a colic survivors story          Sally 2003


post surgery

Sally (aka Doin' because she's always doing something!) is a 2-year old filly registered as "Miss Poco Dot Com" with the American Paint Horse Association. She is naturally calm, quiet, and easy to train. As a yearling, she won all 6 of the Yearling In-Hand Trail classes she was entered in. She received an APHA point in Yearling Lungeline and always placed in her halter classes. I do all of the training myself and had just started Sally under saddle. She has about 30 rides on her.

You may click on any small picture to see the larger image

Sally and me Sally going soft

She doesn't live in a stall (none of my horses do) and is always fed 3 times a day, on time. She is turned out in the Spring, Summer, and Fall each day into a large pasture for several hours. She's a big girl and stands almost 16 hands and weighs just under 1200 pounds. I'm 5'7" and am standing on the other side of her in this photo. You can barely see the top of my head!

Sally big

I've always taken extra good care of my horses and believe in preventative maintenance. They are regularly de-wormed, vaccinated, and the farrier does their feet every 6-8 weeks. They're all kind of pampered, but that's OK.

The following story is written to help other horse owners realize that colic can happen to any horse, and that if surgery is chosen, there is hope for a full recovery. The story is not complete and will be ammended many times. It doesn't deal with the Veterinary side of colic, but what took place from my side of the tragedy.


the colic

June 22, 2003 Sunday - I let the 3 horses out into the big pasture at 1:00pm. All 3 were eager to get out. It was a nice day after having been in the low 50s for the previous 2 days. Ruby & DJ ran into the pasture. Sally started to run, but as usual, stopped at the gate for her TACO treat. She then loped out into the grass and did her usual roll before she started eating. I watched them for a bit and saw nothing wrong.

At around 3-4pm, I called them all to come in. Sally was the first to the gate and took her handful of grain. Ruby and DJ came running in and all 3 were eager for their treats. Nothing seemed unusual. I had Sally's halter with me so I put it on her and closed the gate. That's when I saw a wound on the side of her neck. It looked like DJ and her had been arguing again. It was small but a nasty and jagged cut, so I led Sally up to her barn so she could get a drink and pee. Surprisingly, she wasn't thirsty. She peed and pooped and I took her back down to the tack room so I could clean her wound. She was her normal quiet and patient self while I washed the cut. Her and DJ must have really argued since I had noticed a hoof-print shaped bruise on DJ's chest. I showed Sally's wound to Darryl.

When I untied her, she suddenly lurched toward me and about knocked me down with her chest. Completely unlike her! I reprimanded her for being so rude. I led her back up to her barn and noticed she was lagging on the lead rope. When we got to the barn she still didn't want to drink and her legs started to buckle under her while she was walking. What the heck?? I led her around and now and then she would buckle as if she wanted to fall. I immediately thought it was a head injury from being kicked. I looked for swelling, etc. and found nothing. I checked her eyes and her gums. She was acting almost drunk and I could feel her start to fall as we walked. I kept her going to prevent it. I had Darryl bring the phone so I could call my vet. It was a Sunday and I left a message on her home phone. I was getting very worried!

Sally continued her bizarre behavior. At times she was OK and then suddenly she would want to collapse. I left another message with the vet. I was certain Sally had a severe internal head injury. At around 6:00pm I had Sally in her barn and she was quietly eating some hay. She seemed pretty good so I called the vet again and said the situation seemed under control. I stayed in the barn until around 8:30pm and she seemed content although she still hadn't drank. I went to the house for about 45 minutes. I feed at 9:30-10:00pm every night, so I headed back to Sally's barn with her nightly grain ration. When I got there, she was laying flat on her side and did not move as I talked to her from outside. I thought she was dead! She suddenly got up as if she hadn't heard me talking to her. I rushed to her and did a quick check. She seemed OK but again about knocked me over. I offered her some hay and she picked at it. Then she started walking agitatedly and slammed into the fence rails and then into the wall with the side of her body. I tried not to panic! I put her halter & lead on and she started to want to lay down again. I began walking her and could feel her starting to collapse again and again. I was really getting worried!!! Something was very wrong with her!!!

I hollered again and again to the house for Darryl. He called the vet and she said she'd be there within a half hour. At 11:00pm she got to us and immediately diagnosed colic. Colic??? I was shocked!! She gave Sally an exam and a shot of 10cc Banamine. It took about 15 minutes for Sally to feel a little better. She showed some interest in hay, but still didn't want water. All of her vital signs were normal. Her heart rate was 36/bpm and her gut sounds were loud enough for me to hear them standing by her head. Since she had pooped twice since the afternoon, the vet figured it was gas cramps but advised me to stay with her during the night and prevent her from rolling. I could give an additional dose of Banamine paste at 3:00am if she began having more pain. A big concern was Sally not drinking and of her becoming dehydrated. I would call her in the morning.

I stayed all night in the barn with Sally on the end of the lead rope. She had eaten her small meal of hay. I kept checking her heart rate and capillary refill and listening to her gut sounds. All was normal. Every 15 minutes or so, she would start to collapse and I would keep her on her feet either by walking or backing her up. We walked miles in circles inside the barn. We were both getting very tired. I knew that if she would lay quietly and not try to roll, it would be alright to allow it. I tested her and let her lay down. She lay quietly and fell asleep and slept for about 1-1 1/2 hours. I sat in a chair holding onto the lead rope in case she started to roll. She woke up around 4:00am and it started all over again. I gave her Banamine. More walking. More checking. I massaged her to get her to relax. I did Ttouches on her and accupressure. Nothing helped. Her pain continued. It was pure hell. I kept hoping this wasn't really happening and she would come out of it and be her same wonderful self. It did not happen...

June 23, 2003 Monday - Darryl came up to the barn at 5:30am to find me and Sally doing the same thing as the night before. Walking and preventing her from laying down. We had to wait until 7:30am for the vet clinic to open. I knew further treatment needed to be done for Sally to relieve her suffering. The vet came out at around 9:00am and gave Sally some mineral oil and water through a nasal tube to her stomach. She then gave her a shot of synthetic morphine. Sally was like a drunken sailor as the drug took effect. She wanted to graze but still did not drink. I soaked some of her alfalfa in a mixture of water and apple juice. She ate the soaked hay but didn't drink the liquid. My vet was getting very concerned with dehydration becoming a factor and we discussed the possibility of me taking Sally to Washington State University Veterinary Hospital for treatment. The pain killer injection seemed to help her a lot. The vet left and I had some hope that the mineral oil would be the solution to the colic. It was about 10:30am.

By noon, Sally was once again starting to collapse. Again, I kept her on her feet. We were in the yard and she had no interest in the grass. When she was standing, she would cock her back leg and doze. Then she would suddenly curl her upper lip (her new sign for pain) and tell me "let's walk!!" and around and around we would go until I could feel her wanting to stand. Then she pooped! But it was far from normal. It was full of mucous and what looked like sand?? I made the decision to take her to WSU. She needed help. I called my vet again and told her about the sand and that we were headed to the hospital. I grabbed a plastic bag and took a handful of the feces to take to the hospital. I had called WSU to alert them we were coming and would be there in 1 1/2 hours. I was told to open the divider in the trailer and turn Sally loose in there and to NOT go inside even if she got cast. As soon as I loaded her, she laid down and got stuck against a wall. I let her be and headed for WSU.

