On Thurs 1st March, he presented with signs of colic - for those not familiar with colic in horses its basically an umbrella term for pain/discomfort in the abdominal area. It's quite common in horses of any size and breed.
Generally colic occurs where there is an impaction in their bowels, this could be due to a blockage or a twisted bowel. Majority of times colic is resolved after some pain relief and an oil drench.
So on Thursday morning, Ann-Marie noticed Flash hadn't done many poos overnight. He is normally like clockwork, 2-3 poos overnight usually but Wed night there were none. When Ann-Marie was feeding all our other horses she noticed he went to poo and nothing came out, even Flash thought that was weird, he turned around to look at his poo pile and there was nothing there. So Ann-Marie called the local vets immediately.
They treated the symptoms with some pain relief and an electrolyte drench and advised us to give him a little feed if he wants it (all my life I've owned horses I've always been told to not feed them because you don't want the blockage to get worse) Until they pass something they generally can only have water.
Flash seemed better once the pain relief kicked in. So he nibbled at his breakfast.
Later that night about 8:30pm he was a little frustrated and started to get a little ancy. So we called the on-call vet and he said to just give him a bit of bute and could we check his heart rate whilst he was on the phone (sure we are vets and all!) if he doesn’t respond to bute call him back. The pain relief got him through the night, but we decided to not feed him as I knew there was something not quite right. Flash was very annoyed we didn’t feed him.
Friday morning rolled around and there was still no poop. This raised alarms for me, there was clearly a blockage of some kind. We called the vet again and they said the next steps are we probably need to do X-Rays. So we had to float Flash to their clinic half an hour away.
We did X-rays and an oil drench & they took his bloods. They couldn’t find anything. He was slightly dehydrated only a little though (which is understandable since he wasn't eating).
We took him back home gave him some pain relief and a pick of grass. He was still his usual self, talkative and hungry just no poop!
On That same night (Friday) about 8pm we got the on-call vet out again as he was very frustrated and was getting down and starting to roll onto his back with his legs stuck in the air. Plus we were not happy that it had been 2.5days no poo! They gave him another oil drench and some more pain relief.
He responded reasonably well. But in the 34 years of me owning horses, something was not right. Since when do we keep feeding horses when they are colicing? Flash was hungry and he wanted food so he started eating weeds and foraging which was not good either.
Anyway, we made a decision to take him for more diagnostic tests to Randwick Equine Hospital straight away.
We got there after a bit of a stressful trip little Flash was calling out the whole time. Sure pulled at the heartstrings that's for sure!
Then they weighed him, drenched him oil and electrolytes, took his blood and gave him some more pain relief. His vitals were very good.
We discussed our next steps; X-rays, ultrasounds and then surgery!
We signed a consent form for surgery in case he got worse and went home.
He settled overnight and still was looking for food.
But still no poo. That's 3.5 days no poo!
They did X-rays on Saturday morning and straight away called us back. They found something (yep didn’t he just have X-rays yesterday? Don’t go there! - this was the whole reason floating him to the other vets) anyway he had an Enterolith 10cm in size so there was no way he was going to pass this!
Remember his a mini so his bowel is not that big. (For non-horsey people an enterolith is like a big mineral stone that builds up over years just like a pearl is made from ingesting something foreign like a stone or a bit of plastic or sand but in a horses bowel). This is very common in the Sydney area due to the high mineral content of the water and the high calcium in the Lucerne everyone feeds.
The aim was to keep him comfortable till first thing Monday morning so they could do surgery. Their concern was it had already been almost 4 days without a poo and much not much food that things would start to get complicated.
They said they would only call us if there was a problem.
E v e r y s i n g l e t i m e Ann-Marie’s phone rang our hearts would skip 10,000 beats!
So here we are Monday morning and little Flash did his part and kept calm and got through the weekend.
His now in surgery. Our little fella is having colic surgery. His in the best capable hands at Randwick. It’s a 4-5hour operation. So by midday, we should hear from the surgeon on how he is.
A horse owners worst nightmare is colic that cannot be resolved by pain relief and a drench (its always on the mind constantly of horse owners - all the horse owners know what I'm talking about right?)
Our nightmare was well and truly unravelled by now.
*Fast forward to Midday*
12pm came and went, 1pm zoomed past! 1:30pm we got that call from the Surgeon. Everything went according to plan. They got the enterolith out and they said it would have been a miracle if he had passed this ball himself (some standard size horses do pass them).
So in intensive care, Little Flash was recovering from the big ordeal of the surgery. They had some concerns for him just prior to the surgery they did some more bloods and they were showing signs of infection. Which is the last thing you want when you are about to open a horse up. The next scariest thing to actual colic surgery is the risk of infection post surgery.
Flash was monitored with half hourly checks for the next 24-48 hours, he was found to be low in glucose, and have higher than normal amounts of triglycerides in his blood (his metabolism was breaking down his fat stores and depositing the fat into his blood) this is very dangerous as his levels were 4 times a standard horse.
They needed to get food into him, but he was turning up his nose to wet bran mash, molasses and all the yummy food. (he will normally only eat dry chaff or lucern hay and only the flakes out of the hay) he is terribly picky. A bit of a princess our little fella is.
