The mares lined up at the gate, ready to eat. I walked out of the barn with halters and lead ropes draped over my arms. The first mare at the gate wasn’t Bee, the boss mare. We don’t call her Queen Bee for nothing. Bee was hanging back behind all the other mares.
That was strange, but maybe today she wanted every minute of grass time she could get. Bee continued to stand apart from the other mares even as I started to bring them into the barn to eat.
I removed the hay and feed from Bee’s stall and walked back to the pasture to get her.
When I stepped through the gate, Bee walked away from me and laid down. I got Bee up and led her into the barn. I took her vitals. Everything was normal, but it sure looked like the start of a colic.
I checked in with the vet, started Bee on banamine, hand walked her regularly, and continued to monitor her closely.
Over the next twenty-four hours, Bee’s condition worsened. Her temperature climbed to 103.7ºF. Her heart rate reached 52 beats per minute. She also developed diarrhea. The vet suspected anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease, and started Bee on antibiotics.
Bee didn’t improve. The vet became worried that she had Potomac Horse Fever, which can induce laminitis.
We’d hit a crisis point. Bee couldn’t be left unattended, and we needed to get her in ice boots, that is, Bee had to have all four hooves immersed in ice water to the fetlock joint or higher.
While Bee's owner added a thick layer of pine shavings to the stall and stuffed Bee's hay net, her husband drove to the grocery store and bought bags and bags of ice. My husband dug out our ice chests.
The vet had two ice boots. A boarder drove to tack stores to get two more ice boots, probiotics, and electrolytes.
I put a babysitter horse in the stall across from Bee.
Another boarder stayed home and rested so she could sit up part of the night with Bee. I’d relieve her at 2am.
Bee’s owner, who had a one-year-old boy at home, stayed with Bee as long as she could. Then her friends stepped up, taking shifts, sitting in the aisleway outside Bee’s stall, checking Bee’s vitals every hour, changing the ice in her boots every few hours, administering medications, picking out her stall, giving her fresh water, and doling out hay and feed that we wet down to aid with hydration.
Bee came through without any permanent injury. Ultimately, all tests were negative for anaplasmosis and Potomac Horse Fever. The vet believed Bee had contracted some other tick-borne disease, which are very common in our area.
Even if you are someone who can take off from work to be there every second for your horse, sometimes there’s a crisis. You have to sleep at some point. You can’t stay with your horse and drive to get all the supplies you’ll need.
We all need to develop good relationships with other horse people. We need to respect other boarders and their horses. Those people will drive to Southern States or Dover Saddlery or Tractor Supply for you and for your horse. They’ll sit up through the night with your horse.
You gotta have friends.