This sweet girl came to Gypsy Farms from Tejas rodeo. She was loved by her previous owner, but was not working as the calm kids horse that she had hoped for. We had the opportunity to bring her here with the hopes of changing all of that. As many of you know that ride here, she took some time to get the hang of being a lesson horse, but in just a few months, she was learning to leap over jumps and 6 year olds were cantering around the arena on her. As for me, Holly was very special to me. The first time that I got on Holly in our arena, I could tell that she lacked confidence, meaning that she needed me to be her confident person, and that she didn't trust many people. She and I connected in a way that I can't explain. She trusted me to treat her fairly, she trusted me to walk her through the unknown, and she trusted me to keep her safe. You might have heard me say that she would lean on me a lot. I meant that in both an emotional and physical manner. She would literally lean on me when she was nervous, she wanted to be close to me like a scared or nervous dog that wants to be in your lap when she didn't have confidence in what was happening. She also leaned on me emotionally as I walked her through new experiences. Oftentimes when I rode Holly in the arena and she would get nervous, I would sing to her (and I am a terrible singer, but she seemed to appreciate it.) I would sing in a soft low voice so nobody else heard as we rode through new situations, she kept going knowing that everything would be ok as long as she heard my voice. Holly also thrived off of praise and recognition, so I gave her a lot of good girls, she didn't need treats, she just needed lots of love, kind words and pats on the neck to make her happy and build confidence.
Yesterday, October 18, 2020, Holly was working her way through the lesson day very diligently as she normally did, and at the end of the day, she went to the back of the barn and laid down quietly. One of our riders saw her and notified Jessica, our amazing instructor. Holly was able to get back up, but quickly laid down again. Jessica made the call that she was likely colicking and contacted me. Within 20 minutes she had received a dose of Banamine, which is an anti-inflammatory medication that helps them relax and eases the pain in hopes of allowing them to behave (drink and digest) more normally. Colic is the number one cause of death in horses and no colic situation is ever taken lightly. After the first dose of Banamine, the protocol is to wait until it wears off 10-12 hours later, at that time, if the horse is still showing colic symptoms, we take them to the emergency hospital, but if they are behaving fine, then we keep an eye on them and monitor their food and water for several days until they are back to normal.
In this case, the Banamine was administered at 12:45. By 5 pm she was displaying signs of discomfort. (This is quite unusual for it not to last its full 10-12 hours and was a scary sign). She was pawing in her stall and circling as if she wanted to lay down. Her behavior was very unusual, she was uninterested in everything. She was not anxious, or upset that she was leaving her friends when I loaded her in the trailer. She was cool as a cucumber, which is very unlike Holly who has been noted to literally be scared of her own shadow, and even her own tail a time or two.
Upon arrival at Retama Equine Hospital, they did a colic exam with the following findings:
-Ultrasound revealed a distended small intestine on the left side, the lining was thin, indicating that there was still blood flow to that portion of the intestine
-Blood results proved that she was somewhat dehydrated, but nothing terrible
-Rectal exam revealed that she likely had been slightly dehydrated for a couple of days
-She did not seem physically in pain upon arrival, and her heart rate was low- which is a sign of no pain. But again she was very unlike herself throughout the entire day.
-They also removed some of the contents of her stomach in the event that she experienced gastric reflux. Gastric reflux occurs when there is a blockage in the bowel (usually the small intestine) that causes the buildup of fluid in front of it. Unlike other species the horse can't vomit and the stomach can rupture due to build up of fluid.
The Doctor concluded that she likely had a small intestine impaction. This could be because coastal hay is very fine and kind of builds up right there at the ileum (#8 in chart below), if that were the case, 70% of the time IV fluids will flush that out and they are back to normal in a few days. However, if it was something else, like torsion (twisted intestine), we would know soon. The liquid from the IV and anything else in the stomach essentially gets stuck right there and cannot pass through, causing it to fill up and become extremely painful. The vet also stated that she cringes when she identifies small intestine colic opposed to large intestine colic, because it is much more fatal. After giving me the diagnosis, we decided to admit her. I was unable to enter the facility at all due to COVID, so I went home.
The vet called me at 1:24 this morning. She informed me that she had done another ultrasound
and determined that now the right side was also extremely distended, indicating a likely torsion instead of an ileal impaction. She explained that shortly after I left, Holly showed signs of pain. The vet administered Bute as you typically don't administer Banamine until 12 hours from the last dose. The Bute was not helpful, so she administered the second dose of Banamine after 10 hours (around 10:30 pm). Shortly thereafter, Holly was still in pain. She was receiving Lidocaine in addition to the other medications, and then she was given a sedative once the pain was too intense for Holly. She was not responding to any of the pain relief and ended up receiving three doses of sedatives but the pain was unrelenting. At this point, she called me to ask my permission to euthanize Holly. I gave her my authorization. The vet said that Holly went peacefully and calmly. She was loved by so many people and made a huge impact on all of us here at Gypsy Farms. Until we meet again my sweet girl.
Hindsight and lessons learned
1) We realized that Holly did not finish her breakfast, she was chill all day long, even about things that normally really upset her, like rubbing her ears.
2) We had a new round bale a few days earlier, the round bale was very green and tasty, which could have caused an increase in gas, possibly causing a little discomfort over the last few days.
3) If it were an ileal impaction and she would have pulled through, feeding alfalfa once a day to colic prone horses helps break up the coastal hay ingestion.
4) She may have already had a small twist which could have been exasperated by the one roll that she did squeeze in before we got her up.
We caught her colic very fast, we treated her immediately and at no point did we hesitate to get her the care that she needed. There is nothing that we could have done differently once we recognized the situation that would have changed the outcome outside of surgery. Surgery on small intestine impactions rarely has a good prognosis and is costly- upwards of $17,000 to $20,000. It is also often full of complications and the likelihood of the horse surviving a week after the surgery is quite low.
Please comment with your stories and pictures of this sweet girl. Thank you all for the support and love that you have offered during this time.