Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mom - the unsung hero of our trip - And, a brush with colic!

This post of thanks has been brewing in my head for six weeks and then, today, we had two scary hours of Pie with colic that made the message and gratitude contained herein all the more important. If you are like me and worry as you read scary posts about horsey friends in the blogosphere, then don't worry - Pie is A-ok! Hooray! But it was a bit dicey...

The topic of this post started in November when Brian, Maizie, and I left for sunny Florida. I knew that I had to somehow express my gratitude to my mom for so many things, but mostly for keeping our horses safe and sound while we were away. Travel for horse owners is always difficult, but travel for a persnickety person like me (translation: completely freakazoid anal about anything to do with animals) is nearly impossible. I come by this trait honestly, since both my parents gave me my intense love and devotion for, and to, our sweet, furry friends in this world. Consequently, my mother and I rarely travel together because we only trust each other as petsitters. 

And then of course, horses, as we all know, are a super tricky species anyway with few individuals in the world of animal caretakers actually able to correctly halter a horse, lead a horse, or recognize lameness or illness. I am infinitely lucky because my mom knows it all. In fact, anything I know about horses, I learned from her so when I travel it is a little like having a horse loving clone living on the farm where my horses live. 

Mom on her Sovey boy in May of 2009, above, and at a show in the 1960's, below.

But, what she does for us so we can travel is not easy for her because of the weather. While we were away enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures, Mom fed the boys hay many times a day and scrubbed and refilled their outside heated buckets in the gray haze, snow, mud and icy cold. She cleaned out their sheds when necessary and fed millions :) of carrots and apples each day.

This was her daily view...

and this was mine...

This was her chilly sunrise...

and this was my balmy sunset...

In addition, my mom never once complained when I'd phone or text to hear about "what the boys are doing this very second" - sometimes multiple times a day. She happily and enthusiastically reported their daily routines and events.

Because of my mom's generosity and open-minded views, our farm is currently set up in pastures that are large and winding, promoting movement that keeps the horses enagaged and interested. They aren't completely out in a natural, wild world, but it is close enough to make me feel good about leaving them without a rider for an extended period. This type of horsekeeping, combined with a new style of riding and working with horses has been a huge learning experience for me as I feel my way through uncharted territory. And, right beside me, every step of the way has been my mom. She has allowed me the freedom to investigate new and better systems of riding and keeping horses that were foreign and frightening to both of us at times. She has moved away from the pristine neat and comfortable system of keeping horses in a stall with one small, tidy paddock for brief turnout as seen in the top photo of our farm taken in the 1960's to the wild and woolly "prairie" captured in her sunrise photo. Clean and neat to unusual and wild could not have been easy for her. This whole process has been a counter intuitive transition, yet she has been willing to patiently allow our success to unfold. 

I returned to our farm this morning to find three happy and perfectly plump geldings. None seemed at all stressed or cold or injured. My mother had done a superb job of caretaking! Thank you, Mom!!!

Mom on her Thoroughbred, Tam

Brian always says that kids aren't happy until they break something, so, true to form, I had to come back home and immediately undo all my mother's fabulous work. I got to the barn at 9:30am and Pie had colic by 11am because of my foolish actions.  As I said earlier, it all worked out fine, but, ugh, what an idiot I am!

So...I spilled out of my car running and squealing with kisses for my three furry mammoths like any nut would do after being away for so long. Foggy looked at me like I was crazy, but let me squeeze him and Sovey licked my hand forever. Pie pushed them both aside so he could get his proper, "I the BIG boy, I the BABY boy, I the BEST boy, I the SPOILED boy" attention. Foggy and Sovey kindly allow his spoiled dominance. Around that time, I got it in my stupid empty head that I would open the small paddock that adjoins the ring so they boys could graze in there while I went to the grocery store. This area is only 50' x 50' but it was off limits while I was gone. Did you read that sentence? That should have been my first clue that I was doing something idiotic. It was off limits! Therefore it was fresh, and green and lush and new and a huge French Silk Chocolate Pie to one overstuffed sausage horse named...ahem...Pie. But, I forgot all that and went to the store. No, oops - forgot - first before I leave for the store, I tell my mom all preachy-like when she asks if I am going to ride, "Oh, no, I wouldn't do that on my first day back. That would be very unkind and forward. I like to reintroduce my boys to me without rushing them." Never once in all this condescending brilliance did I remember to reintroduce the horses TO THE GRASS. I kissed the boys goodbye on the way to the store and Pie puffed Ground Ivy breath on me. Ground Ivy in large quantities is toxic to horses, but I didn't think about it or worry because I know my guys sometimes get a few leaves in their mouth while grazing.

I returned with a car full of groceries and an idea of giving quick carrots and kisses on my way home to Brian and Maizie. I planned to come back later for real grooming so I didn't have warm, barn clothes with me. All the horses were out of the small lush paddock. Foggy and Sovey were eating hay in the ring and Pie was out in a far pasture looking at me. I gave Foggy and Sovey carrots and Pie started pawing and pointing with a front leg. "I'm coming Pie!" I yelled, laughing because he couldn't even walk in, but instead pawed to demand a treat from far away. As I got closer, he kept "pointing" on the ground with his front feet. I thought he was trying to show me something in the icy snow. I actually thought an animal might be dead there because Pie is very "pointy" with his fronts. But, when I offered him the carrot and he wouldn't take it, everything became too clear. He wasn't pointing but pawing in pain. He was sweating on the far side and he had rolled. 

