I lost my grey horse.....
Anything out of the ordinary with animals is usually bad, it sets alarm bells ringing in my head immediately. I may be a bit pessimistic, but through years of experience, this is what i have learned. Changes from the routine are rarely good. So it was yesterday when i couldn't find my wild grey mare. Fern was missing...
Fern usually comes into the barn for the day, but yesterday i left her and another mare in the paddock, as i was going to be away all day riding. I left hay in the paddock to keep them occupied. When i left i saw a grey shape away grazing on top of the hill, I thought it was odd she hadn't come down for the hay, but with the wet weather and muddy slopes, i have found a few of the horses would rather stay up high & dry than try negotiating down the hill to hay. So off i went.
I got home late, verging on dark. By the time i had put the other horses away, and moved the rest of the mares & foals into a new paddock, Fern was nowhere to be seen.Sh#t! Sh%t! Sh#t!!!! this was defiantly alarm bell material, darkness, mud, rain & a horse somewhere off in a large paddock alone. Horses are herd animals, they do not ever really choose to be alone, especially if they usually are with a herd. If separated they will call and call to each other. Yet this night there was a sound except the squelching of my boots as i trudged through the paddock, and the steady increase of rain drops falling in the mud.
This month we have already had more than half a metre of our average rainfall. Every paddock is mud, walking through a gateway you risk thick brown sludge spilling over the top of your gumboot, and now on top of the mud is a couple inches of standing water. Everywhere you walk, every step is draining, every time u pick up a foot it comes up with a pound of mud attached. By this time its dark, raining, and I'm walking up & down hills through scrub and brush, slipping on wet clay, and still no Grey horse to be found. I searched for an hour every fence line, track and crevice, anywhere i thought a horse my get caught fall or stuck. She wasn't anywhere.
I got a flash light and the dogs and went looking again. No grey horse. I was soaked and exhausted it was clear that it was going to take more than me to find her. This was a large paddocks on a hillside and it was filled with dense bush. All kind of thoughts were going through my head, mainly that with the wet & mud i would find her in a similar situation to what i did last year...
Finally at 11pm when i had rounded up family members with flash lights to go out for a final search, grey walked by herself out of the bushes, seeing our flashlights she called out with her usual friendly neigh, and walked right up. Slipping the halter on i checked her over, dreading to see leg laceration or similar injuries. Nothing. No wounds, she was muddy like shed been down on the ground but no marks on her to show shed been stuck anywhere. But in a way this made it all the more weird, Fern is a friendly horse, she likes coming in to the barn and shes never difficult to catch so i doubt she'd been just misbehaving before, in fact she usually greets with a neigh to be taken to the barn. Again it was weird that she tolerated separation from the herd. So why the hell had it taken me 6 hours to find her and then she had just walked right up to me??
This become apparent all to soon as soon as id led her down the hill and met up with the fellow searchers. She just lay straight down on the ground in the middle of us. This is not a good sign in any horse, Horse very rarely lie down for any reason, most choosing to sleep on their feet. You have to remember they are prey animals and being on the ground is a very vulnerable position.Fern hadn't lied down for a nap, this meant she was sick, and lying down in this way usually mean colic!!
Colic basically covers any sort of intestinal upset in horses, and can mean mild tummy upset, to a twisted gut and death. my little grey horse wasn't out of the woods yet. She was just sitting down in the mud, not thrashing and rolling which was a good thing. If a horse has colic, you want to stop them rolling on the ground as this is what leads to a twisted gut. After about one minute she got to her feet again. This time i kept her walking, right up to the barn.
Suddenly things made more sense though. A sick animal will take itself away from the herd, or sometimes a herd will drive out the old or weak. I'm sure Ferns instincts told her to hide when she fell sick.By the time i found her it was my guess that was because she wanted to be found, the worst had already passed. It would also explain the mud all over if she had been lying down, and why i couldn't find her. If she was lying amongst the scrub brush i could have walked right by and not seen her, looking as i was for a horse on it feet not on the ground.
In the barn she was more settled, but occasionally looked back and nipped at her belly, to show signs of discomfort, confirming my belief that it was colic. She sipped water and nibbled a little hay, but nothing like her normal self. pawing occasionally she at least wasn't trying to go down anymore. Living on a farm we are far from any vets, as it is their are no horse vets in the area anyway, so Fern treatment was going to come down to us.So it was for the next hour i kept an eye on her, watching for any signs of her improvement or turning for the worse. But by midnight i thought she was improving. No longer pawing or biting at herself.
Finding the flattest paddock i could, and one where she would not disappear into the bush again, i turned her out. My thinking was that a paddock was safer than a stable as if she was to lay down and get cast against a stable wall we would be in real trouble. But she seemed fine going on to graze. I checked on her through the night but she seemed happier and passed the worst of it.
By morning she was back to her old self, and i breathed massive sigh of relief. I thought id lost my grey horse when i couldn't find her for all those hours, thankfully the colic passed too and shes okay.I think If i had found her hanging upside down with a broken limb, or dead from a twisted gut, i would have ever forgiven myself or been able to write on this blog again.
At the same time i think that sturdy and sensible wild horse mentality, probably allowed her to cope and recover better than most horses. My sensitive sport horses would probably have galloped, or lay thrashing on the ground unable to cope and ended up in far worse shape. So thankfully we still have all our horses safe and healthy and the only legacy being an extremely exhausted blogger, from a night of worry and stress.