This mornings dawn was picture perfect. Cool, slightly breezy, with a lovely mist over the ridge and in the meadow. I had planned a very light work day, just three pets, thinking that by noon I'd be a free agent. We thought we might go kayaking, or partake in some other pleasant outdoor activity since the day was so fine. All my normal morning chores went smoothly, and I had time to put three loaves of bread in pans to rise, and mix up a batch of yogurt to ferment. Just before I went upstairs to shower and change for work I invited Chris to join me in checking on the baby Silkie chicks, just because they are so much fun to see. As we stood in the back yard, watching them peck about in the grass and follow their powder puff parents,I happened to glance at my horse. She had an odd look on her face. I watched her a moment and became concerned, and went into her paddock to check more closely. Copious amounts of white foam were running from one nostril, and she was clearly uncomfortable. I quickly texted my veterinarian, and bless her, she called me immediately. I assumed Chanel had what horse people refer to as "choke." This happens when food gets lodged in the horses throat instead of passing to the stomach. The vet agreed once she heard my description. She suggested I try to get her to drink something, and massage her neck to see if I could dislodge what was stuck. Chris suggested I add some molasses to water to encourage her to drink, an excellent idea. I mixed up a bowl and took it out. She tried to drink but could not. I massaged her neck, she hated it. Meanwhile, she was beginning to sweat. I called the vet back and she kindly agreed to come out.
I had pets to groom, so Saint Chris (which is how I think I should refer to him hereafter) agreed to go assist. He is not an animal person by nature, but quips that he is one by osmosis. As I groomed I peered out the window at the vet, the husband and the horse. As soon as my customer left I beat it outside to the pony shed. As I approached the vet said, "You aren't going to freak out are you?" It was then that I noticed the blood.
When the vet attempts to clear whatever is choking the horse, they insert a long flexible rubber hose up the nostril,hopefully breaking up whatever mass is blocking the esophagus. During this time they may pump clear water in through the tube to assist in flushing the blockage. Today, when the tube was inserted, it caused a massive nose bleed. As in, a quart or two of blood, dripping at a rapid rate, out the nose. In the photo below the vet is holding an ice pack on Chanel's face to help slow the bleeding. The event lasted a long time. When it was over the pony gave a mighty snort and blew out a blood clot the size of a 6" deli submarine sandwich. And when I say "blew," I mean over me, all over St. Chris, all over the vet (she got a full facial assault) all over the walls, the ceiling... nothing was spared.
After that she seemed to feel much better and the vet suggested I try letting her eat a little grass. She did, happily, for just a few moments, then began to choke again. More tubes up the nose, more flushing with water. Again, we thought we had the problem solved. We took her back to her shed and tied her up so she couldn't reach anything at all to nibble on. While the vet cleaned up her gear, I got some molasses water to tempt Chanel to drink so we could make sure everything was fine. Everything wasn't fine. Her esophagus was still blocked! Again and again the tube was inserted. Poor Chanel hung her head, and water and foam and grass and blockage and blood drained everywhere. It wasn't pretty. During this time we had the difficult talk about options. We could transport her to an equine veterinary hospital and see what they could do, we could tranquilize her heavily for 24 hours and see if that level of relaxation helped in any way, or we could make the decision to humanely euthanize her. Right about that time a fresh gob of grass and other matter came flushing out. The vet believed the blockage was truly cleared, and went, again, to clean up her gear. I waited a while, then took more sweetened water out, and Chanel drank it down. Good news!
Now she is still tied in her stall, because the medication given to her makes her confused and she was attempting to eat shavings. Just what she doesn't need is any food at all going down her poor, irritated throat, let alone some pine shavings!
It was a long, difficult, emotionally exhausting morning. And though I haven't gotten the bill yet, I'm sure it was an expensive morning, too. I am so grateful that my wonderful, patient veterinarian came out and ruined her entire day off taking care of my sweet horse. I hope Chanel will recover well... I do so love that pony.