Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I don't even know how to begin this. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted, and there are some very grim possibilities in my head that, if I think about them too much, absolutely dissolve me.

Sofie and I have had two more forward, canter-included rides. Considerable attitude was present, right along with promise. She was energetic during rides and free schooling, but yesterday, in the aisle and out in the field with her friends, she was high-headed and starey. She seemed okay after my ride, but in the field, she was doing a lot of standing and staring. There was a weird buzzsaw type noise happening, and disembodied noises do get to her, so I didn't worry too much about her distracted, slightly tense state.

I was to stay in town that night, sleeping over at a friend's house. At around 7:40 I got a text from the barn owner. She wanted to talk to me about Sofie's supplements and her "attitude". That worried me. I didn't like the sound of that. I tried calling her but couldn't get through to her cell phone. My friend and I were driving around at 9:00, and I learned she'd been out to the barn earlier that night (she has a horse there as well), while I was attending a class at the public library. I casually asked her how Sofie was, and she said something that worried me. I couldn't get a straight answer out of her, so I asked if she wanted to go back to the barn. She did, and we went there.

Sofie's stall was bare, no output of any sort. I immediately started having flashbacks to Christmas Eve eve. She had drunk water and eaten most of her hay. Her belly wasn't overly tucked up or spasming. I let myself into the stall, checking her over, and she was touchy. Very touchy. She seemed defensive, almost angry, clearly saying "Do not touch me". Gut sounds were present, she wasn't dehydrated as far as I could tell, she wasn't sweating or pawing or fractious. But she was not right. I turned her out in the indoor for a minute, and she did poop right away, so that was good.

Sofie does have a sense of timing. Both her colicky episodes have happened when I was able to look after her.

I went up to the house to talk to Judy, who offered to let me spend the night at her house so I could check on my horse periodically. I gratefully took her up on that.

As we were talking, she told me what had been going on with Sofie. Apparently, according to the boarders who brought the horses in a couple nights in a row (Judy has been sick with a nasty flu), Sofie had been coming in and running around the arena, dodging people who tried to catch her, and turning right around to try and come back out as soon as she was let into her stall. Not normal. And they had also seen her being aggressive toward the other mares, and not letting them come to the door to be let in. Definitely. Not. Normal. As I was hearing all this, I immediately thought, "Hormones." All signs pointed to hormones. My online research did not give me a good feeling, as it turns out many of the things that can go wrong with ovaries and cause mares to be whacked out require surgical removal of the ovaries. And surgery (plus shipping to a university) is way above what would be reasonable for me to pay for.

I checked on Sofie at 11, 1, 3 and 7:30, and she remained somewhat dull and unhappy looking, but okay. She went out with her friends at 8 and did her stopping and staring routine for a while, but eventually settled down to eat. She looked fine when she was eating out with her friends, but when I went down at 11, she was alone behind the barn. She had that slightly unhappy look, and was looking at her sides. She also pawed a couple times as I watched.

At that point I decided to call the local vet office to see if I could talk to one of the equine vets. It turned out that one of them was out on farm calls, and heading to the area where Sofie's barn is located. I talked to him briefly, and arranged for him to stop by. I also called our neighbor, and she went to tell my mom what was going on.

After that I completely fell apart from all the not knowing. Not knowing if I should just wait and see. She wasn't as bad as she was on Christmas Eve, and she came through that fine. I felt terrible for spending money, and for rearranging my mom's day. So I cried semi-hysterically for a while, but in the end I knew I made the right decision. I did not feel like waiting and seeing, and the vet was going to be in the area anyway. It was the right thing to do.

My mom arrived at 1, to my intense relief, and I told her everything I knew and observed. She agreed with my decision, and I brought Sofie in and walked her in the arena until the vet showed up a few minutes later.

The first thing he did was check her back, running this weird plastic thing over the acupressure meridians (I think that's what they're called) for the ovaries. She sank, and tightened her belly, and generally conveyed pain. He listened for gut sounds, and then decided to ultrasound her to check for gut motility, and hopefully check her ovaries as well. She didn't mind the equipment, but light sedation was required (and he also felt it would help her relax, which would help with the pain), and Sofie took offense at that. Big time. She did her typical rock-hard neck, try-to-escape-down-the-aisle routine. So out came the twitch, and she got her drugs. Gut motility was good on the ultrasound, but he wasn't able to check out her ovaries. He opted not to palpate her, saying he felt the risk and reward was not good. If we do need her palpated, the senior Dr. Aho has done hundreds and hundreds of cows and horses and will be able to do the job.

So we don't quite know what's causing her to cramp like this, except that it is certainly hormonally driven. Basically, this cannot go on indefinitely. It's far too stressful on her and on us to go through this again and again, and also, it is too easy for her body to tense up from the pain, thus shutting down gut motility and throwing her into full-blown colic.

Dr. Aho suggested a couple different options (Regumate and spaying), neither of which are terribly doable. I don't like the idea or the reality of Regumate, or the (high AND ongoing) cost. If her issues are coming from cystic ovaries or a tumor, spaying would be the only real option. I really hope it doesn't come to that, because it will be a horribly hard decision to have to make.

For the short term, it looks as if she will get through this. She's been relaxed and had a good appetite ever since she came out of her sedation haze. She's had two doses of oral Banamine, the first at 3, when she was still a bit groggy, and the second at 7. I had no trouble giving it to her, even when she was fully conscious and likely had an idea what was coming. That alone is miraculous. I am so grateful to Annie for all she's taught me. Annie is amazing, and I'm just glad a little of her amazing-ness is rubbing off on me.

I did talk with Annie tonight, and she suggested a diet change. Apparently there is a supplement that is good for insulin resistant horses, and it's well balanced for any horse. Annie has a lot of horses with issues at her barn, including hormonal mares. Frankly, if this supplement isn't astronomical, I'm willing to try it. I would love it if a diet change could solve these problems. I don't know if it can, but I know Annie really knows what she's doing, and it always pays to go with her. And if there's something I can try before thinking about drastic measures, I will do it.

I really hope this can be fixed. I do not want to lose this horse now. I have to stay strong and not think too much about the worst case scenario. What's helping me is the knowledge that no matter what happens, I have been changed for the better by this horse. I am a stronger, more confident, more capable person because of her. I have learned so much from her, and the people I've come to know through her, that I know will serve me well, not just in my work with horses but in life. I fully believe we found each other because we both needed to. Whatever happens, I know our time together has been important, and I will go on and do good things. I will give myself more credit and put fewer limitations on myself, because I am more than I thought I could be, and I know that now.


  1. Chin up. My friends mare gets colicy a few times a year due to hormonal issues. A few cc's of banamine and some walking and shes good to go. They also briefly had her on regumate, but there are other "moody mare" supplements out there that do a similar job, especially the herbal ones. Have you had her kidneys checked? I have heard of mares being blamed for their ovaries but really it was kidneys. Another option is the marble in the uterus. It tricks the body into staying out of heat and is relatively inexpensive and reversible.

  2. You are taking such good care of Sofie. Good luck and hang on.

  3. One thing you might want to try is raspberry leaves. Apparently they act a bit like regumate, but not as strong, and a lot cheaper.

  4. Thanks for the advice. I believe he did look at her kidneys on the ultrasound. I will look into the various "hormonal mare" supplements. It couldn't hurt to try.

    She's eating, drinking and pooping, and this morning she went out with her friends and is eating hay. She looks relaxed and not all whacked out and starey-eyed, which I think is a good indicator that she's no longer in pain.