It was a drive I'll never forget. I don't know what Sally was doing in the trailer, but it was bouncing around like crazy. I knew she was still alive and on her feet as we drove through a small town and I could hear her whinny. I kept my focus on driving as carefully as I could. It took an hour to get to the hospital. I didn't know what to expect when we got there. I just knew that my horse needed help and relief from her suffering.


at the hospital

It was around 4:00pm when I unloaded Sally at WSU. She came out bright and curious. The staff and her doctor were amazed she was only a 2-year old. "She's so big!" was the general reaction. I led her into the hospital and into one of the ICU stalls. Her attending vet, Dr. Chantal Rothschild, and her student vet Jason Van Leuven, plus a swarm of other student vets and techs, started working on poor Sally. They took her vitals, put a catheter in her neck, pinched, poked, and prodded her everywhere. They administered Banamine, IV fluids for her dehydration, and antibiotics. Dr. Roths did a rectal exam and found Sally had a large colon displacement with a semi-dry blockage. They then tried to do a belly fluid tap, but Sally had to be mildly sedated for that painful procedure. Up to that time, she had been very co-operative. They drew blood and within 10 minutes the results came back from the lab. Everything was normal except her liver count was high. It was explained to me that it was because the blockage was putting pressure on the liver and it couldn't function properly. They put a tube into her stomach to check for reflux. There was none. During this entire time, I held on to Sally's lead rope and talked to her to try to reassure her. They needed her to urinate to do a better rectal exam, so everyone left me and her alone. I eventually convinced Sally to urinate. Her pain was diminishing and she could relax for a while. They took her to have x-rays done on her abdomen to look for sand. There was just an insignificant amount, so that was not the reason for her colic. I still couldn't believe what was happening.

Dr. Roths talked to me seriously about Sally's condition. She said there were 2 options (there was a 3rd option, but I don't want to go there!). These were to try to treat the colic medically with massive amounts of IV fluids and 20 minutes of exercise (walk, trot, lope) and free time in the round pen every 2 hours and maybe Sally would roll and correct the large colon displacement. The fluids may help to break down the blockage enough for her to pass the impacted fecal material. The other option was surgery. The doctor explained the pros and cons and all of the complications that could occur. She also said there was an 80% survival rate that Sally would recovery. I was devastated!!! I tried my best to not let my emotions come out, but it was very hard. I knew I had to remain levelheaded and make the right decisions. Dr. Rothschild is very compassionate but knew time was our enemy and things needed to be done quickly. We opted to try the medical treatment first and hope for the best. It was around 9:00pm.

I went out to my truck. I was in shock and very tired. The plan was that every 2 hours, one of the staff would come and get me and I could go with Sally during her exercise time. The exercise time was broken down into 10 minutes trot & lope, 5 minutes free time, and 5 minutes hand grazing. The first trip to the round pen, and she was actively going around at a good pace and let out a couple of bucks. She looked good. I was told that it was probably all the medication she was getting. She spent her free time looking at the horses on the hill and whinnied a couple of times. She grazed quietly. In the next session, she was acting lazier, but her student tech got her to lope a little and trot out. During the free time, Sally stood still. She also was interested in grazing. When she came out for the 3rd session, she looked like she had gained 100 pounds! She was being pumped with fluids and she looked like a bowl of jello. She didn't lope this time but did do a little trotting. She stood in the center of the pen during her free time. She wasn't too interested in grazing. The next session was very sad. She was led into the round pen and really didn't want to move much. Her student tech turned her loose. Sally walked away, found a soft place, and laid down flat on her left side. The only thing moving was her upper lip curling in pain.

As long as I live, I will never forget that scene. We got her up and took her back inside the hospital. Her heart rate was elevated at 54/bpm. It had previously been in the 30s despite all she had been through. This was not a good sign. It was decided to call Dr. Roths.

June 24, 2003 Tuesday -- The last round pen session was around 5:00am. I went back to my truck knowing what was in store for Sally. I tried not to cry, but couldn't help it. I thought of all the love this horse had given me the past year and a half. She was so kind, gentle, and willing to go anywhere with me. Never again would there be a horse like her in my life. She's one in a million. I thought of our special relationship and of how unfair this was. I thought of all the classes she had won and how wonderful she was to take to shows. Sally had never known pain. Her life was just beginning and I had always treated her with extra kindness. Would I be selfish if I said yes to surgery? Would it be kinder to put her down? I was so confused. I knew about the expense of the surgery. It was estimated at $3500-$4500. How would I ever pay for this? The hospital bill was probably already close to $2000. I was just sitting in my truck in a daze. I hadn't slept for 48 hours and I had only eaten a muffin. I sat there waiting.

At 6:00am, Dr. Roths came out to the truck. Her news was not good, but I had expected it. She and I walked back into the hospital and into Sally's stall. Sally did not look good. She was heavily drugged. The doctor explained to me the critical situation Sally was in. Something needed to be decided on NOW before she became toxic. Every minute wasted meant less of a chance for her to recover from surgery. And it was an optimum time for the surgeon and staff because it was before the morning rush. I said "Do it." And gave the go-ahead for surgery.

Immediately, the hospital staff sprung into action. Someone was shaving her belly. Another was checking her vital signs. Another was adding some more medication to her catheter. Blood was drawn. Permission forms were signed. The soft-tissue surgeon was alerted and they were readying the operating room. Then everyone left me and Sally alone in her stall. I was trying hard not to cry and was petting her on her favorite spot on her forehead. I told her she was "very good" and I would see her later. She gave me a hug with her head and I held her close. Please...don't die.

I watched as she was led past the other ICU stalls and around the corner. Dr. Roths said she would find me when there was any news. It was 6:37am. I walked out to my truck numb with emotion. I sat and waited. It would be a long 2 hours.

To my surprise, in an hour and 15 minutes, Dr. Roths came out and told me that the surgery went very well and they were closing Sally up and she would soon be in the recovery room. The surgeon had found a "right dorsal displacement of the large colon with 180-degree torsion of the pelvic flexure, fecal impaction of the large colon". There was a large blockage, but no obvious reason why. There was just a small amount of sand, no evidence of parasites, no plastic bag or baling twine, no stones, nothing unusual. They had to open the colon up and clean out the fecal material. There was very little inflammation and no evidence of toxemia. She should have a full recovery!

It was around 10:00am that I got to see Sally once again in her ICU stall. She was standing but very wobbly. The staff had put a blanket on her because she was shivering from being under anesthesia. She had come through the waking-up process without a problem. She was very unresponsive still, but I petted her favorite place and told her she was "very good". Dr. Roths told me she would take several hours to fully recover, but everything looked good. The next 2-4 days were a critical time period. There are risks that the digestive system won't start up again, the incision could become infected, the incision on her colon could tear apart, just to name a few. Sally was on massive amounts of IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication. I knew Sally was in good hands, so I said I was going home and would return in the morning. The staff was to call me immediately if there was a change for the worse. I was completely exhausted and drove home with an empty trailer. Would she live? Would she be a different horse after experiencing all this pain? I tried not to think of the negatives as I drove home. I needed more inner strength than I've ever thought possible. I needed to not give up hope.

Even though I hadn't slept since Saturday night, I tossed and turned. I kept waiting for the phone to ring with unbearable news. To my relief, it didn't. No news is good news...


post surgery

June 25, 2003 Wednesday -- I got to WSU around 11:00am and was amazed to see Sally eating! It was what they called Senior food, pellets that were easy to digest. Sally wasn't too enthused about the taste and picked through her small meal.


Jason told me she had been out on a short walk earlier and was doing great! I went into her stall and gave her a big hug. I took pictures of her and made a mental note to be sure and take one of her incision site each day so I could visually monitor its progress.


I brushed her gently with her favorite brush and massaged a few of her favorite places. Then I sat in the shavings and stayed with her. Dr. Rothschild informed me that she was doing OK, but it was still a very critical time for Sally. There were several obstacles for her to get through. All of her vital signs looked good, so there was a good chance for recovery. She was still on IV fluids with the antibiotics and pain killer. Because she was only allowed to eat small meals, she was given Gastro-Guard to prevent her from getting stomach ulcers. The staff was kind enough to let me stay as long as I wanted. I wanted to give Sally a connection to her life before all this happened. I felt it was all I could do for her.


