August seems to have been fairly quiet on the horse front. Well, when I say quiet, I mean the usual, poo picking, scrubbing algae out of water trugs, pulling up weeds, ragwort and mending sections of electric fence. Both horses seem to have had a full time job avoiding flies and heat over the last couple of months. I think that I had almost forgotten what their faces looked liked due to them needing fly masks on pretty much 24/7.
It can be easy to feel guilty about doing ‘nothing’ with my horses, however, what is wrong with just letting them be horses? I would like to think that they do enjoy the times that I ask them to ‘work’, but I am sure that they don’t give two hoots if I don’t ask them to work. My horses live out pretty much all year round, a paddock with a field shelter for summer and a paddock with a small sand turnout and more substantial brick built shelters for winter. Both of my horses are oldies and I like to see them moving, grazing and browsing naturally.
I think at one point, in the time that I have owned them, they probably expected to work every time that I interacted with them, so I perhaps would only ever bring them in to ride, lunge, be groomed or come in for farrier visits etc. I hardly ever spent time with them doing nothing, expecting nothing. At the risk of sounding like a tree hugger I think that my relationship changed for the better when I gave that some thought and just spent time hanging out with them. But I suppose if I think about it logically, and back to my blog on poisoned cues, what sort of cue was I being? Did I trigger excitement, anticipation or the horsey equivalent feeling of; ‘Oh drat, here she is again’?.
Half way through writing this blog I got the opportunity to just hang with my horses and not for the best reason. I had broken off from writing to give my horses their tea. I gave them their buckets, they don’t have much in summer, feed times are more an opportunity for me to check them over. As I was walking away I heard one cough and immediately knew that something was wrong. Mr D was suffering from choke. For those that haven’t seen it, it is quite distressing. In horses, choke refers to something stuck in the food pipe (oesophagus) not the windpipe (trachea). Still it is very upsetting to see, the horse keeps producing saliva and it has nowhere to go so food and saliva ended up coming down Mr D’s nose. Poor old lad, he was rigid and in obvious discomfort.
For whatever reason, Mr D may have decided to bolt his food that night or it may be to do with his age and his teeth wearing out. He does have his feed soaked to compensate for this but for some reason that evening something got stuck. It’s usually sods law with choke that whatever is clearing the blockage softens and clears by itself just as the vet turns up. I have seen choke before so knew not to panic, I did however set a timer on my phone to monitor how long he had been choking for and stroked him to keep him calm. Now as we know horses will save up all their ailments for an out of hours veterinary visit, and at 6.45 pm on a bank holiday Monday, Mr D had timed it well.
I rang Jenny Staddon at Ridings Equine vets and explained the situation; I was also able to tell her how long that he had been choking. She said that she was on her way and arrived before I knew it. She calmly assessed Mr D who was still choking and not looking a happy chap. We both agreed that it looked like it wasn’t going to clear itself by this time and she explained that she would put a tube up his nostril into his food pipe and try to flush the blockage out. She would sedate him if needed to. Mr D’s eyes normally bug out when he sees the vet, so I was half expecting that were going to have to sedate him. However, Jenny worked her gentle magic and I was flabbergasted to see that he needed little or no restraint to have the tube pushed up his nose. Once she was satisfied that the tube was in his oesophagus, she attached a hand pump to the other end and very gently flushed some water from a bucket through. Jenny carefully and slowly siphoned off the food and saliva that was this side of the blockage. I was amazed how well he tolerated this, I think I would have been crying like a baby. After about 5 minutes, whatever it was that was causing the problem had either come up, or gone down, much to everyone’s relief, especially Mr D’s. Jenny spent some time with us afterwards to make sure that the blockage had completely gone. She explained that choke can cause inflammation in the oesophagus so he would be more at risk of choking again in the next day or two. She gave me some advice and precautions to take to try to reduce the risk of inflammation and hopefully avoid a repeat episode. After Jenny had left, I spent time in the field sat on the ground that evening just watching both of my horses. Feed times from now on will be a very well soaked slop-o-rama for Mr D whilst I try to work out whether it happened because he is eating too quickly or whether he has just become more prone to it because of his age.