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Colic Wars

By Cindy Hale

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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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.

Colic can, fortunately, be nothing more than a 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 operating table.

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 his stall.

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 poop.

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Reader Comments

CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

10/28/2011 1:37:49 AM

MARION, I AM SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR BELOVED HORSE. YOU ARE SO RIGHT THAT SOMETIMES THERE IS NO RECOURSE, NO HOPE, NO OPTION OTHER THAN TO SAY GOOD-BYE TO A FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND. I AM CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL MEET UP WITH YOUR HORSE AGAIN. HE'S WAITING FOR YOU.

Deb    Norco, CA

10/26/2011 1:36:12 PM

An important note to all horse owners is to realize that with colic there may not be pawing and rolling but the horse "just isn't right". It seems that it is also still possible to pass manure with a partial impaction--as I learned recently. Know your horses and LISTEN to your gut instinct.

Marion    Sussex, NJ

10/25/2011 8:42:47 AM

So glad that all turned out well for you Cindy. It's a nightmare when it happens.
My beloved H.T. had colic surgery on Oct 20 2002 and just this past friday night Oct 21 2011, I lost him to a bled out from the scar tissue and adhessions that formed from the surgery along his abdomen wall. It was horrible. We did rush him to the equine hospital, but with that type of thing, there is now recourse. He has now crossed over the Rainbow's Bridge and is pain free.

-----    -------, CA

10/23/2011 4:03:39 PM

Wow, Gemma, I'm glad your rabbit got over it! How scary. My rabbit, luckily, has never had anything wrong yet with her digestive tract except a little upset when I first got her. However, she now has an eye infection.

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