At home, I had begun a campaign to sell all of the fancy tack and sterling silver buckles I had accumulated over the years. I needed some way to pay for the surgery. I would much rather have Sally than all of these petty things. They were nice to look at, but she was much nicer. I am a regular eBay seller, so I began putting these things up for bid. I posted a picture of Sally along with the reason I was selling my collection. The response was tremendous! People from all over the world started sending me emails saying they wished us Good Luck and hoped everything would turn out OK.

Once more, I tossed and turned all night hoping the phone wouldn’t ring. It didn’t.

June 26, 2003 Thursday -- Again I was at WSU around 11:00am. Sally looked much better and was slowly eating her small ration of Senior pellets that she got every 2 hours.


She was getting hungry and had started to eat the wood shavings in her stall so she had to wear a muzzle when she finished her meals. She hated it! I took pictures of her again and brushed her gently. It helped her relax. I scratched all of her favorite places and the ones she told me were itchy. We have always played a game about itchy places. Whenever I groom her and she has an itch, she will turn her head to it and then nuzzle me with her nose to find the right spot. It always makes me laugh and she appreciates being pampered. Even with the muzzle on, she managed to “tell” me where to scratch. I happily obliged. Dr. Roths told me she was doing well, but still not past the critical areas. A couple more days would make a big difference in her prognosis. Jason had been taking Sally out 3 times a day for a 10-minute walk and light grazing. Sally liked it, especially since she didn’t have to wear that darn muzzle. I was delighted that I got to go with them today and could watch Sally walking. She was stiff and sore, but it was so good to see her outside! I took a picture of her and Jason together. He likes her and treats her with kindness. She likes him, too.


Back inside, the muzzle was put on again. Jason checked her vital signs and everything was good. Her incision looked good, although along the length of it on each side, there was a lot of swelling. I was told that this edema was a normal occurance and that it could get much bigger. It would slowly be absorbed over time.


Jason had weighed her earlier and she was 1180 pounds. Some of the weight was all of the fluids that had been put into her. But, she is a big girl! I sat down in the stall and stayed with her for another 2 hours. I just talked to her softly and she responded by resting quietly. I had a lot of hope.

I waited for the dreaded night-time phone call, but the phone remained silent. Was it possible she would be one of the survivors?

June 27, 2003 Friday -- This is day #3 and she’s doing very well. When I got to WSU this morning, Jason was very happy with Sally’s progress. She was eating ¼ flake of alfalfa 6 times a day and drinking water.


She was taken off IV fluid support so there were no tubes connected to her catheter. And she didn’t have the muzzle on. What a wonderful sight! She was so much happier. She was given her antibiotics and pain medicine through the catheter. She didn’t like it and was beginning to pin her ears and try to nip at the staff when they wanted to work on her. I showed Jason how to get her to behave by pointing a finger at her and saying “Don’t do it!” like you really mean it. I got to go with Sally on one of her walks and she was striding more normal and interested in the surroundings. Jason had cleaned her hind end and legs that morning. They had gotten pretty messy from the surgery and Sally was well enough for him to take care of it. She looked good! When we got back into her stall, I brushed her and got her itchy spots again. I did some mild massage work on her back, neck, and legs. I also Ttouched her ears, forehead, and mouth. She really relaxed and started yawning and sticking her tongue out. We have a little game with her tongue where she kind of sticks it out and allows me to touch and hold it. It was then that I knew she was still the Sally from before. I took my usual set of pictures. Dr. Roths said she was doing very well and would probably go home in 5-7 days!! I was so happy!! I also got permission to bring a few toys for Sally. She was getting bored being confined. I stayed for another 2 hours in the stall and watched Sally eat her small amount of hay and drink some water. I was filled with hope but didn’t want to get excited yet.

I continued to add more of my collectible silver to my eBay auctions. Things were getting high bids and the emails kept coming from all over. I was told good stories and sad stories about horses with colic. I stayed up late emailing updates on Sally’s progress. I still kept waiting for the phone to ring, but once again, it didn’t.

June 28, 2003 Saturday -- When I got to WSU this morning, there was a slight change in Sally. She didn’t look as good as yesterday. More withdrawn and not as interested in her grooming session.


When Jason and I took her on her walk, she seemed a little lazy and not as bright. When we got back to her stall she had a bowel movement and the feces were like a cow-patty. A short time later, she did it again and this time they were runny. About 15 minutes later, she had diarrhea again. This was not a good sign. Sally was munching some hay, but just didn’t seem real hungry. I sat on her hoppity-bounce ball and watched every move. Her incision looked real good and her vital signs were still in the normal range. What was going wrong? I knew from the extensive research I had done on the Internet that the diarrhea was not a good sign. I took pictures of her once again. I petted her favorite places and she responded with a hug. It was time for me to go back home.

At 6:30pm the phone rang. It was Dr. Rothschild telling me that Sally had bad diarrhea and that she was back on IV fluids to prevent her from becoming dehydrated. She was also being given a new antibiotic that was very specific for bacteria in the digestive system. It was explained to me that since Sally’s system had been completely cleaned out during surgery, that sometimes the bacterial balance gets out of control with the bad out-numbering the good. The doctor said she didn’t expect Sally to be better by tomorrow, but she certainly didn’t want her to get any worse. If there was no improvement, Sally would have to be moved to Isolation to protect the other horses in the hospital until tests were done to see which bacteria was causing the diarrhea. Some can be highly contagious and it would be a precautionary move. She also said all of Sally’s feed was being withheld and she was wearing the muzzle again to prevent her from eating the shavings. She said don’t worry, sometimes diarrhea happens. It was just a setback that was not uncommon.

I hung up the phone after telling Dr. Roths that I would be there early in the morning. Poor Sally! No food. No walks. The dreaded muzzle. Isolation. IV tubes again. She had been doing so well. The emotions started to come to the surface. After all she had suffered, here was more pain and misery. Guilt came to the surface and through tears, I thought maybe I should have had her put down and not put her through this. My heart broke into a million pieces.

June 29, 2003 Sunday -- I arrived at WSU by 9:00am. Jason met me in the lobby of the hospital with good news! Sally had improved! Her feces weren’t watery any more and were semi-formed. I was so relieved!! When we got to her stall, I could immediately see a big improvement from yesterday. She was bright and alert and angry as hell at having that muzzle on her. She was still on IV fluid support and getting the new medication that was a crushed tablet mixed with molasses and given to her by mouth. She was being fed lightly but had to have the muzzle put back on because she would eat the shavings.


Dr. Roths said she was very pleased with Sally’s improvement and that she would stop the IV when the 2 bags were empty. Everyone going into the stall had to put on plastic boots and gloves and when exiting, dip their shoes in a tray of disinfectant. I donned my plastic gear and went inside. Sally begged me to take off that muzzle. I told her I couldn’t. I began brushing her and she started to enjoy it. Favorite places were scratched and massaged. I noticed her hind fetlocks were swollen. She was stocking up from not being walked. I paid particular attention to these areas and did “python lifts” to encourage circulation. I also did some tail work, which she really enjoyed. It was then that I noticed large raw areas way up between her hind legs. Ouch! That looked painful. I pointed it out to one of the vets and she came in and applied zinc oxide ointment. Sally didn’t like it at all. It was painful to touch. Maybe this is why she had been swishing her tail so much? I stayed in the stall for a couple more hours knowing that Sally was on her way to getting better. I was afraid to start thinking of the things I needed to do at home to get ready for her return. I didn’t want to jump-the-gun or get false hopes. But, from her attitude, I could tell she was thinking she had had enough of this place. It was wonderful to see!

