This is how you can tell there is a tourist in the barn: they keep their eyes on the ground and there’s lots of erratic tiptoeing. Some even squeal at the sight of manure. I call it Fecalphobia- an irrational fear of digestive waste. Thankfully, humans are the only species prone to the disease. (Nincompoops.) Everybody else is fine about bowel relief.
People who live with horses don’t get emotional about poop. It’s such a normal part of the day-to-day reality; Fecalphobia is an urban luxury we just can’t afford. More likely, horse owners appreciate a steamy monument affirming the health of their equine, remarking “Quelle Bon Merde!”
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare.
But something happened this week that make me lose my sense of humor. During my 10 pm feed, I found my elderly gelding lethargic and wobbly. He’d had an explosive bout of diarrhea, his gut sounds were audible at a distance, and he actually burped loud and foul. (I know- horses aren’t supposed to be able to burp.) My gelding collapsed to the ground and laid flat. He was in obvious pain and kind of hopeless at the same time. Not funny, and very scary- I feared the worst.
I finally got him to his feet an hour later, just as my vet arrived. We set to work in zero degree temperatures to try to help my grandfather horse.
Diagnosis: Equine Colitis. How have I never heard of it? Have you? (Google it.) It’s dangerous, like colic, with stress being a factor. Was this early, bitter winter weather the culprit? The treatment includes tubing fluids for dehydration and banamine for pain, followed by Bio-sponge (serious anti-diarrhea) and a course of pro-biotics.
My grandfather horse slowly got comfortable. My focused, hard-working vet eventually left, along with my holiday money, in the wee hours. Farm calls like this confirm the total lack of romance in the veterinarian occupation, all the more reason I’m so grateful for someone to call.
I limped on frozen toes to the house to watch and wait. There is such a fine balance to an equine digestive tract. Once that process gets interrupted, there is no peaceful rest until that nutrition-elimination cycle is working normally again.
In pre-dawn light, I was thrilled to see the old gelding still on his feet. I continued his meds but he was still dull, with no interest in hay. By mid-morning there was not much improvement- he would chew a bit of hay but then spit it out. He seemed so depressed- what could I do? I brought him his best donkey-friend to share his hay snacks and remind him to swallow.
Each hour I cheerfully offered scraps of hay, each hour he would nibble. He took a bit of water. Very long hours crawled by.
And finally, just as the sun was setting, I saw it! The incredible miracle of excrement!
Turditis with projectile infermatude no more.
Craptastic! Fecalicious joy! Fanscatic release. Cow-pie-pretty poopitude!
Thank God for poop. We live to muck another day!
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.