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Managing my endurance horse Bo post colic surgery

Bo two weeks post colic surgery, April 2014.  He regained his weight rapidly.

Bo two weeks post colic surgery, April 2014. He regained his weight rapidly.

I’ve only made a few small changes to how I manage Bo on a day to day basis after his colic surgery in April.  While the veterinarians and surgeon were not able to come up with a reason for the cause of Bo’s colic it was suspicious that the morning he went off of his feed (he was still eating, just not all of it like normal) he was also broken out in hives.  It’s possible that something he ate disrupted his gut just long enough to create the problem that led to him getting a 180 degree twist.

For the next year Bo will have a slightly higher chance of having another colic episode.  So far (knocking on wood) he has not had any signs of being uncomfortable or acting colicky.  In the past Bo has had a couple of instances of gas colic, one was over five years ago and the other at the end of last year.  The vets didn’t think that what happened was related and do not consider those two instances to be anything more than a coincidence.  Of course, as an owner I have to consider that I am going to need to be extra careful and attentive with Bo as I will be from here on out.  If I hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t right and gotten him to the vet (I took him to two different clinics as he was not presenting as anything but as a mild colic) in time it could have easily been too late.

Bo eating out of his Porta Grazer at the Wild West ride.

Bo eating out of his Porta Grazer at the Wild West ride.

Feeding:  From now on Bo will only be fed hay in a Porta-Grazer.   I have the new Mini Porta-Grazer Traveler  which is wonderful.  They are shorter, therefore weigh less and are a lot easier to move around.  Bo loves to move his PG’s around a LOT which I like as it not only doubles as a toy but it also means he isn’t having to stand in the same spot all of the time while he eats.  The PG’s are super durable, the first ones I’ve been using for four years and Bo hasn’t managed to damage one yet.  The mini traveler size also holds the same amount of hay as the full size ones do.  PG’s are a great way to feed as they provide a more natural way for a horse to eat – Bo often prefers biting, pulling and chewing his hay through the PG over even grazing in the pasture sometimes.  20131127_113517Plus, I can even put some EGM Stable Mix pellets in the bottom underneath the hay.  Another benefit of using a PG is that there is no waste, and the hay isn’t getting onto the ground.  I do not want Bo eating hay off of the sand or dirt at all!  I’ve done several fecal tests since his colic checking for sand in his manure and so far there is no sign of it.  I tried slow feeder nets which work if I secure them in the stalls over rubber stall mats otherwise the horses would shake the nets and small bits of hay would come out everywhere in the paddock area (which is sand) and then the horses would hoover that up no doubt ingesting sand; so the nets were useful in certain situations but not right for our needs.


Bo likes to be able to keep an eye on Taz, the dog–while he eats.

lso, I really like that with the mini traveler PG most of the time my horses can see out while they eat due to the design.  It’s not until they get down to the very bottom that their eyes go beneath the level of the barrel.  I think that the horses prefer to be able to see what is going on around them while they are eating.  Especially now that one of my dogs likes to sneak up on Bo – of course he turns the tables on her and chases her now, so it’s all good!  It’s also nice that the PG design requires the horses to stand fairly upright while they are eating – they can’t stand with one front leg splayed out very far.

Bo LOVES his Stable Mix mash - a complete feed.

Bo LOVES his Stable Mix mash – a complete feed.

Timing of Feeding:  I’ve been alternating feeding Bo his EGM Stable Mix mashes in between his hay feedings.  This way he never goes very long in between having something to eat.  I try to time it so that his hay is put in his PG 2x a day, about 12 hours apart.  Then I fill in during those times with the Stable Mix, which he just loves.  The reason I knew something was wrong when he colicked is that he only ate a portion of his mash.  Bo NEVER leaves his Stable Mix uneaten.  If he does, it’s time to call a vet!!

Size of Meals:  One of the mistakes that I think I was making was allowing Bo to have as much feed as he wanted at times.  I now know that I need to limit the size of his meals because Bo will eat it ALL.  This means I need to spend more time spreading out smaller meals throughout the day and night for him so that he never gets to gorge at any one time and there is a consistent supply of feed going in (and out, hopefully).  His Stable Mix mashes are cut down to 1/2 of a feed scoop each time.  Before I had been giving him one and a half scoops each time.  Now he still gets the same amount in a 24 hour period, just in smaller amounts and given more frequently.

BoandChiefGrazing:  Bo’s discharge papers said that he could graze on as much grass as he wanted.  I generally open up the pasture to him at night, after dark.  Then close it off in the morning.  He’s always one to run back to the barn whinnying in the a.m. as he knows he’s going to get his Stable Mix mash, then a couple of hours later his PG with hay (grass and alfalfa mix).  Bo also has been keeping the back lawn mowed quite nicely since April all by himself and is allowed on it for an hour at a time here and there.

