Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Is in the Air at an Arabian Horse Farm so What Else Is Up?

The sun shone glouriously today and the temperatures nearly reached 70° so you would think that this warmth loving Arabian horse breeder would have had a good day. But with the wonders of spring can also come things like new grass and tons and tons of weeds, sometimes that combination isn't good and it wasn't good today.

Dressage Mom asked in today's post, A colic question Even as I read the title, wondered about the timing. Isn't it funny sometimes how we bloggers can seem to be living parallel lives. Invisibly connected by some unknown force.

The self-care barn at which six of my horses reside has the usual large popluation of horses on not much acreage. The fields used for turnout are stressed from over grazing and horses on them even when they are wet. (Just for the record my farm is just the same.) That combination leads to spring grasses with even higher sugar levels and lots of weeds.

Turning horses out on such fields means they need to be started off with not much time and gradually increased so their systems can cope with this change in diet. Sometimes with even the greatest care, this combination can cause problems and that's exactly what's happened for me.

All of my horses have had a chance to play a bit in the sunshine at sometimes during this week. Three of them actually got out into the pastures that actually have some grass coming on. They were monitored closely and brought in much sooner than they wanted but it was a necessary precaution.

Despite those attempts to avoid problems when I went into Dandy's stall on Wednesday, I noticed he hadn't cleaned up all of his hay. Then I stripped off his blanket and found the horse's belly looked bigger than my mare who is due to foal in a month. This Arabian horse was very bloated but not showing any other signs of colic other than not cleaning up his feed.

The first thing I did was change his feed card and make a big note on his door. Dandy gets absolutely no grain until further notice! Then I went ahead and saddled the horse up. I know that sounds like a strange thing to do with a horse that might be colicky but since bloating signifies major gas issues to me, rounding a horse up is the best way I know to actually relax the gut and cause them to pass some of that gas out of there.

Dandy wasn't happy but he wasn't miserable either. He was tolerating this huge gas load pretty darn well but still voicing his opinion about being put to work when he's uncomfortable. He pinned his ears at me when I saddled him up and tossed his head and tried to nip when I cinched him up. Can't say as I blame him, but it's still the best thing I know to do. If the horse was a big problem to ride, I would call the vet immediately, otherwise I'd see what we could get worked out on our own.

The horse was good about standing still for me to mount. That told me that my assessment of his condition was probably about right. As I asked him to work, he wanted to be on the muscle a bit even at the walk. This isn't the norm for this horse but certainly understandable.

When I asked the horse to jog, he still wanted to speed up a notch. However, the horse wasn't bracing at all against the bit so I had another indication he was uncomfortable but not in a lot of pain like a colicing horse would be. I worked at getting him nice and supple because the key to breaking up lots of gas seems to be in the softness and roundness of the horse. I don't know if it has to do with the relaxation that brings or what, I just know it works.

Even when I asked the horse to lope he didn't brace against the bit. Again he wanted to be faster than normal and it took a while to work through to a point of that soft round lope the horse is so amazing at. But once we hit that point, the "tooting" began. The tempo was consistent with the tempo of his lope. It would have been amusing if it wasn't so darn important.

I kept loping the horse until the orchestration ceased. Then I got off poor Dandy and unsaddled him and put him away. With our twenty minute ride, Dandy's bloated belly had decreased by at least half. The ride had definitely made a big improvement.

Dandy did this very same thing two years ago in the spring. Within a day or two the horse had passed all of the gas through and we had avoided an episode of gas colic. I was hoping for the same again.

However by today, it's clear that Dandy isn't out of the woods. Although his still pooping like he should be, it's not showing any signs of hardness, and the horse is eating good. The back two quadrant of the horse's gut are still bloated giving him a really lopsided look. He has good gut sounds but walking or riding will no longer loosen up the gas because the horse is hurting too much to relax.