June 30, 2003 Monday -- When I got to WSU this morning, I could see a big change in Sally. She looked bright, her coat was shining, and she was focused on her surroundings instead of inside herself. It was like overnight her pain had lessened and she had gone over the proverbial “hump” and was on her way to recovery. And she wanted OUT! I was fortunate once again to accompany her and Jason on one of her daily walks. She looked wonderful outside in the sunshine and fresh air. She was walking full-strided, interested in the other horses, and eager to graze. I could tell she was feeling much better. Back inside, Dr. Roths told me they were going to stop all her medication today and if she did OK on her own Sally could possibly come home on Thursday!! I was elated! As I gave Sally her daily brushing and massage, I told her that she was going to come home soon. As I was petting her forehead, she turned her head and gave me a gentle hug. She knew from my touch that things were different. She was mentally and emotionally feeling for me, and it was wonderful. I almost cried. I sat on her hoppity ball and watched her eat. I was making a mental list of all that needed to be done at home to prepare for her return. I better get busy!


I stopped at the local feed store and bought several bags of pine shavings, miscellaneous supplies, and a bag of loose salt. I was going to add a little salt to her hay each day to make her thirsty. I don’t want her to stop drinking ever again!

Sally is normally housed in a converted equipment building. Her “stall” is 40’ by 32’ and could easily be partitioned off into a small area for her recovery. I began the job of moving panels and gates. It worked great. She could still have an open window to watch Ruby and DJ, her favorite sleeping place, and an open side so she could look out into the fields. I searched through the bales of hay and found the best ones for her. I was pleased with the results.

July 1, 2003 Tuesday -- Sally looked wonderful today! Her catheter has been removed and she has been without any drug support for 24 hours. All of her vital signs are good and she is eating and drinking like a normal horse. She was happy to see me and eager to go out for a walk. Her attitude was brilliant. Jason made the comment that by looking at her, you’d never know she had just gone through a major colic surgery. She looked that good. Dr. Roths was absent today, but Sally’s attending vet said if she kept going like she is, she could come home tomorrow! Tomorrow! My insides were jumping for joy! I gave Sally a big hug. I brushed her and massaged and scratched her favorite places. It was time for her to eat, so I left her with her hay. I had a lot to do at home.


Jason had been Sally’s nurse, so to speak, and had attended to her daily care. He was the one that had been there the day she arrived and she knew who he was. He always treated her with kindness, but at the same time he was the one who checked her vital signs, touched her incision, added medication to her catheter, took her temperature, checked her feet for laminitis signs, put ointment on her rash, and put the dreaded muzzle on. Sally had Jason’s number. Whenever he wanted to work on her, back would go her ears and she would try to bite or kick him. She didn’t want him to put the halter on either. She knew the difference between “time for a walk” and “time to do meds”. She was getting bad! Anyone entering her stall wearing green overalls better stay on guard. Sally had never tried to bite before her surgery. This was her new way of saying “I’m doing fine. Please stop!” Jason had me put the ointment on her rash. She knew better than to try to bite or kick me. She was definitely ready to come home!

July 2, 2003 Wednesday - It was around 8:30am when I called the direct line to the WSU ICU office. I didn’t want to wait for messages to get taken through the switchboard and forwarded to Dr. Rothschild. I couldn’t wait! I wanted to hear the words “Sally can come home today. You can get her anytime.” Jason answered my call and 11 days of hell ended. He said she was doing great and she could come home!! I was sooo happy!! As quickly as I could, I took care of my 2 other horses and hooked up the horse trailer. I was nervous and excited and made myself calm down. I took a deep breath and made a thorough check of Sally’s new pen. All was in order and ready for her arrival. I drove to Moscow, did a couple of necessary errands, and headed for WSU.

When I got to Sally’s stall, she was eager to get out. I took care of the paperwork in the business office and loaded her toys into the truck. I took a picture of Sally with Dr. Rothschild and one of her with Jason.

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I had a lot of questions and tried hard not to show how nervous I was. There were so many “What ifs?” in my mind! “What if Sally rolled?” “What if she didn’t drink?” “What if she had diarrhea?” “What if she needed fly spray?” “What if she needs her hooves trimmed?” “What if she gets loose and runs & bucks?” “What if she …” Dr. Roths and Jason patiently answered them all. Dr. Roths gave me a hug and said not to worry, Sally would be fine. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart. Jason went with me and Sally to the trailer. He said it was unusual for him to be in attendance when a horse came into the hospital and when it was leaving. I could tell that he was going to miss Sally and the games she played with him. I told Jason that I was grateful for all the kindness and great care he had given Sally. He will be a fine Veterinarian one day.

Sally willingly got into the trailer and stood calmly while I hooked her up and closed the divider. As I drove away from WSU, I thought about the devastating experience Sally and I had been through. It still felt unreal and unbelievable. I wondered if Sally was thinking the same thoughts because during the ride home she was quiet and didn’t move around much. I drove with extreme care. I didn’t want to hurt my girl.


home at last

July 2, 2003 Wednesday -The trip home was uneventful, unlike the last time Sally was in the trailer. When I pulled into the driveway, Ruby and DJ whinnied at the sight of the truck and trailer and Sally responded in kind. She started pawing and wanted to get out and be "home" once again. It was around 2:30pm and a beautiful day. I unloaded her and I could see in her expression that she was relieved to be in familiar surroundings. I let her graze in the lawn for a few minutes and then led her up to her new stall. She checked everything out and gave me her approval. She drank some water and began munching on hay. She was relaxed and a bit tired from her trip, so I sat quietly in a chair and just watched.


I thought of how empty the barn had been during her absense and how much I had missed her. I had a huge responsibility in the next couple of months to ensure Sally's full recovery. I had been given a set of instructions and would follow them exactly. I began a daily journal that would record her temperature, heart-rate, feeding times, water intake, manure output, how her incision looked, signs of well-being or illness, exercises, etc. For the next 2 weeks I had to closely monitor her vital signs and catheter site daily for any swelling. I will feed her a flake of alfalfa hay every 5 hours, except during the night. She is to be hand walked 3-4 times/day for 15-20 minutes and allowed to graze in-hand. Absolutely no jogging or friskiness is allowed! At the end of 2 weeks, she will be able to be turned out in a small pen for a month. After this, she may be out in a pasture for an additional month. If all goes well, and her recovery is uneventful, she can slowly start to be exercised and ridden at the end of 3 months time.

I stayed in the barn for a long time, afraid to leave Sally by herself. I had faith in her being a very sensible horse, but she's still a youngster and could get in a mishap and damage herself internally. I took a picture of her incision to be able to see if there had been any damage during the ride home. It looked good!


I took her out on a couple of walks later in the afternoon and evening. She was happy to get out and enjoyed grazing in the fresh grass. I took her temperature and heart-rate after she had relaxed for a while. I wanted a good baseline to compare with in the future. Her temperature was 100.5 degrees and her heart-rate was 36/BPM. I fed her a flake of alfalfa at 5:00pm and again at 10:00pm. She was calm and seemed quite content in her new living area. I was nervous about leaving her for the night and sat in the barn chair watching her eat. It was good to have her home.

July 3, 2003 -- I didn't get much sleep last night because I lay there listening for sounds coming from the barn. All was quiet, but I still made a 1:00am check on Sally to see if she was OK. She was sleeping peacefully so I left her alone. My daily plan for her was to feed her at 7:00am, 12:00pm, 5:00pm, and 10:00pm. Her walks would be at 9:00am, 2:00pm, and 7:00pm, with extra times outside for hand-grazing. I live on gently sloping land, so I allowed her to tell me when she needed to rest for a moment. She had been confined for the past 10 days and needed time to regain her strength. Even though she looks very well, this is a very critical time frame for her internal cavity to heal properly. Hundreds of pounds of organs are putting pressure on the incision and it is possible for it to literally split apart if she were to over-exert herself. Fortunately, she is very well behaved on a halter and lead and didn't try any shenanigans.


