She was lying flat- eyes closed, flank tense and very quiet. As I got closer I could see lots of stressed hoof marks on the ground. Are you thinking what I am?

It’s Windy. She was something in the day, but now she is 22 yrs old, with a suitcase of maladies. Like an old woman, she gets tinier each year. And she was in gut wrenching pain- literally.

Is it the dreaded C. Word? I waited for the vet; I did the poop chant silently.

Colic is my sworn enemy- the number one killer of horses, and its cause is still nebulous. It can be a weather change, a rapid barometer jump or a slow shift of season. Or a change of feed, or a trailer ride.  Dehydration. Ulcers. Heat cycles. Sand. Horses have such a sensitive digestive system, the truth is that any change can do it.

My vet arrived fresh from other colic calls, and performed the usual protocol: pain meds, rectal exam, tube down the nose to the stomach. She loves that. Her heart rate was too low, she was too exhausted, and she was hardly able to stand. He gave me the directions for care. (One of my horses had colic 5 or 6 times a month for over two years, so I am very familiar.)

And he said there was some sand. Sand gets ingested from eating off the ground, which is pretty hard to avoid ultimately. It’s especially common in older horses like Windy, and with the drought locally, there is more dirt and less grass. I know all this so I did a big psyllium supplement purge last month! Which apparently did not do the trick, we are on a month-long purge now. How is your psyllium supply?

I optimistically ask about what’s new on the horizon for colic treatment. The vet told me that there are better tests now to tell sooner if your horse needs surgery. Quicker to surgery is good, but my sweet Windy is not a surgery candidate.

Is your horse a surgery candidate? It’s good to decide while everything’s fine. If surgery isn’t right for your horse, you might practice saying it out loud, “My horse is not a surgery candidate.” Sometimes saying it is the hardest part.

Windy’s result was good. The vet said it was a mild colic. (Doesn’t all colic start that way?) I continued the poop chant, but 24 hours passed with no result. She is cautiously okay now, but the colic took a toll- she is thinner, depressed and still very tired.

On a separate but related note- yesterday morning I was driving to a lesson with a new client and thinking about writing this. My stomach was kind of twitchy. If I was a horse, you would call me stoic, I soldier on.

The lesson went well, we talked about perception and the art of release. The rider had invited another potential client to watch. We were just finishing and… No! I threw up on her center line. I never do this, and it wasn’t even kind of graceful. It was really nice footing too.

Awkward! Food poisoning? Flu? Or maybe colic and I am actually turning into a horse? Would that be enlightenment?

My client asked if I throw up often, and I shook my head. And threw up again. I think her dog felt sorry for me. Horses and humility- it never gets old!

I am fine now, but my old dog threw up all night. It’s an epidemic!

We are expecting our first snow of the season on our Colorado prairie tonight. Maybe an extra walk-thru before bed to double-check the water and throw extra hay, with a special eye on the herd elders. Here’s hoping for a gentle winter.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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Comment by Anna Blake on October 7, 2012 at 10:11am

Laura, I think you mean intestine that loops over the cecum- a weird but very necessary part of the digestive system, and yes, I helped a clients horse in that predicament. Some very good vets are able to re-adjust the intestine to its correct position. It is amazing and terrifying to watch, but in this case, the horse came through it successfully. Isn't colic a monster?  And thanks, everyone is fine now. Still, October is a month to keep a good eye.

Comment by Laura on October 7, 2012 at 9:49am

Oh, also, I'm sorry to hear that you, your horse AND your dog have all been sick. What a strange (and miserable) coincidence. I hope everyone is feeling much better!

Comment by Laura on October 7, 2012 at 9:45am

I just heard of a colic where the small intestine got somehow looped over another organ - I think the liver. Have you heard of that? How scary. :(

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