GutWerksSupplements:  At the Wild West ride, I used Gutwerks probiotics, prebiotics, active yeast plus yeast culture, from HorseTech.  It’s a great way to help support Bo’s gut function, and he doesn’t mind eating it mixed in his feed at all.  I will also use GutWerks any time my horses are going to be experiencing any kind of stress such as from being wormed, vaccinated, during travel, severe weather changes and if they are given any type of medications.

Idailygold_pouch also am using Redmond Daily Gold mixed in Bo’s mash every day.  Daily gold  is made with montmorillonite clay and helps Bo by helping to prevent ulcers, balancing the Ph in his digestive system, neutralizes acid in his gut and helps attract toxins and allergens so helps detoxify his body. I also use Daily Red and Redmond rocks.  My horses both easily eat Redmond products in their feed, even at rides.  A study conducted by Brigham Young University concluded that Daily Gold was able to bind over 99% of Aflatoxin B1 that is commonly found in horse feed.  Bo and Chief are both going to be getting Daily Gold from now on.

20140716_1325411Another supplement that I’ve used is Abler Omeperazole as an ulcer preventative.  It’s very affordable, and I only need to put one or two tablets on top of Bo’s mash a couple of days in advance of trailering, and then again after a ride and for a couple of days after that.  It’s not legal to use during an AERC ride so I need to be careful about giving it too close to a ride so as to not violate any drug rules.  Some of you may have heard of “pop rocks” or “blue pop rocks”.  I chose to get the single tablet rather than the granules but it’s basically the same thing.

The above mentioned supplements (Probiotics, Daily Gold and Omeperazle) were all prescribed in Bo’s discharge papers from the veterinarian as part of his care and management program.

Bo_masagelight20140422_102138One other thing that I did for Bo that I think may have helped his recovery and certainly was something that he enjoyed very much was work him with the Massage Lights.  I’ve done a blog post previously about the science behind the benefits of red light therapy.  I’d like to think that it helped Bo heal faster but nonetheless, he certainly enjoys being massaged and worked on with the Massage Lights.

Most of what I am now doing in taking care of Bo is the same as what I was doing before.  The changes are pretty minor overall.  I am being more careful with how often and how much he is fed and making sure he gets his Daily Gold every day.  New to us is using the Omeperazole as an ulcer preventative prior to traveling and competing.  So far everything seems to be working rather well and Bo has returned to his usual mischievous self.  I plan to do a few more rides locally with him before venturing out on any longer trips.  We’ll take it one day and one ride at a time and see how Bo does.  I know he loves to get to go places and see new trails so this may be our opportunity to do some rides that Bo hasn’t done before, so long as he is healthy has a good attitude about what he does.

Edited to add:  Here is a link to Bo’s ride record from AERC.  As of today, Bo has completed 8,015 miles and 8 years of AERC rides, including 7 one day 100’s (3 were Tevis completions).  I’ve also ridden him on many multiday rides and he was a solid performer on the 2011 cross country XP ride receiving the Best Performance Award (along with Chief) on that 2,040 mile ride.  Bo has turned into a really solid and dependable horse — which is why I had to choose to go to surgery with him and give him a chance.  I felt that I owed it to him and I will always do what is best for him even if it means retiring him from endurance.  I don’t think he’s ready for that yet.  Sharing this to show others that horses can recover from colic surgery and return to their previous level of work with a good quality of life, and that it can happen to anyone.  Bo nickers at me every day and it warms my heart and makes me smile, that’s all I need and I”m so thankful that he’s still here and I’m enjoying every minute of it.  It also makes me appreciate Chief even more than I already do — he’s my rock and helped me hold it together during a very difficult time.






6 comments to Managing my endurance horse Bo post colic surgery

  • This is all good stuff, Karen, and you can be sure I’m taking notes. I’m especially interested in the new porta-grazer…will definitely be looking into that.

    Best wishes to you and Bo and Chief too!

  • Janelle Lear

    Will Bo be ‘out of the woods’ so to speak after the one year period or will you always have to be just a little more cautious with him? I know there is no way of really knowing, just wondering.

  • Lancette Koerner

    Thank you for sharing your story. Unfortunately, we still know so little about why these things happen. My horse Khan had a serious colic years ago. As in your case, the vets had no idea as to why it happened. After much consideration of the circumstances,I believe it was feed/timing related.

  • Susan Henderson

    I pretty much only use Nutrient Buffer in colic cases. It’s worked for me 100% of the time for decades now. It really seems to me that it would assist in the healing of the gut after colic surgery too.

  • JOdy Paddy

    Hey there

    interesting blog post – My horse had surgery this year as well and my changes are similar – although shes out 24×7 so I dont have the same small feeds issue throughout the day.

    Am curious – how long will it be before you can start working Bo properly?

    Impressed with the weight gain – mine lost a good 100Kgs and she took months to get it back on (Though its there now) :)

  • hi Jody – glad that your horse came through the surgery and is doing well. I had Bo back to work rather quickly – he completed his first 50 post surgery at 10 1/2 weeks, and another one a couple of months after that. Since then he’s been getting regular work and would have done a couple more rides but they were cancelled unfortunately.

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