too happy about the tubing, the vet had to put a tube in her nose, run it down to her stomach, make sure it’s in the stomach and then pumped warm water, electrolytes, and mineral oil into her stomach. The hope is that it will settle down the gas, pass through, and she will be right as rain in a few hours. That feat was accomplished pretty quickly and now we just wait and see and pray. We left her in the quiet barn with the hope that in a few hours I would be turning her out in the herd with her health restored.
I went back to the barn at 3:00 to check on her, she was pacing in her stall, ears alert, eyes bright, and manure everywhere! I have never been so happy to see poop! I brought her out to her herd as she danced beside me. Her daughter, Sassy, was down at the other end of the field, standing by herself. When she saw Nora her head lifted up and she yelled as loud as she could, “Hi Mom!”. She literally squealed with happiness and ran up the hill to greet Nora. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Many have wondered if animals know they are related, after seeing their joyful reunion, I know its absolutely true. Sassy was joyful as she kicked up her heals to greet her mom. Then Ditto, Nora’s best friend, saw her and let our a little squeal as he trotted over to her. They all three went to the bale together and Sassy swept all the other horses away so the three of them had the bale to themselves. I almost took my phone out to snap a picture of them, but this was too special, a picture couldn’t capture the joy that was there. Today Nora colicked; but I got to see joy and love in a place I didn’t expect it.