That Time the Horses Went On A Bender
The three horse-kateers were able to remove the lids from the metal feed containers. They found the 10-gallon tub of shelled corn and consumed half of it. It had spilled from the feed grinder and my girls collected it in the tub. Unfortunately, it was sitting in the barn like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then Fatty up there (again, left) decided to meander down a dark alley to the calf pen. There he indulged enjoyed 30 pounds of calf feed — feed that is perfectly fine for ruminant animals, but toxic and often fatal to horses. And he didn’t sample some and pass the plate like a polite gentleman. Oh, no. He ate it all.
We returned home to the sight of three horses standing in the open barn door. Two had their heads in the tub of corn. One came slinking back from the calf pen, looking guilty as sin but clearly pleased with himself. His euphoric mood didn’t last long.
I called the veterinarian immediately. “How much … ?” she inquired. And then, “That’s a lot.” She didn’t say what I’m sure she was thinking, what we all were thinking — but she prescribed a course of treatment and for about five days, the horses received three times daily treatments of thick, yellow paste — called Bio-Sponge — that helps prevent all the sugars and toxins from being absorbed. They were also given flunixamine (the generic version of Banamine) to guard against laminitis. Oh, and we can’t forget the spa treatments …
Overeating can cause laminitis in horses. It’s a painful, sometimes permanent problem that inflames their feet and makes them lame. The feet become hot and fevered, and swelling occurs. Sometimes it becomes so bad there’s nothing to do but end their suffering. Banamine helps, as does foot soaking.
For about a week, we transformed the barn from scene of the crime to Soak City. We had to get three horses to stand with each foot in a bucket of ice water, and we did it four times a day. Why don’t I have a photo? Well, because making that happen is not as easy as it sounds (ha!), and photographing the endeavor was the very last thing on my mind. I had excellent helpers, though, and the horses were mildly obliging. Luckily, we fell into a routine on day two and everyone cooperated.
At least until the big bellyache set in. It quickly became clear that Baron was the biggest glutton in the group. He became progressively more miserable as each hour passed. He broke out in hot sweats about 24 hours after the feast. He started shaking and switching his tail back and forth as if flies were biting. He didn’t want to move a muscle, but we got him back outside, and proceeded his foot soak. His painful, swollen belly was the subject of our urgent prayers. The fever broke but he remained miserable for a couple of hours. Then, as if he, too, couldn’t believe it, he turned, glared at his heaving sides and with a tremendous shudder, sent an explosive stream of you know what 10 feet through the air.
I can only imagine how much better he felt after that! At 48 hours he was still quiet and sluggish, but peaceful. By day four he was playing in his water and impatient to get back to normal. It was a week of regimented foot soakings and exercise, medicinal administrations, and slow and careful feedings.
Somehow, they all survived without serious injury or death. Younger members of the family learned the vital importance of double-checking gates. They also learned that loathing a task (yeah, it’s time for another foot soak!), doesn’t mean you can quit. Also, there is now a sturdy feed box with a locking latch in the works. No more metal cans for us.