Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Older Horse

I was already out doing my rounds at the post office, the gas station, and the store when I finally turned my phone on for the day.

The "Voicemail" notice chimed as I was pulling into the Post Office parking lot to drop off a piece of critical mail and a couple contract copies. The message was that Dink was acting sort of colicky and they wanted me to come out to the ranch and have a look at him.

The gas tank was on "Empty," checks needed to be deposited, and I HAD to stop at the store if Bernie was to have a lunch to take to work, so I forged on, and less than an hour later was able to stop by the ranch in my luxurious long linen shirt and dainty little flip-flop sandals. Not horsewear.

Dink was in a small pasture by himself when I arrived, desultorily nibbling at the sparse grass and weeds. When I called "Duquesne!" his head shot up -- a good sign. If he was really sick, he'd be lackluster. I went to the fence and petted him, noting that he'd taken a small dump in the past few minutes. (I'm not going to describe how one knows that horse shit is fresh.)

I headed for home to change clothes, make lunch, pack Bernie's work lunch, unload groceries. Then it was back to the ranch.

Dink was kind of dull; he didn't try to nip me for fun, or drag me along while he tried to snarf some old hay. We stood under a mulberry tree in the shade, and he didn't try to eat any of the leaves. That concerned me. I groomed him up a little, and put an ear to his side, listening for the normal noisy gut sounds that mean a healthy horse.

There were a couple gurgles, but not enough. I set off down the road, leading him -- exercise can help a horse's bowels move, as long as there is no twisted segment. But a horse with a twist in his intestines is in agony, and Dink was just ... dull.

20 minutes out the road, 20 minutes back. I led him to a deep water trough, and he sipped and played in the water for a while. I listened again to his sides. A little more noise, maybe? We set off down the road again, and this time, if I trotted, he did, too, a little.

By the time we were back, Bernie was waiting for me at the ranch, and so was Harry, the ranch owner. We talked about older horses and colic and the horrific cost of veterinary visits; Harry brought a shallow pail of All-In-One (alfalfa, molasses, and something else) and let Dink eat some of it. Harry was concerned that Dink had reacted badly to a new load of hay. Dink ate a little, drank a little more water; I heard more gurgles in his gut, I was sure of it.

Bernie went to work and Harry advised me to either walk Dink, or ride him, since he wasn't in distress. I saddled the Little Duke and off we went, me praying for him to take a crap.

Dink was agreeable to the ride, not lagging or trying to turn back. He wasn't doing his usual Little Soldier March, but he was moving freely, ears listening for sounds in the orchards. I took the long path around the almond, walnut, and kiwi orchards -- about two hours. Five minutes before we got back to the ranch, Dink stopped, lifted his tail, and deposited a huge pile of meadow muffins on the road.

When I returned him to the pasture for the evening, he was incensed that he was separated from the other horses, and was bugling deafeningly to show his annoyance. That is good. If he's mad, he'll pace and throw tantrums, and that will keep him "moving" so to speak.

I'll go out again tomorrow morning (creaking and groaning, no doubt) and take him out for another turn.

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