A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't you love waking up to "Your horse is down"

You know how every one has that horse.  The special one, and I don't necessarily mean the perfect one?  More like the short bus kind of special?

Yeah, I have Boo.  Boo is a very eye catching Arabian, stands a whopping 14.3 hands, and was my first horse.  Technically, I picked him 2 weeks before Ash, so he's the first, even though he was only 4 months old, and Ash was 8 almost 9.  So Boo was my first horse, and Ash was my first riding horse.  I also didn't technically buy him he was my first anniversary present from my now ex-husband.  Oh... and he's a half brother to Jaz.

Yes, Jaz, my dear friend Leah's horse, that always manages to do SOMEthing.  Boo kinda has the same problem, but in a much more flamboyant way.  See, Jaz just gets hurt.  Boo gets hurt with DRAMA!

Boo's been known to choke.  He's got one hell of a scar on his front right leg from spooking as a baby, and running through a fence.  A safe fence too, but well... T posts are NOT stronger then a panicked yearling.  He looks like every girl's dream horse (if you're that arab loving type of girl that is) but he's a conformational wreck.  And he's trained to the teeth and beyond.  Novice friendly in an arena, intermediate on the trails (he rears... kinda.  It's more true to say that he loves to do a very controlled levade).

So, this morning, Kris sees Boo laying down.  No biggie, my horses really DO lay down a lot.  Then she looks and he's laying down again.  I think somewhere Leah was involved in all that too.  Next thing I know, I'm trying to sip my first cup of coffee (I don't function efficiently with out a full cup at least) and find a shirt that's in one piece, my button just popped off my jeans, and Kris is knocking on my back door.  I open it, and she says "you have a horse down".


I fly to throw on shoes, forget all about the shirt and button on the jeans, and rush out.  There he is, laying on his side, looking like he's positive he's dieing!  I mentally said quite a few bad words, and though "Colic".

Kris gets a halter.  I said any halter would do... and it WOULD, since Boo's rather well mannered, but of course, most of my halters are draft cross sized.  Ever seen a draft cross halter on a tiny itty bitty Arabian head?  It's amusing to say the least.

Leah made a break for the gate, and moved the colts out of our way, and I lead Boo out to give him the once over.  He wasn't throwing himself on the ground, but he was wanting to lay down.  Asked Kris to walk him, while I gathered the meds.

I love my barn buddies!

With as many horses as I have, it's a wise idea to know your meds, know how to check vital signs, and be very very good at giving all those meds as needed.  Boo got 10cc Banamine, IV, and started looking a bit better.  I grabbed the stethoscope, and checked his gut sounds.....


Now, I'd like to point out that I do a lot of rescue, and even many of my breeding stock horses were picked out from the worst conditions.  Lovely horses, great bloodlines... and starving in some field.  I prefer it like that, because I just like knowing I saved a horse.  But, because of that, I've seen some bad bad things on my place.  We've delt with tetanus, more colics then I care to count, chokes, crazy parasite issues.... you name it, I've probably had it.  Sadly, every single time I've put a stethoscope to a horse and heard nothing, it means I have a dead horse walking.

And then, as I paused in sheer terror of losing my first horse I heard.... Bluuuroooopppppp.

Ok, it wasn't much, but it was something.  A few seconds later, I heard more, and the other side was better.  I could breathe a sigh of relief.  Checked his gums, and he was pale, but with good capillary refill.  No signs of the toxicity lines either.  Another very good sign.  His temperature was off... felt cool, but he was sweating nicely, and my thermometer broke, so all I could go on was a guess.

I lunged him, letting him work out his guts, and his guts sounded a TON better.  From the tone of his guts, I was thinking a bit of an impaction, but things were still moving, and some gas.  He was slightly dehydrated so I offered him some super wet mush.

Now, many people say not to feed a colicing horse, but my vet has always said that horse soup is ok, if the horse is dehydrated.  Because I feed an alfalfa based pellet that turns to goo in water, it's less likely to cause issues, and adding all that water is often likely to solve them.  But Boo had NO interest in it.  Bad sign.

In my mind, there's 3 types of colic.  First, there's the annoying mild type.  A few cc's of Banamine, and it's all over.  Then there's the critical kind... a few cc's of banamine, and the horse isn't improving.... time for the vet!  And lastly there's the dead horse walking.   I hope to never ever see another of those in my entire life!

I do not believe in surgery for the last type.  Even the vets will tell you that it rarely works.  But for the second type, well... those are the ones you go all out for.  Of course.... I'm embarrassingly broke right now.  No funds for surgery, and my gut is saying that Boo just isn't going to get better with some oil.

So, when Boo didn't get better with Banamine, I'm thinking the worst.  Where do I whip 10 grand out of my bum?  I called Dr. G's emergency number, and it said that he was not on call this weekend. 


So, on to back up vet number 1.  Dr. Spencer.  I page him, and get an almost immediate return call.  He was in church (man do I feel bad about that) and offered to meet me at the clinic.  I put Boo in the trailer (which I had just had my mother bring over to move horses for a friend.... hmm... timing!).  Everything was hooked up and ready to go, so off we went.  And me, having all my friends over for pony Sunday.... I just went.

Sorry y'all for being rude, but I think y'all understood!

When the vet arrived, he got out and started moving quickly.  Boo was in obvious pain, and acting like he was ready to roll and thrash at any moment.  Told the vet I'd already given Banamine, and he sent us to the stocks.  Time for the "big exam".  I have to say though, that I was very impressed with his concern for the horse's feelings, and how much speed he put into helping the horse of a client he KNEW only uses him as a back up.  Talk about a good vet.

