Saturday, January 10, 2015


Maggie colicked late afternoon on Wednesday. She's ok now.

Around 3:00 pm on Thursday one of my friends was at the barn doing chores and sent me a text saying, "Your horse seems weird." I wasn't super concerned until she told me that Maggie hadn't finished her lunch hay, which has NEVER happened before. My friend then called me on the phone and told me that she was just standing in her stall, head and ears down, looking depressed. It looked like she had been lying down quite a bit as well. She got really grumpy when my friend approached to try and touch and check her sides. She was able to check Maggie's temperature, which was normal, and listed to her gut, which seemed to be gurgling nicely, and check her gums, which were pale.

Not a happy camper
I called the vet, who said they could be there in about 30 minutes and I left work. Perhaps the most frustrating part of this was that I couldn't be there for the vet appointment and couldn't communicate with the vet directly. I work in Cambridge and take the commuter rail through Boston to go to and from work every day. Even though I live only about 30 miles north of the city, it takes me nearly 2 hours to commute each way. I like my job but, man, does the commute suck.

While I was still on the train home, my friend texted me to tell me the vet said Maggie was starting to get an impaction and that they tubed her some warm water and epsom salts and gave her banamine. The vet called me to talk and I could barely understand a word she was saying on the phone...probably due to me being on a moving train and having a changing cell signal. SO FRUSTRATING. I almost wanted to cry at that point, just because I still didn't understand what was going on. From what I gathered on the phone (and after talking to my friend when I got to the barn) Maggie had an impaction that was way back in the pelvic region. The vet could feel it via rectal palpation. The vet also thought that the colic had nothing to do with the loose manure that Maggie has been having on and off since last month - she said it wasn't anything to really worry about, as lots of horses get loose stool in the winter. I don't know how much I really buy that, since Maggie has never has a problem with loose manure before..but who knows...

She's a cheap date.
We also deduced that the impaction only started taking effect sometime between 12 pm and 3 pm, since according to another friend that tossed lunch hay at noon, Maggie was totally fine then and was scarfing up her hay as usual.

It was about 6 pm when I made it to the barn and Maggie was definitely still looking unwell, though the sedative was still wearing off. I came back to the barn at 9:00 pm to check on her again and she was looking more awake and a teeny bit brighter though still obviously not feeling awesome. Wednesday night into Thursday night was also forecasted to be the coldest night of the season thus far and was already 7 degrees at 9:30 pm.

She was lying down when I came back in the evening, but at least she wasn't flat out.

I noticed that as Maggie was standing she was frequently shifting the weight between her hind legs, alternately resting a hind foot. She was also quivering. The vet had said not to blanket her, since I haven't been blanketing her this winter anyway. But being so cold out and getting colder, and now having no hay in her guts to provide her with that internal furnace, I made a judgement call and borrowed a medium weight blanket from a friend and put it on her.

72" on a 69" horse, but it gets the job done.
She was looking a little brighter when I got there in the morning though still not her full Maggie-self. I gave her a 750 lb dose of banamine. I'm glad I put that blanket on her, because it was -4 degrees (no windchill) when I was there that morning. She seemed comfortable in the blanket. I'm really glad I put it on her.

My phone gets confused as to what town I'm actually in when I'm inside the barn.
I went home again and went back to bed for about 2 hours, then went back to the barn to check on Maggie again and to call the vet to check in when the office opened. The vet said that Maggie should be checked every couple hours for new poops and if she were to stop pooping and look uncomfortable again, then to give them another call and they would come out and tube her again. I wasn't really sure about what I was going to do about going in to work at that that point. I would have stayed home and used a vacation day if I didn't have so much time sensitive stuff to get done that I couldn't do from home. But thankfully I was able to work it out with a friend to check on Maggie at lunchtime and again around 4:30, then I would get there around 7. She was only allowed very small amounts of hay on Thursday (~1/4 flake 3 times a day) and was allowed a bran mash in the morning and evening that day too.      

She was pretty psyched for a sloppy mash!
And thus began the poop-watch. You know you're a totally paranoid horse mom when you take notes on your phone about your horse's bowel movements from the text updates that your friend is sending.

I will spare you all the pictures I took of  her actual poops.
By the time I got to the barn Thursday evening, Maggie was looking a lot brighter than she was that morning and her poops had gotten more formed throughout the day. I called the vet again to check in, who said we could start increasing Maggie's hay the next day, in addition to giving her regular grain in her mash.

On Friday morning Maggie was looking increasingly brighter and was was super grabby about hay and was quite excited about getting a tasty mash again. By Friday afternoon (my husband picked me up from work and the traffic out of Boston was actually AMAZING to I actually got to visit her in the daylight!) she was following me around the paddock and looking her usual self.

Following me around the paddock as I do a poop check.
Hiiiiiiiiii. FOOD PLEASE??
I went to visit her this morning first thing after I woke up and she's looking her normal self again. I also took off the blanket, which she looked happy about at that point.

Greeting me as I drive in on Saturday morning.
Now I'm gonna be totally paranoid though. In my years of horsiness, I've actually never had to deal with a colic directly. I feel like I somehow did something wrong that caused it. What if I had been more proactive about the loose manure? Maybe lunging her on Tuesday made it worse? I'll never know and I'll have to accept that, because I can't dwell on it and let it stop me from doing the things I want to do with her. 

Any horse can colic at any time. We horse owners, know that. But, how do you keep from dwelling in the fear of it?


  1. Is she drinking enough water? In this cold, it is really important to make sure their water buckets don't freeze, and they have access to fresh water. That is a big culprit of colic in the winter. Also, certain horses seem more prone to colic than others; changes in temp can be enough to set them off. Glad she is ok!

  2. So happy she's feeling better! Colic is scary for sure but it seems like you all caught it before it got bad. Agreed with Shauna, make sure she's drinking enough and that her water isn't frozen! And I think every horse owner is poop obsessed. Went out to look at a new horse yesterday and the first thing I did was check poop to make sure it looked okay and no signs of any worms and etc, lol!

  3. Yeah I know drinking less in the winter can be a big causative factor this time of year. One of the first things I check was how much water she had been drinking. She has a 100 gallon stock tank (with a heater so it doesn't freeze) in her paddock and I filled it up 3/4 of the way on Sunday (she's the only one that drinks out of it and I usually dump/scrub/refill it once a week) - when I checked Wednesday she had drank half of it. Pretty average for her, but who knows! Mysterious horses....

  4. scary situation - glad it all worked out ok! hope she keeps on feeling better and better!!