There are two words in the horse world that strike fear in every horse person; one starts with the letter “L” and the other is Colic. We try to push these words into the darkest regions of our brain hoping that if we do, they will never come knocking on our door.
I’m not sure what is wrong with me, because it seems like God has put me on some path to figure out the issue of colic or torment me with it. All I want to do is scream at the top of my lungs, “Why in the world did you do this to horses? Create this horrible design for the most wonderful, willing, amazing, loving creature?” I lost Shandoka to it, and I fought like hell to get Dulce to a better place, and now my sweet Mojo.
When he came here, he was in bad shape. However, everything came back fine on him, so he was put on the diet for horses that are recovering from starvation and two supplements. He was on a low starch and sugar diet the entire time he was with me. The two supplements he was on were vitamin E and California Trace. I had to worm him, because he had tapeworms. When I heard about the tapeworms, I immediately worried. They can cause a lot of damage to a horse’s gut. He began to gain weight, and he started losing his shaggy coat.
As we approached 930 pounds, my red flag was ready to go off. This is when a horse goes out of what I call starvation mode. Starvation mode is when a horse seems to suppress their issues (again this is my observation), and when they get above 915, the body emerges from starvation mode and is in a flux. Their organs are still adjusting, and those suppressed issues emerge. One did. I always thought he could have ulcers, because he was starved for ten days, although he NEVER showed any signs of it. He cleaned his bucket, and he loved me scratching his belly and rib areas. The only sign that popped up was his poop became mush.
We adjusted his diet. We worried about the effects of medicine because his disposition seemed so fragile. We decided to take a gentle route with nutrient buffer and gastromend and see how he responded. We also put him on Bio Mos, butyrate, and Yea Sacc in case the bad floura were taking over. He immediately responded. His poop improved, and he began to gain back the weight he lost. However, I knew he needed his teeth done. He had some small ulcers and cuts all over his tongue from the points on his teeth.
I scheduled the appointment, and I was right; lots of points. I noticed how much longer it took for him to rebound from the sedation compared to my other three. Red flag in the breeze. When he did rebound, he loved his new teeth, and the amount he ate increased. Great sign! I had to throw out a lot more hay for him. I was thrilled, but that red flag was gnawing at me despite everything seeming like we were on the right track.
The day this all started, he seemed great. He cleaned out his bucket in the morning and nickered at me when I brought him his hay. However, his personality was off. This was not unusual, but it is something that I always noted. I left to go work with Chuter, and when I came back his personality was still off. He was eating fine though, and there were no signs of colic at all. I spent a lot of time with him that afternoon brushing him, stretching his poll, and hanging out with him.
When I got his feed for him that evening, he didn’t nicker at me, took a few bites, and for the first time I saw him bite at his right side three times in a row. Since he came to live with me, he always finish his bucket. Red flags everywhere. I threw out his feed, and I took him for a walk. He improved. He farted, which is the best sound ever. I took him back to his paddock, and he pooped. Great sign except he became really uncomfortable afterwards. I called my vet, and we did the normal treatments. He also received 10cc’s of banamine. We walked and walked. He pooped a couple of more times without any more pain. He relaxed and farted a lot. When we got back, he lied down, and he constantly farted. I thought we were through the worst of it because the gas was passing so easily. I got my cot and prepared to spend the night with him. I lied down, and he got up and came and stood over me while he slept. I couldn’t sleep at all, so I watched him. I listened to him breath, and I memorized everything about his nose, jaw, and his relaxed lower lip. I will never forget his head over me with the stars overhead. Even though I thought we were through the worst of it, something still bothered me; my stomach remained clenched.
A few hours later, he dropped his nose to mine and nuzzled with me. He walked to the barn, pooped, and this is when all hell broke loose. He was in horrible pain. He dropped, and for the first time tried to roll. The worst sign. I got him up, snapped the lead rope on, and walked him. He couldn’t think, and he walked me into the fence several times. I didn’t care. The next couple of hours I did everything I could think of while talking with my vet. I gave him more banamine, did acupressure, belly lifts, colic pump….anything and everything. He got to the point where he could barely stand and collapsed twice. I called my vet back to my place knowing there was nothing we could do. He had the heart of Afleet Alex to the end. He fought hard.
I held his head in my chest telling him I loved him over and over and over again wishing that if I said it enough it would undo what I knew happened. Come on God, you can’t do this to me again! Give me a miracle please!!!! He either had a twist, blockage, or a rupture. I just wanted it to stop. I wanted him to be better again, to hear him nicker at me for food, and to go back to the moment not so long ago when he gave me that sweet nose nuzzle.