Her first 24 hours home went perfectly. Sally adjusted nicely to her small space in the barn. It is 15' x 25' with 3/4 of it bedded with shavings. It's got plenty of fresh air and sunlight and room for her to stretch out. I am able to be in the barn without being in the stall with her. It's a good setup.


July 4, 2003 -- Sally's feeling good today! While we were on our morning walk, she spied a deer near the barn and leaped in the air, let out a squeal, and tried to take off running! I had to hold tight to the 12' lead rope and stop her as easily as I could. I didn't want to double her back to me. When she finally stopped blowing and being "big" I checked her incision site for any damage. Everything looked OK for now. I could tell by the look on her face that she had felt twinges of pain during this little escapade. We continued back to her barn where I gently groomed her to get her to relax. Her incision still had a lot of edema along the sides, but it didn't look stressed.


I put her back in what I have begun to call her "playpen". She wasn't too happy about it and kept watching every move I made, begging me to take her out again. I told her she needed more time to heal and I wasn't going to let those eyes get to me.



feeling better

July 5 - July 12, 2003 -- Several things have happened this past week. Sally has become a "saltaholic" and is actually eating her salt block! It has made her extremely thirsty which causes her manure to be soft-formed. I was advised by Dr. Rothschild to remove the salt block and add 1 tablespoon of loose salt to Sally's hay once a day. It worked! This week was also the first time Sally was able to be turned out in a very small pen by herself. She is electric-fence trained, so I used temporary step-in posts to make 15' x 25' areas for her to have some freedom. She enjoyed not having me on the end of her lead rope all the time. She was only turned-out for 1/2 hour each time. I made several of these pens in different areas around the barn and house. She spent most of the time grazing, but now and then would let out a playful squeal and trot a few steps. I could tell it was painful for her and she didn't get out of control.


This week was also when my local Veterinarian came out and removed Sally's staples and evaluated her progress. Dr. Konetchy also took a blood sample for lab analysis to see if there was anything amiss internally. 35 staples were removed and Sally passed all of her exams with flying colors. The blood tests came back with results all within "normal" ranges. Dr. Konetchy was pleased with what she saw and said Sally looked very good. She said the incision looked wonderful!


Dr. Konetchy and I were both prepared to give Sally a mild sedative for these procedures because she had shown me some aggressive behavior by trying to bite or kick whenever I wanted to inspect her incision or check her heart and gut sounds. During her hospital stay, Sally had learned that humans can, and do, inflict pain and she would try to bite and kick. She had NEVER done any of this before, so I have been working with her all week desensitizing her to my gentle touch and reassuring her that I meant her no pain. I used a Parelli Natural Horsemanship "Carrot Stick" with a soft piece of lambswool at the tip. I would gently rub her hind legs with it until she would relax. Then I progressed to her belly and eventually up by her teats. It worked beautifully and she regained her trust in me. When Dr. Konetchy removed the staples, Sally stood like an angel with no agressive movements. No sedative was required. It was great!


July 13 - July 19, 2003 -- Things are going along smoothly and Sally continues to progress nicely. I keep a constant vigil on her activities, diet, and water intake. She is drinking an average of 10 gallons of water per day. I give her a salt block for a few hours each day to prevent her from eating too much of it. Her appetite is good and she finishes all of her hay. The swelling along her incision is slowly dissipating and the hair on her belly is growing back. That's good because the flies are coming out and she is very sensitive under there. I am using a repellent lotion that is safe to use around wounds. She's suspicious about me rubbing her belly, so I allow her to smell the lotion so she knows it isn't anything to worry about. I also noticed that she has a small abrasion on her side, just behind her elbow. It looks like it was caused by a strap? When the light hits it just right, I can see a welt-like outline that runs up her side. Maybe it was from when she was anesthetised and strapped to the padded hospital gurney. It is very sensitive, so I am careful to avoid it. You can see it in the photo below where the blue arrow is pointing.


Because she can't be with my mare or gelding, I spend a lot of time just being near her to keep her company. A couple of days she was quieter than usual, so the in-hand exercise sessions were limited to mostly slow walking. I think she gets feeling good and plays a bit too hard and it hurts inside. I let her tell me how she is feeling. I will not make her exercise when she isn't up to it.


long recovery

July 20 - July 31, 2003 -- Sally passed the first *magic* number of 4 full weeks from surgery! She is now allowed to be in a bigger pen and for longer periods of time. She loves the new freedom. Her in-hand exercises have progressed to full-circle slow jogging, but sometimes she has a different idea and tries to run & buck on the line! I still have to slow her enthusiasm down to a sensible level. She is so big and strong I have to wear gloves to keep from getting rope burns. I don't use a standard halter and chain. I use a soft hand-tied rope halter with a 22 foot 1/2" rope with a leather popper on the end. It's a great set-up.

My farrier came out and reshod my mare and gelding and trimmed Sally just a little. I wanted him to leave extra hoof so she wouldn't be sore walking on the gravel. It worked nicely. She was a little skeptical of him bending down near her belly (probably remembering all the times the hospital staff bent down in the same manner and did painful procedures) and hinted toward kicking. We gently discouraged her and showed her it was the same routine as before her surgery. She calmed down nicely and the trimming was finished without incident. My farrier was quite surprised that I had opted for the colic surgery. Most folks around here in Idaho would just take the horse out into the woods and shoot it. The coyotes would take care of the carcass. They don't understand what a "special" horse-human relationship can be. He said to me, "You could've bought a real nice horse for $4000.00." I said, "I did." and pointed to Sally.


She has funny swellings just behind her jowls. They are very soft and if I press it, an impression is left in it. Sometimes the swelling runs down her cheek bones. It is on both sides and is not tender or hot. I wonder what it is? She has no fever and her "what goes in must come out" is excellent (I still monitor this very closely). She is drinking an average of 10 gallons of water each day. I have noticed that she doesn't snort as much as she used to. Maybe it hurts her belly to blow real hard and it has caused the swelling? I'll monitor it. The swelling is somewhat visible in the photo below.


Her incision is doing very well. The hair that was shaved on her entire belly has almost grown completely back. That's good because the flies were driving her crazy on her bare skin! The edema along the sides of the scar has almost disappeared. She isn't as sensitive and allows me to gently brush her without being irritated by it. Gradually, I am gaining her trust again. I don't reprimand her when she pins her ears and swishes her tail at me. But I don't stop what I am doing to let her have her way. I stop when she relaxes. It shows her that being nasty isn't going to work. But being calm and quiet is the answer.


August 1 - August 15, 2003 -- Sally had her 2nd physical evaluation by my veterinarian on August 1st. She scored an A+ and her blood test results were all in normal ranges. Dr. Konetchy examined the swellings behind Sally's cheeks and said it may be her gutteral pouches or swelling from teething. I explained that Sally wasn't blowing and clearing her sinuses as hard as she used to and that I notice the swelling goes down after she runs and plays and gets breathing hard. Time will tell on this one. Since it is close to 45 days post-surgery, I also got the "go-ahead" to let Sally loose in the round pen. I can let her do whatever she wants but with supervision. Don't want her trying to jump out!

Everything was progressing very well until August 4th. Sally began having soft-formed manure piles. Sometimes the piles were a normal volume and other times they were quite small. She is still on the same diet of alfalfa 4 times/day with restricted access to her salt block. She is drinking 10-13 gallons of water each day. She looks good and her appetite hasn't changed. Within a few hours, she began having diarrhea and pain in her gut. She would swish her tail, stomp her hind foot hard to the ground, and lean and push againt the walls. Then she curled her upper lip...just like when she had colicked!! OH NO!!! I immediately did a check on her vital signs. Everything was good and her gut sounds were very loud, almost too loud and with a liquid sound. The syptoms would come and go. In between the cramping, she would be fine and act normal. My heart was sinking and my stomach was turning upside-down when she would get a pain. I stayed in the barn until 3:00am until she finally laid down and slept. What could possibly be going wrong? She had been doing so very well.

