Colic is a term used to describe abdominal discomfort in horses. Colic can vary from a horse that has gone off its food and is flank watching, to a horse that is violently rolling around the stable despite having a large dose of pain relief. Colic can occur at any point during a horses’ life however some specific causes of colic have been associated with foaling.
Three years ago at Skelwith Stud we had a case of post-foaling colic. Sadly, in this case, Liz had to make the heartbreaking decision to put the mare to sleep because she was too poorly to transport to a referral hospital. We attempted to find a foster mare to raise orphan foal, Maeve, however we were unsuccessful. Mavee was hand reared and fed every 4 hours up until the time she would have naturally been weaned. Maeve was a bit lonely in her first few days of life so Katie the Shetland- very kindly donated by the young Poppy Launder- joined Maeve to keep her company.
The mare suffered from a torsion of the large colon. Foals take up a large volume of space within the abdomen during pregnancy; after foaling abdominal organs move back into this space however, in the case of our mare, her large colon twisted during this process. A colon torsion is an equine emergency. In cases where the twist exceeds 270° the venous drainage and the arterial blood supply to the colon is impaired resulting in a breakdown in the mucosal wall; in turn the breakdown of the wall allows bacteria & bacterial toxins to enter the bloodstream and causes a widespread inflammatory response throughout the body known as endotoxemia.
However this story does have a happy ending... Maeve the foal is now all grown up and has traded her field in for an arena. She has now outgrown her loyal companion Katie! :)
If you would like to learn more about breeding horses and stud medicine make sure you register an interest in the Equine Breeding and Stud Medicine Course; and if you do come and visit us you will have the opportunity to meet Maeve for yourself!