Unexpected illness, unexpected obsession:
A week after the exquisite mare, Baby Doe, became mine, I arrived at the barn for a simple Saturday of grooming, playing with and riding my two beloved horses. When I entered and saw Baby Doe’s stall empty, I thought trainer Bryan was working with her and I went out to the arena, only to see trainer Bryan, on the grass, walking Baby Doe in a circle swiftly. “She’s colicking”, he said. “No worries, I’ve given her Banamine and have been walking her for more than half an hour. We can’t let her lie down. She’ll be fine.”
But she wasn’t.
We needed to see some (for want of a better word) manure coming from her. It wasn’t. No problem. We just needed to walk her more. Which we did for two more hours.
Anyone familiar with horses knows that colic is a very real potential of a death sentence. I couldn’t even fathom this at that time. All I could do was…walk her.
A call to the vet was made, who turned out to be the substitute vet. She is a wonderful vet. With the heat and abundant thunderstorms this summer in South Florida, many horses were colicking and vets were busy. Add to that, my beloved girl, Baby Doe, had only arrived from Illinois less than two months ago and was still processing that stress.
With the vet’s arrival the “baptism by fire” both for humans and for horse began.
The hours of invasive procedures on my Girl were started. To begin with, they had to tranquilize her in order to shove a tube down her nose and pour down a gallon of water, followed by a gallon of mineral oil.
There were two anal exams to see what her organs were doing. Each of which could have caused a septic rupture…
By 11 o’clock that night it became clear that she had displaced her intestines to the left. Good news, because had they displaced to the right, we would have had to put her down within hours to save her from excruciating, unfixable pain.
Then came the next procedure. ..intravenously fill her with fluids for an hour, administer a med that would shrink her spleen for fifteen minutes, during which time we would longe the heck out of her in order for her intestines to hop over the spleen and get back into place.
Oh, my Baby Doe, my Girl, you have a mission to fulfill! You and I agreed you didn’t want to be a show horse. You made it possible, by having that hitch in your right shoulder, for me to be your human partner in this life, so that you could minister to those in need…disabled, disadvantaged, special needs, those in sorrow, those who need the healing presence of Horse…
The all night barn vigil now commenced.
Humidity intensified, mosquitos got busy, the stars radiated and trainer Bryan and I found some lawn chairs, placed them by her stall and settled in for what was to be a long night at the barn.
I am still trying to find words to describe the various experiences of this night.
First, there was the anxious worry. He and I took turns standing by her stall, looking for a sign of manure, trying to comfort her in her agonizing pain.
My sweet, loving Girl had turned into a wild savage that bit and kicked if we got near her. She was flailing her head and pacing. Her ears were ever flat on her head.
Neither Bryan nor I slept a wink.
Eventually the lights turned out. The horses settled in for the night. And a kind of magic occurred which one only experiences in a barn in the wee hours of the night.
The silence was exquisite. Punctuated only by snorts and shufflings of the horses. We could hear a background lullaby of crickets and cicadas outdoors. As I peeked into each stall, I saw horse after horse lying down in a deep sleep. My boy horse, my Appaloosa, Spirit, had sprawled out in his stall, sound asleep and looking like a baby colt. I couldn’t take my eyes off that dearness.
Each hour, trainer Bryan, going above and beyond any expectation, would lead my Baby Doe out to walk her for a half an hour or so. I would drag myself out of my lawn chair to be present, but couldn’t have begun to muster the energy Bryan did… hour after hour.
In those late night, star-filled moments, it was confirmed to me that there are truly people of honor walking this earth and that I was blessed to experience his caring and indefatiguable soul.
At 5 a.m. the first sign of manure! I don’t know when manure has EVER made me so happy!
But we weren’t out of the woods yet. At 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. more relief for the Girl in the way of manure! We cautiously celebrated and took turns going back to our homes for showers and changes of clothing.
However, when I got back to the barn later that afternoon, the roller coaster ride of the past 24 hours took another dip. She had gone hours now with no more sign of manure relief. It could be that her intestines were still displaced to the left. We might have to repeat the whole procedure.
Trainer Bryan called the vet. She suggested letting her run free for awhile in a pasture, without overheating, and then to hand graze her for about 15 minutes.
As I watched my glorious Girl run, buck, leap and play, looking like the regal faerie horse she is, her whiteness contrasting with the deep green of pasture grass, I knew that this was no longer a horse that was ill.
After grazing her, I took her back into her stall to cool her off and…immediate success in the manure department! It was proof positive that her intestines were back in place and the procedure had unequivocally worked!