I called my vet first thing in the morning and explained what was happening. I was told to start her on 60cc Pepto-Bismol every 4-6 hours and to feed her grass hay and no alfalfa. Slowly, over 2 days time, Sally began to have better formed piles. But they stayed soft for several days. I was getting very concerned! After reading an article on colic surgery in one of my horse magazines, I emailed the author, Dr. Anthony Bilkslager, DVM, Dipl. ACVS. He has a PhD in gastroenterological physiology and a BS in biochemistry. He answered almost immediately and said Sally most likely had an imbalance of digestive micro-organisms and the bad bacteria have outnumbered the good. He advised me to use a probiotic to help jump-start her system. If that didn't work, then she should have a 5-day manure culture done for Chlostridia difficule. He also said I should de-worm her first and use a product that will get rid of tapeworms. I took his advise and used the new Equimax dewormer. I then put her on Probios for 3 days. Then I started her on Ration Plus, which is designed to support the growth of good gut bacteria. The change has been dramatic! No more soft manure piles and no more cramping!! I never saw a trace of worms (I also had my vet do a fecal worm count as part of Sally's physical exams). She is on a diet of 50-50 alfalfa/grass hay 4 times/day. What a relief!!


August 16 - August 31, 2003 -- Sally is so much better! She can't contain herself sometimes and starts running and playing in her large turnout area. I am always close by so I can watch her and make sure she doesn't get into trouble. It usually lasts about 5 minutes and then she settles down to graze.

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August 25th was a big day for Sally! She was finally allowed to be turned out in the pasture with my mare Ruby. I opened the paddock gate and Sally trotted out next to Ruby. Then I saw that look in her eyes that said "Catch me if you can Ruby!". The race was on! They flew around the pasture with Sally out in front. It was such a thrill to see her enjoy the freedom. I was standing near the pine trees as they came racing toward me. I held back the tears of joy. I thought "60 days ago she almost died. Now look at her go!".


And her incision is healing beautifully. The swelling is gone and the hair where her belly was shaved has just about grown completely back. Compare this photo with the one the day after her surgery and I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I am at how good it looks!


Here is a photo of her "playpen" stall. It measures 25' by 32' and is open above the fence rails on the side facing East. The entire building is 52' by 32' with the remaining area used for grooming and hay storage. I sit next to her pen for hours to give her company. My other 2 horses' pen is just outside the windows (there is no glass! I installed acrylic sheets). One window is just an opening so Sally can hang her head out and socialize with them. Her playpen is attached to her 1/2-acre pen and it is open for her all day long, if the weather is good.


September 1 - September 15, 2003 -- These 2 weeks have been spent working with Sally and helping her with a few remaining attitude problems she developed while in the hospital. Before, she never thought about kicking or biting, no matter where I wanted to touch her. But now, she will threaten to kick if I want to rub her belly or between her hind legs. I understand her reason, but it can't continue. I want to reassure her that I am not going to hurt her, so I am using the Tellington-Jones TTouches and exercises to get her to relax and accept my hand in a trusting manner. It is slowly getting better.

I'm still not allowed to work her very hard or fast in circles, so to keep her from getting bored with lungeing, I've started ground driving her. At first, she was not happy about the cinch on the surcingle, so I just barely tightened it and then let it out. I repeated this until she relaxed. Over the next few days, we progressed from driving in the roundpen to going around an obstacle course in the arena and all around the property. She really enjoyed it! It was great exercise for her mind and good preparation for the day I would get to ride her again. She is so steady while being driven, that I think she'd be great to teach to pull a cart.



happy ending

September 16 - September 30, 2003 -- I am so excited and happy!! On September 23rd, Sally officially became "A Colic Surgery Survivor"!!! My Veterinarian came out to give her a physical and take more blood for analysis. She said Sally was a little too heavy, but everything else was 100% A-OK and that I could start easy under-saddle work. Dr. Konetchy said Sally has healed beautifully, both physically and mentally. Not all horses recover this nicely and a lot of it is due to my dedication on following the Doctor's orders to the letter. You can see from the photos below how nice Sally looks and how well her incision has healed.

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Although Sally is now a survivor, I cannot be complacent about her care. I know how sensitive her digestive system is and it will never be the same as before the surgery. I carefully pick the bales of hay for her so she doesn't get any that is too course and hard to digest. She does much better with several small feedings, so I give them to her 6 times a day. She is getting a mix of 1/2 alfalfa and 1/2 grass hay each time. She is still on Ration Plus added to her handfull of grain. Every night I measure how much water she drank and record it. Sometimes her manure gets soft for a few days and then returns to normal. I have discussed this with both of her Vets and there is no conclusive answer or reason for it. Dr. Rothschild advised me to put her on Strongid C to help stabilize the consistency of her manure. Sally's system is just "this way" now.

September 29, 2003 -- This photo was taken 95 days from Sally's surgery and is the first time she has been ridden since June 22, 2003. She is relaxed and didn't show any resistance or bad attitude. All of the hard work and care has truly paid off. You can see how happy I am!!




I have spent hundreds of hours reading and researching colic. I've learned so much about the very complex digestive system of horses. From my experience and what I've learned, I'd like to share a few of the most important things we, as horse people, can do for our wonderful companions:

  • Make sure your horse is drinking plenty of water every day. If they have a stock tank, measure how much it goes down. If they have automatic waterers, get a meter put on them. If you use buckets, fill them at least 3 times/day. Without enough water, an impaction is emminent. Sally impacted because, for some unkown reason, she had stopped drinking enough and I didn't notice.

  • Become a manure-aholic and look at your horse's piles everyday. Make sure you know "what goes in must come out". If you notice a change, don't ignore it, especially if there are fewer and smaller piles.

  • Never feed poor quality hay. Never feed hay that is even a little bit moldy. Feed at least 3 times/day and be consistent on your schedule. Don't just throw out a huge pile of hay once a day. Your horse will overeat and then be hungry for the next 22 hours.

  • Learn how to take vital signs...temperature, heartrate, respiration, capillary refill. These are extremely important to monitor during and after any type of colic. Your Veterinarian will want to know these readings when you make the phone call.

  • Train your horse to be excellent on a lead rope and to stand quietly before an emergency happens. You will not be able to properly care for him/her after colic surgery if your horse constantly resists. It will also be easier for the medical staff to do their job.

  • Teach your horse to load in a horse trailer. Take the time necessary to do it right. This is so important! Not only does your horse need to get in the trailer while colicking, but also after surgery. You do not want to fight with your horse with 35 staples in its belly.

  • Get to know your horse. Take some time and just sit and watch him/her in the stall, paddock, or pasture. I have spent the major part of each of the past 90 days doing that and the connection Sally and I have is priceless.

  • Answer this question... Does my horse have the mental and emotional capabilities, and courage, to go through surgery and the long recovery process? My mare could handle it, but she would forever have a hard eye and hold a grudge. She is bold and courageous, but not very forgiving. My gelding, sadly, would not be able to go through it. He never forgets pain or an injustice and is a very reactive type-A personality. He is well trained, but nervous and insecure.

  • NEVER THINK COLIC WILL JUST GO AWAY! CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY! If you wait too long and your horse does need to go to the hospital and requires surgery, the surgeon will open him/her up and find "garbage" that can't be helped. Not only will you have a dead horse, but you will also have a huge bill to pay. DO NOT WAIT!! I got Sally the help she needed early in her colic. That is why she has progressed so well. DO NOT WAIT!

  • If you do opt for surgery for your horse, plan on at least 60 days of extensive nursing care. You must be able to provide several feedings per day, controlled exercise, and mental stimulation for your horse.

  • If you think there is no way to be able to pay for such an expensive surgery, re-think it. I sold a collection that was doing me no good being stored in a cabinet. And, ask if you can make payments, or put part of the bill on a credit card. Where there's a will, there's a way!



