Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Did My Horse Collapse?

I had some trouble with Esmae when I was ridingin the Eagle foothills about a week ago (not this past Sunday but the one before, Aug. 3). It was traumatic, and has taken this long to even be able to write about it, because it shook me up.

That morning I fed a little bit of alfalfa hay to Esmae and Buster as they were locked in the dry dock (red cinder) overnight and about to work out. They had probably less than a flake each. We took a trail we don't usually take and one I haven't used in awhile, and it had a few more hills than we usually do but nothing too steep or too major. If I recall right, when I last rode it, someone said it was about an 8 mile loop. We usually go about 6 and this was a little longer and a little more hill than we're used to but not by much.

It was early when we started and both horses seemed fine. I was going to turn back rather than do the whole loop but I ran into a rider who assured me the trail looped back to the main road in "several places." However, the first loop back was longer than I wanted it to be and by then it would have been longer to turn back. We walked and did not trot. When we got to the top of the last hill, all of a sudden Esmae started shaking all over. She was dripping sweat. The shaking scared the hell out of me. There was no way to get her to the trailer without walking out. I thought about getting off and walking her out but I thought I'd let her rest and see how she was. I thought maybe the muscles were shaking due to just too much of a workout and with rest and taking it easy we would be ok. I offered treats and water - she had no interest in either. I knew it was all downhill or flat road from that point forward and we were within 3 miles of the trailer. So after I left her rest 10 minutes or so and she stopped shaking and seemed ok, just tired, we walked on.

After a bit she seemed to perk up and took a bite of a weed here and there again. She also wanted to trot to catch up to Buster here and there - I only let her take a few steps and then pulled her into a walk each time. We went very slowly and I was worried but I thought we were out of the woods. Along the main road I ran into three riders, women, and they seemed like endurance people. We chatted a bit and the riders passed. Esmae kept wanting to trot a bit and Buster did too as they knew we were coming up to the trailer but I tried to keep them at a walk.

About 3/4 of a mile from the trailer, Esmae lowered her head while walking and then just collapsed, all 4 legs at once. I jumped off, yelled to my friend on Buster to get help and get the trailer - I knew there were the other riders up not far ahead. Esmae showed no sign of rolling or getting up. I whipped the saddle off her so she didn't roll on it and hurt herself. I offered her water and she didn't want it. I put a little of the warm water on her back and she didn't like that so she got up. Her back end swayed a little bit.

The other riders came back. Esmae laid her head down in the sand and gave a big sigh and I was deeply scared that it was all over and I was never going to know why and that somehow I'd just killed my horse. I was imagining maybe it was a metabolic thing with losing too many electrolytes or something. I was scared and didn't know if it was safe to trailer her, whether I should leave Buster, or what. The other riders didn't know what to do much either - they said it seemed serious and that they didn't know what was wrong but it could be tying up (I didn't think so but who knows). I trusted their judgment that it was ok to trailer her with Buster and go to Idaho Equine and I did that as fast as possible.

We checked at all the red lights to ensure she hadn't fallen - she stayed on her feet. When we got to the hospital, she had a completely normal neurological exam, heart beat, etc. And her bloodwork came back normal and showed that she did not tie up and was not really depleted on her metabolic panels. It was all NORMAL so they sent me home.

A friend of mine suggested it could be caused by a trace mineral deficiency. I had Idaho Equine come draw more blood Friday and hopefully I'll get results this Friday or early next week. This horse, an Arab of good breeding, has had great health care and is only 7 years old. There is no reason I can think of for this to be happening, but now I am afraid to ride her. I want to do NOTHING to harm her, ever. When she laid down at my feet, rolled her head and looked up at me, it was a completely helpless feeling. 1100 pounds you can't toss in the car and run for help. We had no cell coverage. I wanted to make the best decisions for her but I wasn't sure what to do. In retrospect, going over it all again and again, I think I made good decisions based on the data I had. But I want to get more data before I ever have to make hard calls like that again.

I don't know WHAT IS GOING ON. If you have any ideas or suggestions based on your experience, I would be grateful for them. I'll also post updates as the bloodwork comes back, and hopefully I can figure out what's up. I am deeply, deeply attached to this horse and very worried about her. But, she seems FINE now. She runs in the pasture, she eats, she plays, she talks to me like always with her patterns of whinneys that mean different things. So I hopw I can learn what's going on. If it is a mineral deficiency a supplment can address that. I just need to know.


Cheryl Carpenter said...

I am so happy to have found your blog but sad to hear about your horse and your foster animals this summer. Heartbreaking. My sons and I rescued a baby robin 2 weeks ago. Bird nest in my back yard and I saw baby robin hanging out of nest. Its' leg was tied to nest with fishing wire (we live on a lake but don't fish). I cut the wire and saw bird was limping. Humane Society said baby wouldn't survive with broken leg. I loaded my boys in my car and drove the baby to bird sancutary 45 minutes away.
Love, Cheryl
PS You looked absolutely beautiful in your wedding picture. Your hubby didn't look so bad either.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever get the results of the lab work?

Esmae said...

Yes, but all they showed was a higher insulin than normal - 75 instead of 25. They thought it was Equine Metabolic Syndrome, but horses with that condition can have insulin levels of 700! Ultimately the consensus is she probably had heatstroke. She has been fine since, but I also watch her weight carefully. There are other posts on this under the pets label on the blog.