It is a question that every horse owner will ask and something that most will face at least once in their lifetime. “How much can I afford to pay if my horse gets sick or seriously injured”? Owning a horse has become a luxury. With the high cost of feed, hay, bedding and routine veterinary, hoof and dental care, now more than ever many horse owners are becoming “horse poor”. It’s one of those things you don’t give much thought to until, one day it happens.
April 1st began as every other day did. I put the horses out in the pasture and started cleaning the barn. As I filled the water bucket I noticed Gypsy, one of my miniature horses was lying in the field. After spending the night in the paddock it wasn’t normal for a horse to lie down, it was breakfast time. I knew that this was a sign that something was wrong. By the time I reached Gypsy, she was down on her side. “Colic”, I said and I ran to the house to call the vet and my husband, Terry. About a half an hour later the vet pulled in and Terry was just minutes behind her. We worked on Gypsy, giving her fluids through a nasogastric tube hoping to clear any blockage. Terry asked the vet to check our other mini, Savannah who had been acting odd the night before. Sure enough Terry found her lying in the pasture. I couldn’t believe it, two horses with colic at the same time. What in the world was going on? Savannah weighs only 95 pounds and had just turned a year old the day before. There wasn’t a tube small enough for her so, Terry made a quick trip to Lowes. He returned with a tube he had fit with a funnel that was small enough to get fluids into Savannah.
While Gypsy rested quietly in the paddock, Terry and I took turns walking Savannah. As the hours passed she grew worse. the vet suggested surgery, but the cost could be between $1,000 and $4,000. Even if we had that kind of money, there was no promise that she would survive. The only option was to send her to the animal hospital and treat her with intravenous fluids and medication. Terry and I discussed how much we could afford to pay that was within reason. What ever decisions were made we needed to know there would be no blame or regrets. But, I was still torn about what to do. Savannah was so sick she could no longer stand up. As she lay there on her side I knelt over her crying.
“I don’t know what to do Savannah”, I told her. “Do I let you go and end your suffering or we keep fighting?” At that moment Savannah lifted her head and put her muzzle on my face. I knew I had to take a chance and try to save her. We loaded her into the trailer and took her to the hospital. I talked with the vet for a few minutes and then we left so they could get to work. When I left I thought it would be the last time I would see my baby. I had done all I could do, it was now in the hands of a higher power.
All night I tossed and turned, I cried and most of all I prayed. By morning I was mentally exhausted. I didn’t have the courage to make that call to the vet, I just wasn’t ready to hear those words “Your baby is gone”. Terry made the call while I tended to Gypsy. Awhile later he found us in the pasture. When he told me that not only had Savannah survived the night but, had improved 75% and was coming home, my knees went weak and I fell into his arms. I had gotten my miracle. But, we still had to get Gypsy better.
When we went to get Savannah we took Gypsy to the hospital to get another tubal treatment. We took her back the next day for an intravenous treatment. The two horses seemed to have recovered their ordeal but, I noticed that Savannah was laying down a lot. Then, two weeks later she went down again. The vet returned and blood work was done. Savannah was suffering from stomach ulcers. She was put on medication for the next two weeks. All seemed to be going well. Savannah had finished her medication and five days later she went down again. By now we were running out of hope. The budget we had set was long gone. I called the emergency vet and explained the situation. I didn’t suspect colic but, felt the ulcers may be the problem. If I was going to spend the money it had to be on treating her and not an emergency visit. He explained that she might have to be on medication for the rest of her life. I picked up a two month supply adding another $200.00 to my bill. By now my origional budget had almost doubled. We had come this far and couldn’t give up now. I also knew I couldn’t keep putting money into a dying horse. For weeks I have dreaded going to the barn for fear of finding that my baby had passed. Fortuately, the medication seems to be helping.
I hope I never have to go through anything like this ever again. To see my horses running in the field is an amazing feeling. Savannah has returned to training as an “Amazing Paint” and has returned to work as a therapeutic horse. The only thing more heartbreaking than the loss of my horse would be knowing I ended her life simply because I couldn’t afford to save her.
Many thanks to Dr. Anne Croken and the staff of the Brenford Animal Hospital for the outstanding care that saved the life of my horses, Gypsy and Savannah. Did you visit? Leave a comment!