Ugh. Running to shut the gate so no one could get into the lush paddock again. Running to car to get hat. Phone mom - "Pie has colic!" Running to barn to get his halter and lead. Running back to him before another roll. Cursing self for being the biggest idiot on planet. Praying to God to please make him be ok.

I am a believer in slowly walking a horse when there is a problem of this sort. Not everyone is in that camp and I am not honestly "in" any camp when it comes to things like this. Actually, I can't explain what I do when my horses get ill because really I just watch and do what seems right at that time including calling the vet if that seems right. Today, pawing and head tossing meant "walk slowly". Stopping meant "stop" and stand and massage. Pie had ever so slight gut sounds on the right side which was the sweaty side, but no sweat or sounds at all on the left. I gave him a little Banamine and walked slowly as he seemed to indicate. He passed manure fairly early in our stroll, but it wasn't too comforting because I knew it could be behind the impasse and/or have little to do with Ground Ivy poisoning. Any "stops" dictated by him were spent with him standing completely still and ground tied (two indicators that Pie was VERY sick) and I would gently stroke his flanks, underbelly and sides while my mom stroked his ears. He would fall asleep and then jump from pain or just jump awake. If he pawed or tossed his head we would walk again slowly with my mom talking to me about anything (conversations that are not about him or the problem at hand are very comforting to Pie). This went on for a fairly long time but the sun was out which helped me keep my spirits up. We live in a place with very little if any, sunshine each day. I needed every beam to keep positive. I couldn't believe that I had come back to find my horses happy and healthy and I promptly killed one of them.

One of our stops had Pie sleeping very deeply, in fact he shut his eyes while we worked on him and I was silently praying that he would make it through. Mom and I aren't super knowledgeable about any type of horse massage but whatever we were doing was relaxing him. He woke up in a few minutes and started pulling to nibble grass. Of course, I didn't allow him to eat and I know that wanting to eat means nothing - many horses continue to eat when twisted or blocked, but I still felt a little better. More walking. Finally, it was obvious by his animated walk and general return to being an imp that our Pie was back and going to be fine. I turned him out in the sparse pastures and we rechecked him throughout the day. I will feel better tomorrow when I see him, but I do think he is fine.  

Thank you, Mom, for all your healthy, happy, horse caretaking. You kept the boys fat and fluffy and without one bout of colic or any other ailment. Obviously, I could not do this without you!!!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxo


  1. I'm glad you're home and all is well again.


  2. Oh, poor Pie! Colic can be so scary. I'm so glad your Mom was there to help you out and that everyone is fine.
    Great tribute to your Mom--she's a trouper! Welcome home to the cold, snowy north.

  3. You and your mom sound like my daughter and I. Neither one of us takes a vacation without the other one there to take care of the herd. It's so hard to find someone you can trust. Your mom is a great help.

    Sorry to hear about Pie but happy he's okay. Colic is too scary and I don't like to deal with it. I lost my best horse to colic and it freaks me out whenever we have a member of the herd colicing. Good luck on your first rides with the gang.

  4. Welcome home! Is it hard to transition form Fl to Pa I wonder? ;D

    SO relate to this post...

    The only times I've traveled in the three plus years I've had Va - he came with. Not sure I could enjoy time away leaving him with anyone else. Your mom rocks!!

    Glad to hear Pie is okay - colic is totally scary. My former trainer's beautiful tb mare Lacey is at the hospital now, coliced on Friday, spiked a fever, impaction and possibly has Potomac. She's on iv fluids and has shown improvement today but it's touch and go.

  5. I'm glad that Pie is getting back to normal. You are lucky to have such a willing an attentive Mom...I can see that you two have learned a lot from each other.


  6. I've recently started reading your blog and love it! As a fellow retired racehorse owner, it's so fun to hear about your experiences and ideas. It's like having a great conversation with a horsey friend.
    I'm also an equine vet and I've recommended your site to many of my clients. I really appreciate your desire to give your horses a happy, as-close-as-possible-to-natural life. A lot of medical problems could be avoided if more people did the same.
    I'm glad Pie is doing better!

  7. Thanks everyone for the great comments.

    Sunshine - Hi and welcome! Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I agree that these blogs are like conversations with horsey friends. In fact, I daydream about getting all my blog friends together someday for a great ride and horse talk.
    Pie is his happy (rotund) self today!

  8. WHEW!! I didn't like reading that AT ALL...I'm so glad to see your comment that PiePie is better.
    It's the worst just waiting and wishing, feeling helpless. I think slow walking, breaks and massage is great. Sweet toothed Pie!

  9. Welcome home you all.
    I've been away , but will catch up.The photos said a million words.lovely.Were you gone just a bit longer this time?

    Man that was scary. Sometimes we lose our heads....but it did turn out alright.Your Ma is the grounded and open too your love of the horse, your way.
    Whew, I'm still sighing relief.Pie!

  10. OH! What a post which I am reading for the first time! First of all, it is full of wonderful things: family, healthy animals, beautiful photos, Florida vistas. But what whoa you must have felt with poor Pie pawing and sweaty. I am so sorry that you and Pie had such an ordeal. Colic is so stinky--especially when it shows up just after Pie was having such a wonderful time eating his chocolate dream pie equivalent. You and your mom are the best. YES, BOTH of you. I am so thankful Pie is better. We have many things to be thankful for, even when it is not Thanksgiving.

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