Friday, January 26, 2018


I took these photos on the 14th to show you how filthy my little piggy boy is... little did I know two days later I would come home to a colicking horse.  I guess I jinxed myself with the "boys are good" post.  I won't scare you guys, he is fine now, but it was very scary when it was happening.

So on the 16th when I got home from work Chrome was out in the front yard (he eats his ration balancer and beet pulp outside of the pasture so Rocky can't run him off) and he was goofing off, running around and being a dork.  I parked my car and took my stuff inside, then came back outside to find Chrome standing in the driveway, frozen like a statue with his head down (he wasn't staring at something, he was staring off into space).

I thought that was really weird, but I put a halter on him and put him back in the pasture.  Rocky still had some beet pulp left, but Chrome didn't show any interest in it at all.  He also wasn't showing any interest in me, which is weird because normally he's a pest.  That set off alarm bells.  I went back inside and brought a peppermint out.  He pricked an ear at the sound of the wrapper and I started to breathe again, but then he wouldn't eat it, even when I stuck it in his mouth.

At that point I was in full on panic, even though he was just standing there.  Hubby thought I was overreacting up until Chrome wouldn't eat the peppermint, then he agreed that something was wrong.  My first thought was colic so I told hubby I was staying out there until Chrome pooped.

No sooner was that out of my mouth then Chrome walked to the barn and pooped (yes, inside, they are brats and intentionally walk to the barn to poop).  Again I was breathing a sigh of relief when he turned around and laid down right next to me.  Again, alarm bells went off.  He NEVER just randomly lays down next to me.  Then he started pinning his ears and jerking his head back, then he would look at his stomach.  At that point I knew it was colic. 

I called my vet and left a message, then I called my trainer at the dressage barn where I used to work a decade ago.  I explained the situation and she agreed that it was colic.  She said I could come get some benamine from her, but said that I shouldn't give him any until I talk to a vet, because it's only helpful in certain circumstances.  I told her who my vet was and that I had left a message.  She said my vet is notoriously difficult to get a hold of (which is true in my experience), so she gave me her vet's number.  I immediately called him and left another message.

At that point I started crying.  I was freaking out because I was terrified I wouldn't be able to get a vet out and the engine just went out in our truck recently so I didn't have a way to haul him to an emergency vet.  I was going to go get the benamine, but we'd just had the first snow of the year which had turned to ice and the roads were scary.

Finally my trainer's vet called me back.  He was on his way to a different emergency and told me he would be there, but it would be two hours.  I broke down at that point.  He apologized, but said that it sounded mild and as long as Chrome was resting quietly and not trying to roll to just stay with him and keep him calm.  If he started rolling I would have to walk him.  He also said to go ahead and give the benamine.  I hung up and told my hubby what was happening (he had gone inside to warm up, it was so cold it was painful that night... in the single digits if I remember correctly... the coldest it's been in years). 

Just as I was trying to figure out how I was going to go get benamine from my trainer (the reason I didn't have any is because mine expired and I threw it away and then forgot to replace it... don't let that happen to you!!), when the vet called back and said the other person canceled and he was on his way.  He said to hold off on the benamine and he would be there in forty minutes.

A picture to break up the wall of text.  So I ran inside, pulled some sweats over my jeans, added a couple of layer on top, an extra pair of socks and some gloves.  Then I ran up the driveway to open the gate and then went out to the barn to wait with my horse.  He had turned around and laid down facing the other direction.  Rocky had probably disturbed him.  I was having to chase Rocky and Zep away.  I cried while I stood watching my horse.  While waiting he actually dozed off!!  He had his nose on the ground and his ear was doing that twitching thing it does when they sleep.

I was shocked because I had never heard of a horse falling asleep during colic.  I calmed down a little thinking it must not be too severe if he was able to sleep.  When the vet texted to say how close he was and asked for a bucket of warm water I ran inside to tell hubby (my phone was almost dead and I didn't want it to die since that was the only number the vet had).  Then the vet pulled up and I asked him if he wanted to drive out to the barn or if he wanted me to bring Chrome to him.  He asked me to bring Chrome out of the pasture if he would get up since there was snow and ice everywhere and Rocky was being a brat.

I went out to the pasture to get Chrome and he was up.... eating hay!  I was shocked, but also scared because if he had an impaction, eating could make it worse.  I took him to the vet.  The vet took his vitals.  His heart rate was 36 beats per minute, he had gut sounds present in all four quadrants, but slightly decreased in upper right GI quadrant, his mucus membranes were pink and moist, his capillary refill time was under two seconds and his respiratory rate was 12 breaths per minute.  If you think I have some super brain and remembered all of this in the midst of panicking, you're wrong lol.  This vet emailed me all of this information after he left!!  I love this vet.  I've never had a vet provide so much information. 