When I look back on this past summer, I wonder what went on in Sally's mind. She was happy and living a great life, then suddenly she's in terrible pain, hauled to a hospital, put through numerous and painful medical tests, led off to a strange room, put to sleep, wakes up with a huge wound on her belly, and is surrounded by strangers working on her. She can't lay down, has to wear a muzzle, endures more medical tests and treatments, is confined to a sterile-looking stall, is handled by good-hearted students (but not experienced or trained in handling horses), and sees, hears, smells death and suffering of other horses. What she must have thought!? Did she think this is what life was to be from now on? Granted, she was on pain medication, but I could see it in her eyes, that she still hurt. And what damage was caused when she was hoisted upside-down by her feet to be moved onto and off of the operating table? A horse's legs are not designed to take that kind of stress. It's no wonder that she developed bad feelings about being handled.

As an example, one day when I visited her, a student was brushing her, with good intentions, using a brush that was stiff enough to scrub a floor! Sally had her ears back, swishing her tail, and threatening to kick & bite him. Now wonder! I told him not to brush so hard, that Sally had a fine summer coat and thin skin. She can feel a fly land on her, so there is no need to be so rough. I showed him how to do it correctly. This is the reason I had to spend weeks getting her to relax and enjoy being brushed again. It took weeks to get her to accept me bending down to look at her belly and touch it. It took weeks to get her to not fling her head up so high I couldn't put a halter on her. She had always lowered it before. It took weeks to be able to pick up her feet without her threatening to kick or bite. Yes, I am grateful to all who cared for her. But, I do think that students who are required to work in an equine teaching hospital should take a course on horse handling before they work in the clinic. I am very lucky that Sally had been well-mannered before and that I knew she would regain her trust in me with a lot of patience and time.

So, what does the future hold for us? I don't know. I had planned on taking Sally to local shows this year and continuing her under saddle training. I don't know if her system will be able to handle a rigorous training and showing schedule next year. The few times I have recently ridden her, she was calm and relaxed, but reluctant to hold a trot. It's much too cold up here in Idaho to continue riding, so I am concentrating on ground work exercises with her. She is fat and fuzzy and looks like a big teddy bear. Winters here are very harsh with a lot of snow that can last for 6 months. Even if it is near zero-degrees, you can find me in the barn with her. If she makes it through the winter in good shape, I'll start her again in the spring.

I will never know the reason why Sally colicked. I do know that she stopped drinking enough water and the impaction did not occur overnight, but possibly over the period of a few days or weeks. I cannot relax my vigilence on her. I am constantly worried that she will colic again. So, is it over? Not yet, and maybe never. My life has changed 100% because of this devastating ordeal. It has been physically and emotionally draining. The surgery after-care is very demanding and not just la-dee-da. I know you've read it a hundred times, but believe it... Colic can happen to any horse!



March 15, 2004 - Sally requires ongoing Veterinary care and expensive special dietary support. This extra care is critical for her health. Since her surgery, she has had continuous bouts of soft-formed manure and sometimes serious liquid diarrhea. She is given daily probiotics to help her digestive system work properly. As long as I give this to her every night, she is a very happy and healthy 3-year old horse. But as soon as I reduce the amount, even just a little, she has soft manure piles. Her hay has to be fed in several small feedings and must be of the highest quality possible. I have had blood tests and fecal exams done, but there is no confirmed reason why her system is so sensitive. I am told by her Veterinarians that she will most likely be this way forever. I will continue to do whatever it takes for my special girl.

As the weather permits, I am riding Sally and have continued her training. She is a wonderful student! The past nine months have created a bond that is indescribable. We have respect for each other and at times it seems we are thinking the same thoughts. This "feel" has transferred into our riding sessions and she responds to my lightest touch. We work slowly on new lessons so she has time to absorb what I'm asking her to do. I'm in no hurry to get things done. I appreciate every minute we share!

May 23, 2004 - Today is Sally's birthday! She is now 3 years old. There were times that I didn't think she was going to make it, but she did and I'm so very happy! She enjoyed apples, carrots, and a lot of special attention today, and she loved it.






June 24, 2004 - It's been One year since Sally's surgery!! I can't tell you how happy this makes me feel! And Sally is doing very, very well. I have her on a new daily horse-specific probiotic (most are made for a variety of animals...dogs, cattle, sheep, horses) called GI Conditioner. It's made by U.S. Animal Nutritionals and she gets 1 1/2 ounces each evening with her cup of Omolene. I changed her supplement because the other just wasn't enough for her delicate system. She has been on the GI Conditioner since February and I'll continue to give it to her. Her manure has been perfect since then. I was told by the company representative that Sally would really "bloom" with this probiotic because it helps utilize every bit of food. Well, she certainly has grown! In these pictures she's with my AQHA mare Ruby. Ruby is an old-fashioned bulldog type of Quarter horse and is very wide and heavily muscled. But Sally makes her look like a pony!

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Going through all the trauma and pain of the colic surgery didn't effect Sally's growth. I have a hard time finding tack to fit her. She's not big enough for the Warmblood size, but too big for the horse size. Fortunately, she's still a gentle giant!



September 27, 2004 - When I went to feed Sally this morning, she was colicking again! OH NO!!!!! She wouldn't eat, was not interested in her favorite treat, kept curling her upper lip (remember her sign for pain?), rubbed against the fence panels, and was swishing her tail violently! I immediately haltered her, took her heartrate (mine was racing!), checked her respiration, the amount of water she had drank last night, and her manure piles. Everything was OK, but not her! I took her to the roundpen where she would be less likely to injure herself while I called the Vet. I was told to give her a dose of Banamine paste and keep her quiet until the Vet got there, in about 1/2 hour. Sally took her medicine just fine, and I began doing TTouches for colic...ears, mouth, stomach...and treating her accupressure points for pain relief and intestinal function. I tried to remain calm, but I was shaking like a leaf and my heart felt like it was going to fly out of my chest. I could not believe this was happening again! This time was so much more intense than the other minor colics. This one wasn't my imagination.

Sally began to relax and feel better in about 15 minutes. She started nosing around looking for something to eat and I knew she was either between pain spasms, the Banamine was beginning to take effect, or it was over. My Vet arrived and Sally was feeling much better. Denise did a limited colic exam (not including a rectal) and all of Sally's vitals were good. Since nothing had changed in her care or her water intake/manure output, Denise thought maybe it was related to a late heat cycle. The summer had been very long and dry. I was told to keep a close eye on Sally and if she started feeling pain again, to take her to WSU.

The Vet left and I sat on a barrel in the roundpen while Sally wandered around looking for breakfast. I was numb! Why? Why? Why? She has been doing extremely well with no hint of even the tiniest problem. She had accepted going back into gentle under-saddle training and we were progressing nicely. She enjoyed learning new ground maneuvers and was always by my side and "in my pocket". What would I do if she started colicking again? Could I put her through another surgery? Would she live? The pain she had felt with her incision had been terrible, and the recovery took such a long time. I absoultely, positively love this horse and want the best for HER. Needless to say, my world was collapsing as I sat on the barrel watching this beautiful horse that has occupied nearly every waking minute for the past 15 months. I got up and went to her. I leaned on her shoulder and cried like a child. She turned her head to me and gave me a little nudge. She seemed to say "Don't worry...I'll be alright."

September 28, 2004 - She's OK! At least right now. I spent all day yesterday and most of last night with her and she showed no sign of colicking again. Thank you Sally, for being alive and well again! But this nightmare of nightmares has been an eye-opener for me. It proved to me that she may colic again, at any time, and without warning. So, my vigil has become even tighter, if that's possible. I have never stopped monitoring her daily habits. I still keep a written record of her water intake, etc. People think I'm nuts for worrying about her. The only ones who understand are the few who have had a horse recover from colic surgery.

