Colic Crisis at Natural Horsemanship Clinic

I took my mare, Misty, to a natural horsemanship clinic expecting to come away with many new lessons. We certainly learned a lot and our relationship grew but I hadn’t expected to include a study on colic. Horses have such finicky digestive systems and stress, such as traveling, can bring colic or other health issues. Here is how the situation unfolded:

This was Misty’s first time away from home for more than a short period of time. On the day we trailered to the clinic she barely drank any water (healthy horses should drink 7-10 gallons per day).  I added electrolytes to her water and she drank most of that bucket. By the time I left her for the night it appeared as if she was back on track and had settled in comfortably.

I arrived early the next morning, Saturday, to check on her and noticed fewer manure piles than normal. (Constipation in horses = colic, which = a potentially lethal stomache.) As a precaution, I syringed probiotics and continued using electrolytes in her water.  In less than half an hour she began producing manure.

The morning session of the clinic went extremely well. We went through basic ground work looking for any glitches that needed attention. Misty is very light and responsive to cues and with the help of the clinician she became even more so. In retrospect I realize that she was a bit clingy, most unusual for her. Had I not been so focused on the clinic I would have realized she was communicating with me that she was in distress. (Animal communicators are tuned in, but susceptible to distraction like most people.)

For the afternoon session we were to be mounted. Misty has huge saddling issues that we’ve worked and worked on but after more than one ill-fitting saddle she is quite the skeptic. She became the project horse for the first part of the session. I had switched to a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle some time before this and thought we had finally solved the fitting problem. What I learned was that the pommel was digging into her back and still causing her issues — even with a treeless saddle! (This lead to several other participants having their saddles evaluated and many of us were surprised at the fitting issues.)

After some repadding to relieve her withers, I mounted and prepared for the riding portion of the clinic. From the beginning it was obvious that something was not right. Misty was very twitchy and irritable. The clinician was convinced it was the saddle but I knew better.

Normally after I manage to get the saddle on her she is a dream to ride. She had never behaved in this manner before. This just was not my horse!

I lightly trotted her around the arena to see if she would settle but gradually she became worse and I could feel an explosion building inside her. She was clearly communicating that something was wrong.  I  dismounted and took her back to the stall.

Having gotten her message loud and clear, I checked her digestive reflex point. She was very reactive. No wonder she was irritable, she was colicking! I syringed more probiotics and continued with the electrolytes. All in all I probably syringed her half a dozen times during a 24-hour period.

Sunday morning was the final day of the clinic. This time there were more manure piles and things were looking nearly normal. I checked her digestive reflex again and there was only a minor reaction. More probiotics and we were off to day two ground work.

The final afternoon session was mounted work. With the colic symptoms relieved, Misty was her usual self under saddle and we were able to do some quality fine tuning. It was a very productive clinic experience for us on many levels, including dealing with her colic.

When I packed for the clinic I included emergency supplies: probiotics, electrolytes, natural antibiotics, and healing clay. Thank goodness for that foresight! I cannot imagine how the experience would have turned out if we had to call in a vet to treat colic. Of course had the situation worsened, I was fully prepared to make the call. Whenever in doubt calling the vet is the right thing to do. But in this situation I was able to quickly assess the situation and administer the correct holistic remedies. Crisis averted and we had an otherwise very satisfying clinic experience.

Moral of the story: Never leave home without an emergency cache of holistic remedies.

The Continuing Saga of Colic

My second colic encounter was with an older horse that was temporarily boarding at Seven Springs. His system was not as robust and he didn’t handle transitions well. One morning I noticed he was lying down more than usual. I asked him to get up and he did not want to move. It took some doing to get him on his feet. No gut sounds and his capillary refill was sluggish. No doubt in my mind that it was colic. I immediately syringed probiotics. Less than half an hour later there was improvement. After syringing a second dose he was hugely improved. I continued to closely monitor him over the next two days. He was better than ever. The probiotics helped him through the transition and his gut function was restored. Colic crisis averted.

Since then I make sure to always have a ready supply of probiotics (DynaPro is the one I trust). Healthy horses have  healthy, functioning guts. It’s important to emphasize that holistic remedies may not always be the best choice. Whenever there is any doubt the responsible thing to do is call your vet.

My Introduction to Colic

My first hands-on experience with colic was when my mare, Misty, was boarded in Brooklyn. It was a very unnatural situation with no turnout. Misty had received the required spring vaccinations and had a bad reaction. She was feverish, lethargic and her neck had a grapefruit-sized knot at the injection site.

That evening I got a call from the stable. She wasn’t eating and they were worried about colic. The usual colic remedy was a shot of Banamine and wait to see if a vet call was necessary. It was a long, scary night but by morning she was slightly improved.

A few years later we were blessed to be able to move Misty to Seven Springs and set up a natural herd environment.  By then I had started on an empowering journey to find holistic solutions, which was fortunate since vets are scarce in this rural area.

Colic and horses

Today I was reflecting on colic in horses. Colic is a word that casts a long shadow of fear in the hearts of equine lovers and is a frequent topic of discussion. Colic is a word that often means an emergency vet visit and hours of fingernail-biting anxiety.

One of the many benefits of natural or holistic horsekeeping is that colics are rare. When horses are allowed to move freely and have free choice access to a variety of foods their guts function as they were designed and all is usually well.

Because colic is all about the gut not functioning well, remedies that stimulate proper function are of great value. A colic remedy that has worked well for us is DynaPro, a probiotic from Dynamite. At the first sign of distress some DynaPro syringed orally has thus far resulted in things moving in the right direction. Result: happy, healthy horses.