12 Miles



Zero good will come of this.

“Fred Fred!”

“Freddy Fred Fred!”

Each night I call to Fred as I’m walking toward his stall, and he unfailingly rewards me by sticking his head over his door and whickering a greeting. It’s cute and gratifying.

But a couple weeks ago, on a Monday night, the big red head didn’t appear when I called.

That was odd.

Trepidatious, I looked over the stall door, to see Fred sprawled on his floor, his hay untouched. We had been working him up to a full day of turnout over the previous weeks and that day had been his first full day out on grass.

I got him to his feet, and he immediately kicked at his tummy, and then turned to stare at his flanks before trying to lay down again. Textbook. Fred was colicking.

I was able to keep him upright long enough to get a quick listen at his gut. The right side had some faint, sporadic gurgles, but left was dead silent. Not good.

Clipping the lead shank onto his halter, I marched Fred down the aisle and out into the parking lot.  Juggling my phone, I sent my vet a terse text “Fred is colicking” while trying to keep him moving. God bless her, she called me immediately.

I explained that I hadn’t been able to take Fred’s pulse, because I was trying to keep him on his feet, but that he was definitely colicking.  She told me to get some Bahamine into him, and then keep him moving. Put him on the longe line, she said. Run him around.

The Banamine (given IV) worked quickly, giving Fred some clear relief.  Per Nicky’s instructions, I put Fred on the longe, and he moved out willingly.  We walked, trotted and cantered both ways, with no protest.

For a little while, I thought we might get through this — Banamine is a great drug — but after a while, Fred started to get more and more uncomfortable.

I called Nicky.  When she walked through the door 30 minutes later, I was so happy to see her.  She gave Fred a once over, and whipped out syringe, sedating him for what was to come, and then went back out to her truck.

She returned, lugging a bucket, a tube with a valve on one end,  a pump, a gallon of mineral oil, a reeeaaalllyyyy large glove and another syringe, this one full of Buscopan, an antispasmodic designed to relax smooth gastrointestinal muscles.

Fred was feeling the effects of the sedation, and Nicky got to work, donning the full-arm glove and commencing a rectal exam.

Fred didn’t bat an eye, and no wonder.  People joke about “horse tranquilizers” but I am here to tell you these drugs are the real deal, in terms of arresting the flight instincts of these immensely powerful creatures (who, for the record, are entirely deficient in the critical thinking arena.)

Nicky confirmed that there was no torsion (twisted intestine) and bonus! found and removed some manure from Fred’s rectum. Thus far, the news was good.

Peeling off the giant glove, Nicky commenced her frontal assault on Fred, threading a tube up his nose and into his stomach – Fred was in need of hydration, and this is how Nicky was going to deliver it.


The beginning of a very long night

Within a few minutes, Nicky had pumped about 2.5 gallons of water into Fred. Then she refilled the bucket, adding electrolytes and a gallon (!) of mineral oil, and down the hatch it went.

While Fred drooped in the cross ties and started to absorb all the fluid now on board, Nicky pulled me aside.  She had done everything she could for the moment, she told me.

“You’re going to have a long night,’  Nicky warned me. It would be a roller coaster, with ups and downs throughout the night.  His respiration was currently good – strong and regular, with a heart rate of 40 beats per minute.  If it got near 60, she said, I was to call her.

It was now 10:00.  I clipped the lead shank to Fred’s halter and we headed back into the arena, and resumed walking.

By midnight, we had logged almost 10 miles. Around 1 a.m., Fred started to run out of energy, and was also growing more and more uncomfortable.  His tummy was enormously distended, and he seemed to be inflating like Violet Beauregard of Willy Wonka fame.

I tried to keep him moving, but at increasingly regular intervals, he started to lay down, despite my best efforts.  Between the drugs, the pain and being dragged around the arena by his determined owner, Fred was done. He was exhausted.

The good news was that he wasn’t thrashing. He laying quietly, so I unclipped the lead and decided to give him some peace, because I was exhausted too. I headed for the lounge, set an alarm on my phone, and passed out on the couch.

30 minutes later, I peeled myself off the couch and checked on Fred.  He hadn’t moved, and his respiration was unchanged at 50. Fine. I headed back to the couch.

Another half hour passed, and I went back and checked on Fred. He hadn’t moved, and his respiration was steady.  I headed back to the couch in the club room.IMG_6518

Another 30 minutes transpired, and I staggered back across the parking lot to the barn. Fred hadn’t moved, but his situation had changed. He was clearly more uncomfortable.  His muscles had tensed again, his veins were starting to stand out, and his nostrils were flaring.

I checked Fred’s respiration, and it was climbing.  52. I checked it again in a minute, and then again. 54. 56.

We were heading toward 60, and an emergency trip to a vet clinic.  Loading an agonized horse onto a trailer is the worst sort of savage amusement, and something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Phone in hand, I vacillated.  Checked his pulse again.

57. Crap.

And checked it again a minute later.


And then, finally, just as I was ready to call Nicky and tell her we were heading to the clinic, Fred passed a little gas. And then a minute later, he passed a bit more.

Oh, thank God almighty, the Buscopan was working.


He finally sat up and started to deflate.

Fred started to slowly deflate. He sounded like a a squeaky balloon, but I didn’t care. As long as his hugely distended belly was deflating and he was comfortable, I was happy.

I don’t know when was more relieved, me or the rapidly-deflating Fred.

Over the next hour, Fred stayed on the ground, magically deflating as he continued to pass gas.  Crouching down to listen to his side, I could hear some gurgles where there had been silence.  His GI was slowly getting back to work.

Finally, Fred got up, had a good shake, and started to roam around the arena.  No signs of distress, no drama.  His expression had returned to normal – it’s amazing how expressive a horse’s face can be when they’re under duress.  The lips are tight, the jaw is clenched, and the muscles above the eyes furrow, just like ours.


Up on his feet and communing with one of the barn cats

The rest of the recovery was uneventful.  Fred continued to deflate, and a few hours later, passed some manure – an important benchmark, because it indicated his GI is working again, end to end.

At 5 a.m. with my Fitbit tally nearing 12 miles, I unabashedly kissed Fred on his snoot and went home. The next morning brought good news in the form of lots of poo and after a couple quiet days on a dry lot, we returned Fred, now outfitted with a grazing muzzle, to regular turnout.

Modeling his new GreenGard grazing muzzle and halter.















About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

3 Responses to 12 Miles

  1. tbdancer says:

    I am but one of many horse owners who will read this entry start to finish and cheer at each “passing of the gas” and “deposits of the poops.” And cheer at the end. This is not the most desirable way to get fit, but having to log in those extra steps is one every horse owner can relate to. Bless Fred. Give him some extra snoot kisses from his fans (and yours!)

  2. Emma says:

    Ugh that’s so scary, I hate seeing horses that sick and distressed. So glad you were able to stay with him and monitor his care and get him feeling better again !!

  3. SCARY! Poor Fred. So glad everything turned out okay!

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