It’s amazing how many disasters can be averted if I learn from past mistakes. Xmas 2008 Minx colicked for the first time. It was a cold snap, she had been out of work for a couple of days, and voila! - I had a bill for treatment of an impaction colic. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was given a chance to prove I had learned from that lesson.
I probably could have avoided Minx’s colic if I had kept her moving and in regular or even reduced work to stimulate appetite and thirst (horses are meant to move and standing around whatever our winter/holiday excuses has an impact on their digestive system) during the cold snap, made sure her gut was full of as much hay as she wanted, and kept an eye on her water consumption.
Ever since then, I’ve become more attuned to the weather and more conscious about mitigating risk factors. Heated troughs are nice and an aid in this situation, but not a necessity in this part of California – therefore many pastures and boarding facilities are not set up for them. With this not an option for me, I had to control the risk in other ways.
Lately we’ve been having a cold snap. I haven’t been worried – Farley has been kept in regular work and eating as much hay as she wants. As a result she’s been sucking down the water normally. However, over Thanksgiving I was planning on visiting family and not riding. I decided to bring Farley with me so I could monitor her and she could run around in a pasture for 4 days. Being out on pasture and being able to move around would reduce her chances of tying up when I put her back to work after the holiday, and keep her digestive system healthy and (hopefully) colic-free.
After 24 hours still Farley wasn’t drinking her normal amount of water. She was eating hay normally, going on regular gallops around the pasture but not drinking out of the trough.
Farley is used to her water being changed out every day or so and the tub scrubbed. She will drink out of troughs with leaves etc during a training ride, but as I looked at my parents huge troughs with leaves and fish in it, I had a revelation that perhaps she would prefer clean, fresh water. I filled up a bucket and set it next to the trough. When I came to check, the bucket was empty. For the rest of the holiday, as long as the bucket of clean water was available, she drank normally.
It’s hard to say definitely that I averted a colic disaster – however all the risk factors were there: a decrease in physical activity, a cold weather pattern, and reduced water intake. By being attentive to my horse’s needs, even though it meant a bit of good natured teasing from friends and family over the amount of pampering my horse gets, I made sure she stayed healthy.
She’s never refused to drink out of that trough before. I might have been because when she’s at my parents house, it’s usually because we are riding, or it’s in the middle of summer and it’s hot – both situations would trigger enough thirst for her to drink out of the trough regardless if it was her “preferred” choice.
In the course of remembering a lesson learned, I learned an additional lesson – when travelling or boarding, even if there’s water provided, I will be giving her a water option out of one of her personal buckets. Who knows what grief this lesson learned now will save me later?
The Kikkuli method of conditioning the horse
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