So he gave Chrome benamine, lightly sedated him and tubed him water, oil and electrolytes.  It probably wasn't necessary since the colic was so mild, but I told him to do whatever he needed to do and that I didn't want to take any risks.  He told me that he has a horse that used to do this several times a winter whenever it would get really cold because he was free feeding off of a round bale, so he stopped feeding round bales.  He said it's because they stand and gorge themselves to stay warm and don't bother to go drink.  So we immediately ordered a round bale slow feed hay net because we don't have the means to feed square bales. The net will slow them down so that they can still eat all day, but they can't overeat.  I've heard really great things about them.  I'll give an update on that when I can.

So I put a blanket on Chrome and separated him from Rocky and Zep.  I'm going to start blanketing him when it gets below 20F (pretty rare in this area) just so he doesn't have to work so hard to stay warm and hopefully won't feel the need to gorge himself.  He doesn't shiver at that temperature, but the vet said it definitely can't hurt him.  I left him overnight with no food and plenty of water.  I was up off and on during the night checking on him, but he was fine.  He didn't drink, but the vet said that was normal after getting tubed all the water and electrolytes.  In the morning there were eight poop piles and his pesky personality was back, so the vet said to give him beet pulp every three hours and watch how he handled it (the vet quickly answered all of my texts even the next day).  So I called in sick to work so I could stay home with Chrome.

I fed him the beet pulp and he did great, so that afternoon I was able to start easing him back into eating hay.  He continued to poop so the next day we put him with Rocky and Zep.  While waiting for the hay net we've been feeding them hay two or three times a day.  I'm not using square bales.  We opened up a round roll outside of the pasture and I peel off the hay, put it into the wagon and haul it out to them.  I've been putting it in multiple piles around the pasture so they move around between them.  I looked up how much hay they are supposed to eat in pounds a day and then weighed the hay to see how much I needed to feed them, so they are only getting what they should be getting.  So far, so good.  Everyone seems to be doing well, even though they are angry about not having hay 24/7.  I just hope they don't develop ulcers.... they will be okay once the net gets here....

 Dirty boy was watching hubby dump water into their heated water tank.

Chrome has lost some weight since these pictures were taken, but he actually looks really good!! I forgot what he looked like when he isn't overweight.  So the net will help with that too.  They really do eat way too much with free access to a round bale.

 He covered both sides evenly lol.  My gray horse is brown again!

So as you can imagine I am ecstatic that he has recovered and is still doing well.  I know you guys will understand what it was like when I was waiting for him because you love horses as much as I do, but it was terrifying.  I kept telling myself if he died I would never get another horse because I couldn't go through that again.  I'm very thankful it didn't go that way.

Anyway, I have a more fun update for tomorrow.  Sorry updates have been so sporadic.  Things have just been so hectic this winter.  I hope all of you are doing well and that all of your horses are safe and healthy.


  1. I love that the vet emailed you a detailed report. I've been keeping a stethoscope at home so I can listen to the four gut locations, the heart and the lungs. The lungs are the hardest to zero in on. The guts can actually be listened to with your ear. Just press it up to those locations where the vet listened with the stethoscope. I figure that if I hear a gurgle within five seconds in each location, things are pretty good, but if I have to wait a long time to hear something or don't hear anything at all, I start looking for other symptoms. Despite being surrounded by sand, my horses hardly ever colic here, but at the old house they were colicking all the time. I think the cold weather did have a lot to do with it. And the fact that they'd throw their food out of their troughs and eat it off the ground. At least now that I'm feeding grain too, they're learning to eat over their food barrels. If they spill the grain on the ground, the rabbits get it. Natural consequences. I'm glad Chrome is okay now. Scary.

    1. I have listened for gut sounds with my ear. I've been doing that since I was a kid. I forgot to mention in the post when he wouldn't eat the peppermint I listened and I did hear gut sounds. I'm glad yours don't colic anymore. It's so scary. This is the first colic I've had to deal with in 27 years with my own horses. I experienced a couple with the boarder's horses at the stable where I used to work so that's how I recognized the symptoms so quickly. Well that and because I know Chrome so well. I've always been extremely sensitive to changes in animals. I know something is wrong normally long before other people. My trainer actually told me years after I quit working at the stable that she missed me because other employees don't notice problems as early as I always did with lame or sick horses. I'm so glad I was able to catch it early. I instinctively knew something was wrong as soon as I walked back outside and saw him standing there frozen. It was very scary.

