Yesterday I trailered Dressy over to the Ganaraska Forest to ride with Chrystal. It was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny but not at all humid. Really perfect weather.
Dressy came off the trailer very politely, had a few bites of grass and then stood quietly while I brushed her off and got her tacked up. I spent a few minutes just admiring her glossy coat and overall glow of good health. Chrystal and Grace arrived a few minutes later.
We walked out of the parking lot and both mares were really amazingly good. They walked. Calmly. And walked some more. We admired Grace’s composure. Walked some more. It occurred to me that Dressy was really a bit more quiet than usual too. Grace spooked a little at something ahead of us and Dressy didn’t even try to run madly away. Great progress.
So then we trotted for a while. Still very calm. Dressy was trotting on a loose rein. Grace was trotting without any head flinging, cantering sideways, or general antics. It helped that Dressy was not charging up on either side trying to pass. That actually seemed a bit odd. But Dressy’s ears were up, and she was trotting along well. Just not out of control.
We trotted up a very long hill. Grace floated up it effortlessly as always. Dressy ran out of steam halfway up. But then something crashed in the bushes next to her so she got a little adrenaline rush that perked her up and she finished trotting up the hill. But I asked Chrys to walk for a bit because Dressy was now really blowing hard. After a few minutes she seemed fine so we trotted a bit more. But I was feeling increasingly wrong about Dressy. She was trotting, and her ears were up, but she was NOT herself. Then I suddenly realized in some alarm that she was not sweating. Her neck was dry. I reached under the saddle. Dry.
I told Chrystal to stop and I checked her over. She had a slow capillary refill (press on the gums and see how fast the pink colour returns), and was panting hard. She was inverted (faster respiration than heart rate). I looked at her flanks and thought maybe I could see the beginnings of a flicker there. Which would mean thumps (an electrolyte imbalance). I might have imagined that, I’m not totally sure. But I have seen thumps quite a few times as a CTR judge. And that’s how it starts. I could hear gut sounds (just leaning my ear against her – no stethoscope with me), so I wasn’t worried that she was colicking anyway.
We walked back to the trailer, which was about 3 miles. A very long three miles. Possibly the longest three miles I’ve ever done in the forest. Pulled out my stethoscope and listened to her heart rate. Holy. Cow. 76. And wildly out of rhythm.
I had some Tums in the trailer, but no electrolytes. I took them out the day before to do some mixing experiments with yogurt in my blender and forgot to put them back. So I was cursing myself for that. But I gave her six Tums and Watched her for a few minutes. She seemed okay, so we loaded both horses into the trailer and drove a couple of miles down the road to Chrystal’s place. She had a tub of Ride-Rite there, and I gave Dressy four ounces of it right away. Then set up her electric paddock in a shady spot with some grass. Then I obsessively checked her heart.
It took maybe half an hour or 45 minutes to get her back to normal rhythm. She has an odd heart rate anyway, since she skips regularly. So it might be four beats – skip – four beats – skip, etc. Or it could be three beats. But it’s normally a steady pattern. So by the time we left, her heart rate was 36 and doing the four beat skip pattern quite steadily.
I brought her home and called my friend Kathy who is a horse vet (an endurance vet). She is one of the vets who trained me as a CTR judge. She is really helpful with stuff like this. She said that yes, I did exactly the right thing and that almost certainly Dressy had a calcium imbalance. Though I could have given several more Tums due to the mare’s size. I guess 6 is more the dose for an Arab. She said 8-10 would have been good. But that since Dressy came around that quickly, it was probably still a relatively mild imbalance.
What we could not figure out is WHY the mare had an imbalance. It was not that hot. And we walked for about a mile, then trotted for 5 miles. All I can think is that maybe she overheated in the trailer on the way over? I didn’t notice it being really hot when I opened the doors. But I was chatting to a guy on a motorcycle (about a plane crash that had happened in the forest), so I opened it up and didn’t go in right away. So maybe I missed it.
I’m going to have to get serious about giving this mare extra calcium though. Geez.
Dressy was her usual self coming off the trailer at home (and no… it was not hot in there, though of course it was a bit cooler outside, being evening). She ate most of her dinner but left a couple of bites. It probably didn’t help that I gave her another shot of electrolytes right before she ate.
She looks good this morning. Greeted me with a friendly nuzzle and whuffle in my ear.