I wrote and shared the experiences on horse message boards and with fellow equestrians. I looked over my old blog posts before and after her colics and leafed through the medical binders I keep for Limerick. I tried hard to remember what was in common about the three colics.
Unfortunately, I couldn't remember very much about the March 25, 2012 colic. All I remembered about that day is arriving at the barn to find her rolling in distress in her stall, and that it was soon clear she had a bad case of gas colic. The attending vet did not find signs of a dorsal displacement, as with the April 18, 2011 colic. I remember the 2011 colic, and the circumstances surrounding it, very well so I decided to compare it to the 2013 one. These are the things I found in common between the two:
- Both colics were dorsal displacements--left dorsal in 2011, right dorsal in 2013.
- Limerick had not been ridden, hand-walked or turned loose in the arena regularly in the month before each colic. Her only exercise was during daily turnout; however, since her "boyfriend" Joey is sedentary, she is also (she rarely leaves his side).
- We had a major storm front moving in over the next day or two in each case: Winter Storm Rocky in 2013 and torrential rain and thunderstorms in 2011, which I recall vividly because it rained so hard that my old Volkswagen Jetta died as I drove home from visiting Limerick at Kendall Road Equine Hospital.
- And perhaps the most telling of all, Limerick went into big-time estrus (heat) approximately three days after each colic. Not two days or four days. Three days. And each time, her behavior during this estrus was on the extreme side. I also noticed that her colics occurred roughly every eleven months, which may be a coincidence, but what if it isn't?
As readers know, Limerick experiences false pregnancies nearly every year. This has always told me that her hormones aren't quite right, but I felt (and still feel) that the false pregnancies themselves are not harmful. But might they be a clue?
My vet concurred--she thinks that ovarian pain is contributing to the colics. The other factors, numbers 2 and 3 on my list, as well as different hay, may be coming together with the ovarian pain to cause the colics. Or perhaps numbers 2 and 3 are in fact irrelevant. It is hard to say.
My vet suggested progesterone injections or spaying as possible options. The progesterone injections are not guaranteed to work and will be needed every six weeks at $100 per injection. The spaying is an intravaginal procedure that is relatively easy on the mare--she is sedated, given an epidural, and stood in stocks for the duration of the surgery. She will then need antibiotics for a few days to prevent infection. The procedure and hospital stay together cost $1,800 to $2,100.
My vet and I need to check some more boxes before we finally conclude that Limerick most definitely needs spaying or progesterone injections. In the meantime, I put her on SmartGut and have been hand-walking her every evening, with plans to return to riding this week.
I took the video below a couple nights ago. I removed Limerick's blanket and placed it over the short wall of the arena, then put her grooming tote at the foot of the wall. I walked her to the far end of the arena and when we turned towards the front again, she abruptly stopped, raising her head as high as it could possibly go, her ears forward and eyes huge. She huffed and snorted and I realized that she thought her "stuff" was the boogeyman. Since no one else was in the arena, I unclipped her lead shank and let her have at it. Hilarity ensued.
Her actions gave me a good laugh and I had to struggle to not laugh out loud while recording the video. It was a welcome relief from the seemingly nonstop waves of stress and worry.
After two years straight of getting urgent calls or texts to hurry to the barn, I wasn't ready for the floor to fall out from underneath me again on February 22. It was supposed to be "date night" for my husband and I--we had not yet celebrated Valentine's Day--but I had decided that I would rather eat at home with him than go out. I fed Lim and ensured that all was well at 7pm that night, only to find myself back at the barn approximately two hours later, stroking my beautiful mare's blazed face as she laid flat in her stall, her upper lip peeled back to reveal her yellowed teeth.
Each moment with her that night is remembered in stark clarity. Insisting to my husband that yes, I wanted him to ask the emergency on-call vet to come. Limerick passing manure that was too green and too wet, and my temporary sense of relief. Shivering endlessly from the cold and anxiety and fear, even after my husband went back home to retrieve my wallet and a knit hat for me. Limerick dozing off as I stroked her neck and face, her ears pinning back momentarily and my explanation to others that no, she wasn't mad, her ears just did that when she fell asleep. The vet struggling to give Limerick the rectal exam then explaining, white-faced, that her colon was so distended with gas that Lim should by all accounts be rolling on the ground. The endless gush of warm red blood out Lim's left nostril from the tube. Limerick coughing and fighting the tube, spraying red all over the short arena wall, garage door, and the faces of the vet and myself. Holding a beach towel over her nose and mouth, blood rapidly staining the purple fabric deep red. The phenylephrine injection and lunging her afterwards, inwardly marveling at what a perfect, good girl she was being despite it all. The garage door opening and the arrival of the trailer; and Lim, who was feeling much better after the phenylephrine injection, alarming slightly at the odd placement of the truck and trailer inside the indoor arena. Her refusal to get on the trailer--I feel good, it's very, very late, this situation bothers me, I feel alright, let me go back to my stall.
My sleepless nights after--when sleep did come, it brought with it dreams of being at the barn, with Limerick, anxiety contouring my heart. The flood of tears and devastating scenarios in my head the following Sunday, the feeling of having been missed by a fatal bullet with more to come--but when? And why?
Colic may have pained Limerick temporarily, but it is paining me for much longer. Much, much longer.