As regular readers know, Limerick colicked badly on Friday February 22. I detailed her case in this post and it was suspected that ovarian pain was the indirect cause of the colic. Although my regular vet examined Limerick and agreed with the possibility of ovarian pain being to blame, the reproductive vet that studied Limerick's false pregnancies in 2009/2010 had other ideas. Long story short, he said that Lim was most likely coming into estrus (heat) approximately 3 days after her colics because the stress of the colic episodes themselves caused the estrus, which is a normal response in mares. He said that he believed gas was the cause of her colics, and that her cycles had no bearing on her digestive issues.
So I decided against spaying her. Other hormonal treatments were considered
but were dismissed as either too expensive or more of a hassle than a solution.
Even then, the reproductive vet’s words kept coming back to haunt me. I knew he
Instead, I tweaked her maintenance and feed. I put her back on soaked beet
pulp in the evenings and began hand-walking or lunging her every evening. I've
noticed that she often passes gas when she is being walked or lunged, which
gives me some hope that such a simple remedy is all that is needed. I also
reminded the barn staff to wet down her grain in the AM and PM (I give her a
third meal in the evenings), and I know they are doing this. I also told them
to be extra cautious with any hay changes. She has been doing well, and I hope
she continues to do well.
Then the Blood-Horse posted an article today that I found very interesting:
My mare is a life-long cribber--she cribbed when she was purchased in March
1996 and hasn't stopped since. She cribs much less now than she did when
younger, and I have a strong suspicion that her present cribbing is
habitual/OCD rather than a direct response to stress. Her stomach has been
scoped twice over the past five years (and found to be ulcer-free) and she is
on an ulcer preventative/probiotic supplement. She likes to crib while
eating--she grabs a mouthful of hay, shakes away loose pieces, chews, cribs,
chews, cribs. Then she will do the same for grain/beet pulp meals.
She does not crib in turnout (she used to, years ago) and if I turn her out in
the outdoor arena in the evening instead of hand-walking her, she will walk up
and down the fence line for the majority of the time instead of cribbing on the
fence itself, like she used to.
So, her cribbing has improved over the years but this article still caught my
attention. I had a suspicion that she may be more sensitive to gas/bloat
because of her cribbing, but I also
suspected the cribbing itself didn't directly cause the gas. I think that when
she colicked, it was just the perfect storm--lack of evening exercise, recent
hay changes, approaching storm fronts--and all this plus her usual cribbing
just became too much for her.
Thinking back, when she colicked in February, it happened less than two hours
after I fed her for the evening. There was nothing different whatsoever about
what I fed her, but knowing her, she did her usual take-a-bite-then-chew/crib
routine and for whatever reason—perhaps the recent hay change, perhaps the
approaching storm—it was too much for her system.
I wish I could stop her from cribbing, but it’s very difficult. I’ve tried
putting hot sauce on her preferred cribbing surfaces (typically the edges of
wood boards in her stall) and while this helps for a few hours, she inevitably
gets over the taste and cribs anyway. Cribbing collars don’t work—even if they
are as tight as they can possibly be, she will find a way to crib. Furthermore,
they anger her and her normally pleasant disposition sours into pinned ears and
a hind end pointed your way when you enter her stall. I would take a
high-maintenance, happy horse over a perpetually grumpy one any day. I also
tried the pasture board thing, and dear reader, you may remember that failed miserably.
I have a strong feeling that moving to horse property and having her in my
backyard, where she can be turned out permanently (with free access to a stall)
is the ideal solution for her, but unfortunately that won’t happen for at least
a couple years yet.