I had a whole other plan for my newest blog entry but instead, I need to write this.
When I arrived at the barn at around 4pm today, Limerick was laying down in her stall, head up. The big red bell in my head began ringing.
The number of times I've seen Limerick laying down during my twelve years with her can probably be counted on one hand, and never has she laid down at this time of the day, so soon after the afternoon feeding.
I whispered to her through the stall door, lest she was truly (but unusually) sleeping and I startled her.
"Hey baby, are you okay?"
In the shadows, her head lifted and her right eye rolled towards me.
I opened the stall door. She looked at me, ears pricked. Her boyfriend, Nick, stood on the other side of the stall wall, watching us through the bars.
"Come on Limerick, let's get up. Come on," I said. She looked at me.
"Limerick, let's get up."
Finally, she sighed and shifted her forelegs to her front and rocked herself up. She stood facing the corner of the stall away from me.
Nick whinnied at me.
She isn't right!
"Come here, Lim," I said. No response.
I walked over to to her and put a hand on her silky neck. Shavings and bits of hay were tangled in her mane. The soft fuzzy hairs of her left ear were coated with dust. She had been laying flat on her side for some time before I saw her.
As I led her out the stall, another boarder was walking by.
"Hi! How's Limerick?" she said.
"I don't think she feels well, she was laying down when I arrived," I said. I could hear the worry in my words.
"Ohhh, awww," she said. She came over and put a hand on Limerick's forehead. "Poor baby!"
I took Lim's temperature and the other boarder and I both checked her vital signs. Other than a slightly elevated respiratory rate, all was normal. Just in case, I checked her front feet--no heat, no digital pulse. I didn't think it was laminitis, anyway; she was not walking in the stiff, jerky way that laminitic horses do.
The other boarder borrowed a stethoscope and smiled as she put it in her ears.
"I've never done this before!" she said. I smiled in return. But we both knew that gut sounds were vital and that anyone with functioning ears could hear them.
The woman reported that gut sounds on Limerick's left side were good, and present on the right side but a little weaker.
Another boarder at the barn is an assistant for my vet so I decided to take Lim down to the grassy strip by the paddocks to graze while we waited for her to arrive.
Lim ate half-heartedly. She took a couple bites here and there, looked up, then another couple bites. She wasn't the equine lawnmower that she normally is. When I saw the assistant's car pulling up the long asphalt driveway to the barn, I began walking back to the barn. Limerick did not protest in the least, a far cry from her usual hurried Just a few more! bites.
The assistant could not think of anything new. Limerick looked around as we stood by. She seemed a little more interested in her surroundings.
"Maybe she feels better," I thought. "Maybe the grass did her good."
I put her back in her stall and watched. She squatted to urinate, and stayed in the squat for a good while after she was done peeing. Then she promptly laid down again. I told the assistant and we stood by the stall door, watching Lim. She closed her eyes and dozed, her ears flicking back. After a few moments, her chin dropped into the shavings and her head drooped to the left.
I waited for her to lay flat on her side. After another ten moments, her eyes went wide and she lay flat, her lips peeled up enough to expose her gums.
"I would get her up," the assistant said.
We opened the stall door.
"Come on, Limerick," we said. She ignored us. I walked into the stall and stood by her. She lifted her head up and looked at me, ears pricked, fresh shavings in her forelock. I stroked her forehead.
"Come on, baby, let's get up."
It didn't seem like she was going to get up on her own so I grabbed her halter and raised her head just a bit. She unfolded her forelegs and lifted herself up. I clipped the lead shank to her halter and led her out the stall.
We walked around the indoor arena for a while. She was quiet but would prick her ears at things I couldn't hear. I turned her loose to see what she would do and she went over to the edge of the arena and began cribbing on the railing there. I decided to put her back in her stall.
Back in the stall, she drank some water and nosed around at her hay. I had made a beet pulp/mineral oil mash ahead of time and gave her this. When I left, she was still eating it.
The assistant called the vet a while ago but we got the after-hours answering service; I'm waiting to hear back to see what the vet thinks. I'm at home to eat some dinner but I'll be going back to check on Limerick a few times tonight.