I spoke with the vet and he suggested bran mash and probiotics to reestablish good flora in his gut. Two cups of wheat bran with hot water twice a day and two doses of the probiotic. Each of these is to be given at different times. The bran can coat the cut so the probiotic doesn't do it's job. The horse is also on banamine which I began the first day.

The cause of all this gas is clearly the spring cocktail Dandy got that day he was allowed to graze. The probiotics should help repopulate the desired bacteria and the wheat bran should help bind with the gas and push it through. In the meantime, Dandy is on colic watch. He is getting hand walked or lunged at regular intervals in the hope of working the rest of this gas through his system. So please everyone keep your fingers crossed that this all works out ok for this very special horse! Hopefully I'll be back to posting soon about our story at the US Nationals.

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  1. Great photo Mikael. Such beautiful coloring around the face...and the horse is pretty too:-) haha Hope Dandy is doing better...he is in good hands.

  2. Hope Dandy is feeling better! FastTrack is a good product for keeping the "good" bugs in the horses digestive system.

  3. Hiya,

    I hardly ever comment here, but I do 'lurk'! There's an award over at mine for you!

    Lisa x

  4. OK, so thinking ahead to NEXT Spring MiKael, to try and introduce him to grass more slowly- like literally 10 minute intervals at a time for about a week, 15 mins the next, etc etc... Do you thinkt hat would help?

    Poor man. Sure hope he is better soon! We will be thinking of him here in the Southland!

  5. I know exactly how you and Dandy are feeling about this gas colic. My horse Erik used to gas colic quite a bit and we did pretty much the same regimen as you are doing with Dandy. Hope the poor guy is feeling better soon.

  6. Fingers, toes firmly crossed. Poor boy.

  7. Love the photo too MiKael.

    I will be sending positive vibes your and Dandy's way until you update me, please keep me posted on his progress, this is not a great situation and I have dealt with it many times with this many horses as you have I am sure.


  8. ((HUGS!!))...*fingers crossed*...good thoughts and all that in hopes that Dandy is feeling better VERY soon! And btw...that photo is AWESOME!

  9. I hope he gets better soon. I've had two cases of colic in the last 8 months, only one with a good outcome.

    I'll be sending gassy thoughts towards Dandy. :)

  10. Great post! Something we watch carefully in the spring is the WAY a horse eats. Ours are out on pasture most of the time but when we bring them in in the spring and see one not eating grain properly it's often because they have a tooth problem.

  11. Good luck with Dandy. The sudden spring grass is a worry isn't it?

  12. Sorry poor Dandy is in so much pain. I'll be thinking of you both over the next couple of days.

  13. We use the Fast Trac too and it seems to keep things going the way they should. Last spring was when Buddy foundered and I sure don't want that to happen again so I will be on the 15 minutes a day routine for awhile and then increasing as we go along. We also aren't going to let the grass get really high and thick, I'll mow it before I let it do that.

    Great picture Mikael of you both!!!!

  14. I'm sure, that even though
    Dandy wasn't happy it first, he sensed he was in very capable, loving hands who knew exactly how he felt. So glad he's doing better.

  15. Sending good energy for Dandy. Take care.

  16. After your comment on my blog I was worried that you might have a colicky horse. I'm sorry to see that I guessed correctly.

    I hope Dandy gets better really soon. Positive thoughts sent to you and your fine pony.

  17. I have just visited your blog for the first time, and could not help but read it from start to finish. Excellent! congratulations on a fine blog.
    I have just started my own, very much in progress.
    I was wondering if you're aware of the work of Linda Tellington-Jones and how some of what she teaches can be used in the event of colic and allergies. Ear TTouches and some of the others are so simple, and if I hadn't seen them work myself, I would not believe it.
    Something so simple as working a horse's ears and doing a belly lift until the vet arrives can keep a horse out of shock and even reverse the initial stages of colic. I humbly suggest you check out what she has to say about this. It's cheap (as in free), and it's worth a try!
    Thanks for such a good blog!