The only wet food he would have is wet Stance Equitec CoolStance Copra. He will run you over for it, so after a few days of him not eating and him having to be on IV fluids and glucose we remembered his fussy eating habits and told the surgeon all about Copra. So they started giving him wet lucern chaff because they didn't have any Copra. He would pick at it but still not really eat it.
It was becoming dangerously low so they decided to take him out for short picks at the grass. This he ate perfectly fine. Every hour or so he has been eating grass since.
His bloods have been up and down with signs of infection markers and inflammation. Which is to be expected due to the major surgery he has had.
So Early Monday 12th of March they took him off pain relief.
Then he colic'd again! Arrgh!! So back on the pain relief. He seemed to have pain in waves just like prior to the surgery. Hayley our wonderful surgeon and her team of vets put it down to pain only when passing the operation incision area. Once food passed and he would poo his pain stopped.
Over the next couple of days he improved, his bloods were better, his glucose was in the safer range, his triglycerides were still high though, he was off the pain relief and the IV fluids.
We got a call from the surgeon she said that she thought he could come home in a day or so. I went into panic mode... it was great news but im terrified of him coming home his our little man and im just scared!
Then Wednesday morning he had another bout of colic and back on his back with his legs up in the air. So back on some more pain relief, he went and another oil drench to make sure nothing got stuck. The vets believe that he was in pain because they had increased his food to see how he would handle it, thank goodness they did this whilst he was there not when he was home with us.
This poor little guy must feel like a pin cushion. Pricked and prodded constantly for the last 14 days, had no sleep, missing his herd of women and his little miniature stallion brother Archie. I hope he forgives us, we haven't been in to visit him because we didn't want to work him up when we left again.
Today is Thursday and his still not home yet. Which I'm kinda relieved about. It gives us some more time to get his stable ready. We have had to fill it completely with fresh shavings, get him new rugs, disinfectant everything and come up with a plan to give him tiny amounts of food every two hours.
The poor little guy has to be confined to a stable for at least 6 weeks and only allowed outside if he is on a lead to eat grass for 10minutes several times a day.
We will need to check his heart rate, temperature and his huge wound that goes the full length of his underbelly every day.
Keeping in mind he is a stallion and all the men out there know what I mean when he will really only have two things in mind! Women and Food lol. So keeping him calm when he goes out for grass is going to be ah fun at the least.
To help keep him amused we have to buy him some horse toys.
Take it in shifts for feeding him and enlist the help of my younger siblings after school to check on him whilst we are at work.
So to help monitor him daily I have ordered 2 security cameras, some stable lights, a wifi dongle and a 1.8 mtr solar panel from Uneek LEDs. Because we have no mains power where he is stabled. This way we can keep an eye on him and we will be able to see him at night with the lights all via an app on my mobile! Uneek LEDs has a purpose built a setup for lights/cameras/solar panels for horse stables that are safe and superior to anything else I've ever seen. Lifesavers I tell you!
From what I know so far, Flash has made it through the critical stage, has fought his little heart out and is getting stronger by the day.
However, the hardest part is going to be the next 2-3 months. Of around the clock care, both Ann-Marie and I working 45 hours a week, fitting in 2 hourly feeds, keeping him calm and occupied without him getting sour and frustrated being cooped up for such a long period.
I keep saying to Ann-Marie she should change careers and become a vet!
This is really hard for us to ask for help. But little Flash is more important than our pride, and this is why we are reaching out to all our families, friends, animal lovers and anyone who can help no matter how big or small of a donation.
With all the pre-surgery vet bills, from both vets, X-rays, ultrasounds, the surgery itself, the post-surgery recovery, daily blood tests, IV fluids, pain relief, antibiotics, getting his stable ready, lights, cameras, solar panels, new rugs, horse feed, bandages, plus more medications when he is home, at home vet visits, we are already over $11,000 and his not even home yet.
I'm sure a lot of you are asking why the hell would we go through with the surgery if it's going to cost this much? and that's a fair question to ask.
Let me try and answer this for you. Some people have children and some people have horses! Ann-Marie and I devote our lives to our 6 horses, 3 dogs and a cat. We also care for others horses and pets when they are away, sick or unavailable. We love animals. Plus Flash was in pristine health apart from this enterolith, his young, fit and we love him dearly.
Let me ask you this, if your child needed life-saving surgery you would say yes and then work out how you could afford it right? Technically although Flash is an animal and not a human he is like a child to us.
So here comes the hard part. If you can spare any money towards a donation to Flash's vet bills Ann-Marie, Flash and I would be so forever grateful. Anything at all.
I also want to thank you for taking the time to read little Flash's big journey.
I will continue to update you all on his progress and you can tune in here http://bit.ly/Flash-Mini-Stallion
Please share this page with all your Facebook friends and family, work colleagues and animal lovers worldwide.
Ann-Marie and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts and will never forget the kindness of friends and strangers who help us through this tough time. <3
- Fiona Rowe
- Giuseppe Celi
- Maroun Estephan
- KevinKateAlaine Baker
- Marnie Bateman
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