Temp, gut sounds, and the whole thing was checked all over again.  The vet gave a second pain killer to make boo feel better (Xylazine aka Rompum) and did a rectal exam.  At the end of his fingers was a lump.  A hard lump.  Impaction.

We put a gallon of mineral oil into the gelding, and he asked me about treatment.  He laid out the price tag, and I didn't flinch (it was a LOT less then I expected).  Boo's treatment.... IV fluids for 3 days.

I explained my knowledge base (pre-vet studies, only need 2 classes to apply to vet school, 4 years as a vet tech, 10 years horse experience, etc) and asked if it would be best to take him home and for me to give his fluids.  He agreed easily!  Basically, I just cut my vet bill in half by being able to do the work myself he told me.

And let me tell you, such a gentleman.  Dr. S left me to worry about my horse, and he and Jae loaded up the truck with fluids.  I think there were 6 boxes of fluids (10 Liters per box) plus any pain med I could possibly need.  We put in an IV catheter, sealed the whole thing up, and back home we headed.

The first 20 liters were rough on Boo.  Because his impaction was so far up, and at such a painful area, as it became hydrated, it would swell and enlarge causing more pain.  But, once it was hydrated, it would break up, and be passed along.  I dumped 4 big bags of saline into that horse in about an hour.  3 hours later, we dumped in 2 more.  Boo got pain meds every hour to 2 hours through out.  Boo went through periods of intense pain, followed by periods of relief.

Mostly Boo would just lay quietly, but as the pain spasms hit, he would want to roll.  Can't let him roll, because that's how they twist a gut.  Laying is ok though.  Up he went and down he went.  He promptly cast himself in his stall a few times, needing us to roll him once, and righting himself on his own the second time.

And now, I can say that Boo is looking like the worst is over.  I don't know if he'll stay looking like this, but I'm hopeful.  He's sleeping while standing, has passed manure a few times, and it appears to be a portion of the impaction (dry on the inside).  I still have to administer fluids through out the night, and most likely for the next 2 days as well.  A total of 72 hours with no more then 3 hours of sleep at a time, and likely less.

I mean, seriously... who can sleep while their horse is hurting!

It's times like these that I'm so glad I work from home, and work with horses.  I can take care of my baby.  Who cares that in about 12 hours I'll be a complete moron due to stress and lack of sleep?  I know that my friends understand completely.

I also want to thank my friends for being so supportive.  I've already gotten offers to help, to take a shift, or what ever I need.  This is why, when my friend's horses are down, I offer to care for them in return.  I know how I would feel having to head off to work, knowing that my poor baby was feeling bad, and might have problems while I was away from home.  Having a friend keep eyes on the horse, give its meds, and answer my paranoid emails/phone calls/texts all day.....that's SO worth it.

And of course.... Since I'm being all sappy.... I have to make a comment here about Jae.  Jae, my better half, is sadly under recognized for ALL he does for Iron Ridge.  When I need a needle, he's there to grab it.  When I need a shoulder, he's there to take up the slack, and let me crumble.  And he'd NEVER even THINK about not doing everything in his power for ANY horse, regardless of who owns it.  Everytime I've headed out to the barn, he's there beside me.  He rigged up an IV pulley, so we can easily raise and lower the IV bags.  He never complained, he just made it happen.  I didn't even have to ask.  He jumps in and feeds the other horses, sorts them out, and just handles things while I stare at Boo waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Jae has learned SO much about horses in the 5 years we've been together, it's not even funny.  He knows the difference between generic drug names.  I can ask for "Rompum" and get Xylazine, and never worry that he accidentally pulled Banamine.  I know that in a crisis, he could handle it all.  I mean, I'd never ask him to, but I know he COULD.  Sadly, when it comes to my horses, I am kind of a micro manager.  I have to be there, and be hands on, or I'm a basket case!

And it goes with out saying that through out Boo's treatment, everytime I head out to the barn, so will Jae.  Every time Jae heads out to the barn, so will I.  Once Boo is deemed fine, we'll pass out for a few days, and then jump right back into the routine as normal.

Notice I said "when" Boo is determined to be fine, not if.  While we're not out of the woods yet, I have a real good feeling about this.


  1. Yaya for your friends a sweetie! Its great to have the help when you need it . And your alternate vets sounds like a good onetoo. Scared me to read this ,as I too have had the "dead horse walking , and all the other types of colic too. It is such a relief when that first shot of Banamine works, and when it doesn't I swear my guts knot up as bad as the horse!Good luck with Boo's continued recovery

  2. So sorry for the stress for you and Boo and the whole barn family. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  3. My first thought was that he has the same thing as Jaz did. Remember, they initially thought that was an impaction, too. Hope he's better. LMK if you need anything. I pass all the good places on the way home.

  4. wow... I hope he continues to improve!


  5. You're indeed lucky to have all the support you have. Maisie's survived two bad impactions, and I'm all over colic symptoms when they occur. Sending you and Boo best wishes and hopes.

  6. wow... I hope he continues to improve!


  7. Yaya for your friends a sweetie! Its great to have the help when you need it . And your alternate vets sounds like a good onetoo. Scared me to read this ,as I too have had the "dead horse walking , and all the other types of colic too. It is such a relief when that first shot of Banamine works, and when it doesn't I swear my guts knot up as bad as the horse!Good luck with Boo's continued recovery