  2. So scary! I'm glad the story had a happy ending. Did the first vet even return your call?

    1. Me too! She did text me back and told me that she was out of the state and gave me a phone number for a different vet, but I didn't call the one she recommended because my trainer's vet was already on the way. The thing is when Chrome and Rocky had the staggers from that bad hay she was out of town that time too (which isn't really a surprise considering it was New Years), but she didn't even recommend another vet when I told her I couldn't find anyone open. So I lost my trust in her then. This time at least she offered a recommendation. I won't write her off completely (I love the job she does on their teeth), but she definitely won't be my go to person during an emergency.

  3. That would be scary. Horses do stop drinking when it gets cold. I have a slow feed net and I put out little flakes around the pasture so if they want it they have to walk. It's been working out for us. I also have a stock tank de-icer which keeps the water from getting too cold.

    1. It's so scary. I have a stock tank deicer too. Are you using small slow feed nets or a round bale slow feed net?

  4. When I was the live-in caregiver at a barn a horse colicked (that I knew and loved despite his personality lol) and it took 5 vets to get one to make a trip out, and we were not far from a town. That moment was certainly nerve wracking, I have lots of empathy. Everyone drinks less in the cold, makes sense horses are the same. Heck my mare had preference on bucket color. glad Chrome is better!

    1. Thank you. It is so frustrating when you can't get a vet out. So scary. Chrome is picky about what buckets he will drink out of too. He loves his pond and always chooses it first (which is weird since it's so gross), but he is fine with his stock tanks too. He just isn't crazy about drinking out of regular water buckets. I guess it's my fault for not teaching him to drink out of them when he was younger... I'm adding salt to his feed and so far so good.

  5. Colic is so scary. I'm glad that Chrome is ok!

  6. So glad Chrome is OK! I'm going through a similar situation here this Winter because our donkey is not sharing hay with the horse, and she's enormous and doesn't need it 24/7, but, how to limit it without causing problems, like you mentioned. (And I think it's interesting what you said about X feedings per day, because back in the old days, that's how all horses ate - pretty much twice a day.)

    So I feed the donkey 3 small nets per day, and a big net at night. The horse's hay is now hung in a way the donkey cannot reach (cruel?).

    I believe your vet went through that experience and it's possible, but what Teresa and KK said - it's not that they eat too much, they simply drink less. Most vets say Winter requires horses to eat constantly, ya know? (But donkeys?)

    I imagine where you live you don't even need a tank de-icer most years. There are no tank de-icers in Germany, so I have an insulated bucket that I fill with warm water on days it's below zero. They love warm water so much they'll fight over it so I have to bring out two buckets. I know you're too busy to provide warm water twice a day. And the temperature is probably back to normal by now for you. Did you know in some countries, even today, horses are only given water twice per day! Even in some places in America!

    1. Thank you. I feel you on the hay situation. It is so difficult when they have different requirements, but live together. It does feel so cruel to keep hay away from donkeys so they don't get fat, but it's for their own good. It's too dangerous to let them eat whatever they want.

      My vet did say it was the lack of drinking that is the problem, not having too much hay. I probably wrote it wrong in my post. He just said that having access to a round bale made them drink even less than they normally would in cold water because they know the hay warms them up so they want to eat and eat and eat and never leave it to go get a drink. That's why I'm worried that even if I get a slow feed net (which I had planned on getting anyway because they really do carry way too much excess weight) that is won't fix the problem because they will still be standing at the round bale... I don't have much of a choice though. I'm hoping the combination of soupy beet pulp mashes, extra salt, the slow net and maybe even putting a water tank right by the hay bale if a hose will reach that far will be enough to prevent this from happening again. Like you said, it doesn't stay that cold for very long periods of time like in other places, so if I do all of those things and blanket him when it gets below 20F maybe he will be okay.

      We do actually have a stock tank deicer because the goats can't break ice on the pond so they would be without water whenever it's freezing. So the horses have access to the warmer water as well.

      I wish I could give hay more than twice a day, but I can't leave work so I don't have a choice unfortunately. That's absolutely crazy that they only offer water twice a day in some places!!! I've never heard of that!!

    2. P.S. Sorry for not proofreading. I'm starving and supper is done so I was rushing hehe.


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