His heart rate was 80bpm, it’s supposed to be 40. He had absolutely no gut sounds on the right, and his gums were going pale. The surgeon was four hours away. I made the decision, which I hate making. I hate it with a passion, but he was shaking from the pain. There was nothing any of us could do. I stayed with him through it all. I was there when he fell to the ground, and I held his head whispering to him over and over how loved he was. I told him Shandoka would come for him and to follow him; he knows the way. He took three agonal breaths and was gone. He was only with me for a short time, but oh my God the pain. I didn’t want to let go of him. Ever since I got him, I’ve wanted to hold him and protect him, and I couldn’t do it this time. I felt like I let him down because I couldn’t figure it out. I let my husband down because he hoped Mojo would be his trail horse. I let all of you down because you all loved him so much. It’s amazing how much I loved him. I have no way of expressing that to you, but he was so loved the entire time he was here….so loved by me, my husband, my other three horses, and my dogs and cats.
A thought as to why it could have happened, was our crazy weather and possibly the sedation could have set off a chain of events. We all worried about gut damage from the tapeworms and ulcers. This is one reason why he was on gastromend. He also got 20mg of Hyaluronic Acid twice a day. There was a study done on the use of HA on joints of horses, and a good side effect that they noted was that it appeared to heal gastric damage if absorbed through the gut. They stated that they needed to do more research on this, but I decided to put Mojo on it. He was a stiff horse, so I thought it could help his joints feel better as well as hopefully heal up any gastric issues he might have. We simply didn’t have enough time for his gut to heal up.
The day before this happened, we had rainy weather. Our barometric pressure plunged. If anyone suffers from barometric pressure headaches, you get why this could be an issue. You feel the dropping pressure in your head, and you are convinced your head might explode from the pressure. Twelve hours later the barometric pressure soared back up, and then we had winds that gusted to over 50mph. We wondered if those drastic changes weakened any area in his gut. Mojo was also a horse that internalized his stress. He didn’t express it outwardly like my other three do. I don’t know if the winds could have brought on the bad gas that then weakened a bad spot in his gut. Mind you no one understands why colic hits or how to fix it. It’s a condition that there are very few treatments for. You basically try the standard options praying they work.
The possibility that feels the most right to me is that the colic was secondary to another issue. We can’t know what is going on unless we open them up, which brings its own inherent risks. My friend Hannah just lost her mare last night. They thought it was impaction colic until they opened her up. It turned out to be a blood clot, and there was too much damage to save her. I’m wondering if the same thing in a different area could have happened to him…or maybe he had a tumor. He could have had a gut stone. I didn’t feed him alfalfa, but who knows what he was fed before he got to me. Too much calcium in a diet can cause these stones, and they cause colic that a horse can’t recover from. I believe it was secondary to another issue, because he never showed any signs of gastrointestinal distress until this moment. He never chewed his sides for the occasional gas bubbles. He loved it when I curried his belly and along his ribs. There was no indication of any problem.
I staggered back to my cot. The moon rose an hour ago, and I tried to look at her instead of him. My horses were in the upper part of their paddock as far away as they could get from him except for Harley. Harley stayed in his stall next to Mojo the entire time. They were mourning in their own ways. Despite Mojo never being able to be in with them for more than an hour, they all had a relationship with him. He was part of their herd in whatever way Mojo could do it.
I was asked if I would have known this was going to happen, would I have not taken him in? We wouldn’t change a thing. I hoped to bring him here for a long, safe life, but I guess it was to bring him to a safe place where he could die. I wouldn’t give up one moment with him knowing what I feel right now….the pain of saying goodbye and letting go. I wouldn’t change anything. Will I take in another horse? Yes, one day in honor of Mojo, but not for a while. We need time to heal. In the meantime, I’m going to continue trying to get lawmakers to pass the Safe Act telling them about Mojo. They need to hear what a kill pen does to horses. These places need to close. If you would like to lobby your representatives about the Safe Act, please feel free to talk about how Mojo touched your life in your letters.
The light was bright as I looked at Mojo, and the air was still as if afraid to breath. I looked at my feet trying to tell them to move and walk away back to the house, but I didn’t want to leave him. I kept thinking about how many people’s lives he touched. He may not have liked to race, but he sure inspired a lot of people. He touched them in ways that were unexpected, and because of that, he was a great! As great as any horse that ever touched a track!
There were no clouds….nothing moved. Our walk through the forest came back to me; at least he got to go up there once. This is when I saw it. I saw a shadow move across my feet like something was running by and then another shadow right behind. I looked above me and all around. There was nothing that could have caused those shadows. Maybe Shandoka did come for him, and they were running towards greener pastures together.
“Run Mojo Run,” I whispered.