I swept the barn this morning – was before 8 when I went out to feed the animals. Ducks, Snoopie, the rooster, the chickens, and the horses. The bees have sugar left from last Friday. When it got cold Saturday they stopped feeding.
The animals don’t have the weather channel – they have to contend by instinct and not by the forecast. Snoops has a long, shaggy coat that puffs out to trap body heat in this cold. So do the horses. Their coats begin to grow out in early August and then continue to get thicker and longer until the spring equinox. The rooster was funny today– his feathers were frosted like the grass, but he didn’t seem to mind at all as he was crowing and strutting around as if it were any other day.
But I was cold. My fingers were growing numb by the minute as I swept the stable floor. And then that cold burn feeling began to creep into my knuckles. I kept moving and did my best to ignore it. I should have worn some gloves. Every few minutes I stopped and went over to Lou and stroked his shoulder, allowing my hands to steal some of the warmth from his coat. He didn’t seem to mind, but he was curious if there was going to be a ginger snap treat appearing anytime soon. That’s pretty much all that Lou seems to think about – treats. He tried to angle his head a bit sideways to adjust his sight with his good eye to see if there was anything in my hand ..“no Louie, I’m just pettin’ you”. Then he lowered his head into the tangled mound of hay at his feet. He couldn’t care less about my numbed hands, or that he was keeping me warm. Good ol Lou. As long as there is hay at his feet, he doesn't have a care in the world.
As I swept I relived and thought more about Saturday afternoon. With the northeast storm, cold air blew in and pushed aside the fall temperatures. We lost about 20 degrees in a few winds late in the day. We found Zip’s circling in his stall, kicking, biting at his stomach, heaving for breathes. Looked like colic, which is when the horse’s digestive system gets blocked and if not treated, can be fatal. It’s a horse owner’s nightmare. Trust me. It can be caused by a lot of things, and one of those things is a sudden change of weather. It’s hard to believe that an animal so big, fast and strong can be so sensitive.
Kath came in to make an emergency call to the vet, and I headed out to the stable. By then Zip was laying down…there was no rhythm to his breathing. His eyes were glassed over, and trending up and back towards his eyelids. He let me stroke him, and every so often lifted his head up to lick my fingers, just to fall back onto the floor, struggling to get enough breathe. I thought it was over. He was laying with his mouth slightly open, eyes rolled up searching for help. It was hard to bear. Hard to be so helpless. I just stroked him.
It seemed like hours, but was only minutes. Without describing it, the blockage loosened. Slowly. The vet called back. Dr. Beth thought that from our description and what was happening that it was gas colic and would be over in a half hour, but if not, she’d be coming by. Gas colic usually takes care of itself. She was treating a colic’ed horse south of us, and had another to see after that. Zip’s was third in line, but was now on his feet. She’d call later to see if he was getting better.
Once Zip got up we haltered him and put him on a lead. Kath and I took turns walking him back and forth in the back field…walking helps to keep things inside him moving. In an hour he was back to being Zip, with eyes brightened, breathing regular, alert, and strong on his lead. Dr. Beth was happy to hear it, and gave us a minimalist feeding schedule for the next few days to get his digestive system back on track.
As I swept I kept looking over to Zip, who was sifting through his meager ration of hay. As cold as I was I just wanted to stay around and stay near him and the others. You just never know.