November 1, 2004 - Sally continues to do very well. This last colic episode scared me to death. I take my responsibilities very seriously when it comes to my horses. Jokingly, but seriously, I told my husband that I almost had a heart attack when I found Sally colicking again. In fact, on October 15 my heart was still jumping around and I ended up going to the Emergency Room by ambulance in the middle of the night. It turned out that my heart malfunctions, but it's not life-threatening. It could be caused by stress (Stress? What stress??). I kept telling the hospital staff that there was no way I would stay...I had to get home to take care of Sally! So, my time with her is even more precious than ever, and as I was watching her the other day, I noticed that the white marking on her left shoulder looked like a calf. I guess I'd never really "looked" at this mark and had always thought it had a bow-tie shape, but it was definitely the shape of a calf.


Interestingly, when a friend, who is a Native American, saw some photos of Sally, he immediately said that the mark on her shoulder was a White Buffalo Calf and is a very sacred symbol in the Lakota/Sioux culture. It symbolizes peace, healing, wealth, honor, and more. He said Sally was gifted to be wearing this very special mark. I'm wondering if it has helped both of us...this is the very place where I had leaned on her and cried.


final note

As a final note, I'd like to thank everyone who has emailed their good wishes to us. I saved all of them. I would especially like to thank Dr. Chantal Rothschild and the team in the Equine ICU of Washington State University, Dr. Denise Konetchy of Troy Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Anthony Blikslager, and Chuck Reed of CMR International. And for those of you who have lost your horse to colic, please visit Hoofbeats In Heaven for horse loss support from people who know the heartache you feel.

If you have questions about the home-care required to give your horse, the possible long-term problems involved after colic surgery, or if you just want someone to chat with, please don't hesitate to send an email to me. You will find a link in Sally's Guestbook.

If you are ever faced with a horse needing colic surgery, my heart goes out to you. I am not a professional trainer, breeder, or showman. Nor am I rich or well-off. I'm just an old lady who loves her horses and will do whatever is necessary to help them. I may be eccentric, but I don't care. When I go outside and call their names, they answer with big whinnies and come running. Now THAT makes it all worthwhile.


last chapter

May 2, 2015 - I made the most painful decision of my life and asked the vet to euthanize Doin'. She had an inoperable colic possibly caused by adhesions that strangled her small intestine.

It began last summer with bouts of pain lasting for a few days at a time. I kept a log of the episodes and they occurred on a regular basis, so we (her vet and I) assumed it was related to her heat cycles. To rule out ovarian tumors or other possible causes, she had extensive lab tests, ultrasounds, physical exams, ulcer treatments, power dose deworming, pre and probiotics, and feed additives (such as vinegar in case of an enterolith stone) were given. The painful events still occurred every 2-3 weeks and were predictable in how she responded and recovered. We looked at the data which led us to believe it was when she ovulated. She was put on a compounded progesterone injection every 12 days to stop her heat cycles. Through the winter, it seemed to work and she had 88 blissful days with no pain.

However, in March the episodes returned full force. Her endocrinologist suggested we up the cc dosage of the progesterone and give it every 8 days. Doin' was wonderful to give the neck injections to, but she began to have an immune response and her neck would become very swollen to where it hurt to move it or put it down to eat. This would last for a few days and with a bit of Bute, she would be OK. But, then she would need another injection and the swelling would return. It was a vicious cycle. And, the painful episodes continued and got worse. I would stay all night with her and do everything possible to comfort her. I could tell she didn't understand the pain and would look at me as if to ask me to make it stop. We would hug and I would sob on her shoulder, knowing (but not yet able to accept) what the outcome would be. Her vet continually consulted with me on what to do for her, but when she stopped eating and drinking, in the back of our minds, we knew this wasn't going to resolve without surgery. (I would NOT put her through another surgery! That was much too selfish!). He came out again hoping there would be something he could do for her. During the rectal exam, he felt an intestinal "band" which was not good. Her heart rate, temperature, a respiration rate were all going up. Her mouth was getting dry. He gave her Buscopan, but it did not help. He put the nasogastric tube into her stomach and gallons of liquid reflux poured out of her into the bucket. I have never seen anything like this. The contents of her stomach were not getting into her small intestine, not even water. I knew then that she was suffering and in danger of her stomach exploding. Holding back the heartbreak, the decision was made to end her agony. I walked her out to her final resting place and kept my hand on her forehead as she took her final breaths.....

May 23, 2015 - She had been doing very well and was the absolute love of my life. During these years she had become to be known as Doin' (short for Doing) because she always surprised me with her cleaver behavior. We had moved to northern Arizona in 2010 and Doin' was treated like the Princess she knew she was. I gave her the best hay (she was fed 5 times/day) and care and monitored her 24/7 with two cameras in the barn. She had a couple of minor colicky episodes, but a visit by her vet, some Buscopan and oil, and she would be fine.

She learned to give hugs and kisses, and would always greet me with twinkle in her eyes and a silly smile. She was huge and so gentle and safe for me to play with. We were true partners and companions. I didn't ride her because I'm too old, so all of our times were spent on the ground. I can't even begin to describe the vast emptiness in my heart without her. I'm writing this on what would have been her 14th birthday, three weeks after she was buried. I weep and sob every time I go to the barn to feed Ruby and DJ. I live alone and everything I did for the past 12 years revolved around taking care of her. All of the sacrifices and every second spent wondering if she was OK, has made me who I am. Our relationship was one of trust and love.

My brother told me that with the colic surgery she endured and all of the colic events, Doin' was old when she died. Any one would have aged exponentially despite what the calendar said. I've been told by the vet that I went above and beyond in my efforts to care for her these past 12 years. None of this takes away the pain of losing her, because now, I truly know what it means to have a broken heart. I miss her so much.

My Grandest Foal

I'll lend you for a little while
My grandest foal, He said.
For you to love while she's alive
And morn for when she's dead.
It may be one or twenty years,
Or days or months , you see.
But, will you, till I take her back,
Take care of her for me?

She'll bring her charms to gladden you,
And should her stay be brief,
You'll have treasured memories
As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise she will stay,
Since all from earth return.
But, there are lessons taught on earth
I want this foal to learn.

I've looked the wide world over
In my search for teachers true.
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes,
With trust, I have selected you.
Now will you give her your total love?
Nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come
To take her back again?

I know you'll give her tenderness
And love will bloom each day.
And for the happiness you've known!
Forever grateful stay.
But should I come and call for her
Much sooner than you'd planned
You'll brave the bitter grief that comes
And someday you'll understand.
For though I'll call her home to Me
This promise to you I do make,
For all the love and care you gave
She'll wait for you, inside Heaven's Gate.

"I'll see you in a little while..."

All photos are owned by Judy Snyder and may not be used without permission.



Please sign Sally's Guestbook by clicking the link below. You may leave comments or questions. Thank you for taking the time to read her story.

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A few of the most helpful places I found during my research.


This site has photos of a horse going through colic surgery. It will make you realize why the recovery is so tenacious.


I highly recommend this CD. Every type of colic is animated. A real eye-opener. Titled "The Glass Horse".


About acupressure for colic. Something every horse owner should learn.


All about manure and how it can alert you to problems inside your horse.


Titled "The Contented Colon" this is a copy of an excellent article that explains in detail how the horse's digestive system works.


Copy of a recently published article regarding the chances of a horse surviving colic surgery.


Another site describing how the horse's digestive system works.


Informative site called Colic Fact Sheet. Useful information to help us understand what happened.


TTouch for horses. I used this on Sally to help her relax while hospitalized. It's a wonderful technique.


U.S. Animal Nutritionals website for the GI Conditioner Sally is getting. A great product!



I was very surprised and proud to receive these awards. Sally and I are honored! You may click on any award to read the wonderful citations that accompanied them.

sg award saa award trng award

dd award ee award

ruby award sny award

hlh award



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