1:45 It is 15 minutes after my 1:30 rider is due to arrive. I don’t think she is coming so I started to do some of my chores. Dan had just left to go to the house and clean up before going to town. He had an appointment at 2:00 and was running late. I decided, since I had time before the next people were due, I would let Drafty into an empty pen to eat weeds for about an hour. I haltered him, took him over put him in and shut the gate. A happy horse on green stuff.
I figured I would start with watering, made a decision as to where I would start then happened to look over at Drafty. Except, I didn’t see him. I started to the pen and saw him lying on his side on the ground. I was calling to him as I opened the gate expecting him to roll up on his chest and get to his feet. He didn’t.
When I entered the pen he stretched his head my direction and nickered at me. Total abnormal behavior. I went closer and tried to get him up by voice. He struggled to roll up onto his chest but his legs flailed and he didn’t make it. He looked quite weak. I hopped on the ATV and hurried to the house to get Dan to see if he could get Drafty up.
There was no change by the time we got back. Dan hooked the lead line to Drafty’s halter and tried to get him to his feet by pulling. The best he could do was roll part way up then flop back down.
I called Doc and told him what I had seen to that point. He told me that with the information I had given him it sounded like he might have ingested pigweed, which produces nitrate poisoning. Pigweed looks a lot like careless weed, which we have a lot of and with the recent rains it, was coming up. When he told me that earlier this week he had a case where several steers had died of it my heart went to my toes. He asked if I wanted him to come and I told him I did. He told me to give Drafty a shot of Banamine and that it would take a bit to get here
I told Dan what I knew at this point then went to the house to pull the shot while Dan stayed with Drafty. When I got back, I gave him the shot. The thoughts going through my mind at this point were that through my ignorance I had killed a really fine horse.
I looked at my watch and it was now about 2:15. I had a husband and wife scheduled to come at 3:15. I figured I had better call to let them know what was happening so they didn’t make a trip out for nothing. As I was explaining to Jon, he said they were on their way. I looked up to see them turning into my driveway. They were way early.
As soon as they got out they came over and Laura knelt down to stroke Drafty’s head and shade his eye from the sun. Jon squatted down and started petting him. I caught them up on what I knew and there was no sending them off – they were here to stay until I found out what Doc had to say.
At this point, looking at Drafty, one couldn’t help but think the worst. Dan called his appointment and told them what was happening and that he would be late. I heard him getting the front-end loader out – just in case.
About 2:45 I stepped back a little and just observed what was happening as the Banamine took effect. The voice of reason was conversing in my head and I realized I wasn’t seeing deterioration in him. I had checked his mouth for temperature and moisture a couple of times and that seemed constant. I noticed that although he kept his eye either half closed or all the way but his ear was quite active as sounds were occurring around him.
Jon had taken his respirations a couple of times and we found out later from Doc they were in the normal range. His breathing wasn’t labored and he wasn’t thrashing, groaning or grinding teeth as if he was in pain.
Several times he tried to get up – he just couldn’t roll up onto his chest.
3:15 Dan had gone back to the house to wait until Doc came. I called him to come up. After watching Drafty I thought he just might be able to roll up on his chest if Jon and Dan could step in and simply support him when he did. After Dan got there, he tried again and Dan and Jon made it happen. Drafty was up on his chest.
He rested there then suddenly made the needed effort and got to his feet. At this time his position was that of a horse severely foundered. He was rocked back on his hind feet and the front legs were at an angle in front. I was afraid he would fall over again. Laura had his halter and was steadying his head; Jon was at his shoulder and Dan at his hip. Jon was rubbing his front leg (the one that he had been lying on all this time) and helped get circulation going.
Drafty finally tossed his head to let Laura know he thought he could stand alone. He didn’t move but was standing by himself. I called Doc to let him know he was on his feet and found that he was a mile out.
3:25 Doc came up the drive with a car behind him. I went to see who else was here as he went to check Drafty. My 1:30 rider arrived – she thought she was to be here at 3:30. I told her what was happening and that we weren’t riding. She was welcome to stay and see what was going on if she liked.
By this time Doc had begun to check Drafty and each thing he checked was normal. The first thing he did was look at the vegetation and did not find any pigweed. So, he was not poisoned. We asked Drafty to walk a few steps and he did. He was a little stiff from being down but began to limber up. And, as he walked around the pen he was grabbing at the weeds.
We took Drafty into the barn for a further exam to see if there was any sign of neurological damage and he again checked out fine. By this time he was getting a bit impatient with all the fussing. Laura put him away and he immediately went to nibbling on the food in his pen.
Talking through this situation the only thing we could come up with was that Drafty was in such a position on the ground that he just couldn’t get his body to work to get him to his feet. Where he was down he was on a slight slant with the feet on a slight rise putting body and shoulder lower. (I know how I feel trying to get up from things and it depends on the shape of that thing as to how easy or difficult it is.)
Bottom line is Drafty is fine. Do I regret calling the vet for a visit that was normal? No. This way I know that things are good with Drafty. With these geriatric horses, you never know what is going on in their systems. Beside, while Doc was here, I had him check a couple of other things that were cropping up but were not emergencies. I just hadn’t called him yet.
The added bonus was an extreme lesson for Jon and Laura and for me, the gift of two caring people giving support to my horse and me.