This is a new one for me. I’m writing a blog post at midnight in the lounge at my barn. By the time y’all are reading this it will be morning and hopefully everything will be mostly right as rain again. Until then, let me write a little bit about my evening and how I came to be laying on the barn couch at midnight with my laptop. This is going to be a long one with few pictures, just be warned.
When I texted my trainer this morning to see if there was a horse available for me to hack tonight, she replied with “Well I have some good news…” Turns out Simon came in for breakfast, and didn’t eat. Instead, he layed down in his stall. This is very un-Simon like behavior, so she gave him Banamine, removed all food and called to let me know. They kept an eye on him during the day, and he acted normal. The decision was to turn him out somewhere at night, but keep him off food for the entire day just in case. Give his stomach time to settle down.
Then later that afternoon, I got a brief but poignant text. A boarder had seen Simon acting very strangely. My trainer had called the vet out. I told her I was on my way, shut down my computer and left work as fast as I could.
When I got the farm, I was pretty worked up but trying to put on a brave face. The whole drive there my head was full of what if’s, and just so y’all can get a sense of how neurotic I am – anytime something starts to go seriously wrong with my horse all I can think about is the eulogy I would write him. It’s more than a little bit crazy.
So at the barn, the boarder who initially spotted the weird behavior gave me more details on just how weird it was. She said he was circling in his stall, and violently smashing his body into the walls of the stall. That’s when I really got alarmed, and went inside to see him.
Standing in his stall, every vein popped out of Simon’s body. He had a gash by his poll, scrapes around his eye and a scrape on his withers… all from flinging himself at the walls. When I got there he was quiet, but his breath was going as if he just ran a mile. His heart was racing. He was lethargic and dull and completely miserable.
The vet arrived, and they took vitals. His fever was 103. His heart rate was 72 bpm (normal is around 40) and his breath was racing. The vet immediately gave him more banamine to start bringing the fever down and having him feel better. Up until this point, we had all though colic but colic doesn’t usually have fever associated with it.
The vet did a rectal exam, and said his poop was “almost as moist as you could ask for” and she didn’t feel anything. With the fever and racing lungs, she did a bag breathing test and listening for pneumonia like sounds in his lungs. Nothing. She tubed him to check the reflux, but it was fine.
So we were all pretty stumped, and meanwhile his fever only went down to 102, his heart was still racing and he was still breathing hard. Since we are quarantined, the clinic couldn’t take him and our only hospital option was Texas A&M… two hours away. The vet said she wanted to ultrasound his lungs to see if anything looked off that could cause pneumonia, and also run some bloodwork on him. Since the portable ultrasound machine was at the vet clinic, she had to leave. We left visit number 1 with a plan for me to check him in an hour, and the vet to call me back with blood results.
Without anything to do but sit and watch my horse in distress, I went to run an errand to kill a little time. The vet called me back almost immediately. Simon’s bloodwork came back and showed he was extremely dehydrated. Way way way more than he showed us with traditional physical signs. Also, his white blood cell count was very high – so his body is and has been fighting off an infection. To top everything off, his kidney levels were high. She thought that was a symptom of the severe dehydration, but it means we had to start being very careful about how much banamine we gave him for the fever since we didn’t want to further compromise the kidneys. The vet wanted to come back to the farm with the ultrasound machine, check his lungs and small intestines, and get fluids in him as soon as possible.
I turned my car around and headed back to the farm, where I was greeted by a much happier horse. His breathing had slowed some, and I took his pulse to find it under 60 bpm. Also, his demeaner was much improved. He was looking for hay on the ground, begging for treats and playing bitey face with his stall neighbor. It was the first time all night that I began to think he wasn’t literally about to keel over and die. He looked that bad when I first got to the barn.
While we waited for the vet to come back out, I cleaned up his war wounds from the stall fit earlier. I could tell he was still uncomfortable, but I just brushed him and talked to him and reveled in the fact that I couldn’t literally see all the veins on his body anymore.
When they arrived back at the farm, we ultrasounded both his lungs and his small intestine. His lungs looked pristine, which doesn’t match up with a pneumonia diagnosis. The small intestine looked good too, which I was really happy about because I wasn’t sure if I could mentally handle making a call on colic surgery vs no colic surgery. With those two things ruled out, all we had was “mystery infection” to go on. Part of me is peeved that there is literally no idea what made/is making my horse so sick, but most of me is just happy he’s alive.
By the time we hooked up the four bags of fluids to his catheter, he looked almost normal. His heart had dropped to around 42 bpm and his fever was at 101.6.
That was a few hours ago. I just checked on him now, and his fever is at 101.1 and he’s soaked in about half of his fluids. His pulse also remains in the normal range, and his breathing is slow and quiet. I am thankful.
Tonight was stressful and still isn’t over. I’ll need to wake up in a few hours and check him again, then my trainer will take over in the morning and help me tomorrow. I’ve never seen a horse get so sick so quickly. Yesterday he was 100% normal. 100%.
My trainer offered to do the 3am night check for me, but there is something cathartic about sleeping in the barn near your horse. Simon isn’t just my horse, he’s my friend and my partner. I’m so mentally exhausted by everything that has been going on, and that likely won’t stop soon but at the moment I’m thankful he’s quiet and comfortable. These are the moments we sign up for when we have horses, whether we know it or not.
2:45am Update: His fluids were completely empty plus a puddle on the floor… did you find some trickery to empty them Simon or just peed the most giant pee in a strange spot? Either way, he was bright and alert and telling me he was oh so hungry and that if I didn’t feed him he would probably die. Sorry horse, I think you were on your way to dying earlier and now your pathetic hungry face just looks like a healthy horse to me. Fever was 101.1, and blood pressure and heart rate were normal.
7:00am Update: My trainer checked on him, and said his fever was 100.8 and his vitals were all normal. He was still alert and happy.
Now I wait for the vet to come back out around 10:00am to check on him and draw more blood. Hopefully his levels are back to normal, and we see what kind of treatment needs to keep happening.