Horse Poop

“Freedom has diarrhea.” Skylay was standing at Freedom’s back end, holding his tail to one side. Freedom is a paint horse, but mostly white and the three inch wide streak of brown muck running the length of his white leg was particularly startling. The barn owner likes to feed grass clippings for dinner. He says he’s done this for twenty-five years and never had a problem. The clippings often give the horses diarrhea, but never even close to this severe before, in large part due to the fact that I normally make every effort to feed my own hay with the clippings after he mows.  I had been unable to do so the night before.

Freedom ate his lunch bucket of pellet and bran mash happily so we decided to ride. Freedom is famous for liking to poop while out on the trail. First thing he does when we head out, is leave a big, fat pile right outside the gate because he is, quite simply, happy to be out. Most of the horses will relieve themselves once, sometimes twice on a ride. Freedom is far more productive. One day we counted seventeen poops, though that was early on in his stay with us and he no longer feels the need for that excessive degree of expression.

He did poop immediately outside the gate, as expected, but, since his food had been flushed by the diarrhea, it was just one, mushy “ball”. I’m fastidious about removing big piles from the pathways and little piles if they are on someone’s driveway, but Freedom seemed to leave a single mush ball about every half mile. Hardly worth noticing; certainly not in a roadway.

Towards the end of our ride, Freedom was straining to poop and would even stop mid-canter. This was amusing the first time it happened as he got “rear ended” by Jackson, who was being ridden by Skylar. But as it continued, I became concerned.

I e-mailed Savannah, who owns Freedom, and Kathy, her mom, that night, with a picture of the poop smear. I requested they ask the barn owners to please give advance notice of feeding clippings so that I can have a better chance of getting hay to the horses. I also said I’d be there earlier than usual the next day, just in case.

I got out to the barn 10:45 the next morning. First thing I do is pull Freedom out, tie him and feed him his pellet and bran mash lunch. Freedom is a chow hound. This morning he took two bites and stopped, his head hanging low over the bucket. I put him back out in the paddock. He lay down; right by the fence. On the vets instructions, I dosed Freedom with Banamine, walked him for an hour, then held a warm mash of wheat bran, mineral oil and salt up to his nose, which he only lipped. I stayed with him, mostly walking him, until two, when Kathy, who’d been in Pleasanton, and Savannah, who Kathy pulled out of school, showed up to take over.

Kathy and Savannah continued to walk and watch Freedom for the next four hours. The vet made it out around six that evening and Freedom got “tubed”. He had a severe impaction and inflamed spleen, aggravated by what appeared to also be sand colic. The severity of the diarrhea had managed to so complete eliminate his intestinal flora that he was then unable to digest his hay breakfast, creating the impaction. He was also given another, larger, dose of Banamine.

If Freedom had passed a huge amount of oily poop by morning, he could be fed 1/4 flake hay. In an effort to be thorough, Kathy left a note to me on the board with this information, but it wasn’t terribly clear. Freedom did poop, but not nearly enough. The barn owner, following the instructions on board, fed 1/4 flake of hay. This did not help.

All day Friday, either Savannah, Kathy or I, walked and cared for Freedom; forcing feeding salt, so he would drink, and feeding warm mash and psyllium, which, with the application of copious amounts of molasses, we were successful at getting him to eat. He still strained when he pooped, but the droppings had, gradually through the day, gone from 1/4 cup in size to 1/2 cup to 1 cup to 2 cups. Still, Freedom was clearly not well. Same for the next day.

It was now Saturday, with the usual, enthusiastic group of Saturday riders. Savannah took Freedom the long route to the arena with us. Pure bliss for Freedom is getting to roll in the sand at the arena. When we let him have it to himself, he just stood there, obviously still feeling very poorly, kicking his belly, not rolling and not drinking. At this point, Kathy suggested we trailer him to their house, where they have a small paddock, so that they could care for him more attentively. The last poop he produced before being trailered to their house was about 2 and 1/2 cups; the best yet, but not nearly good enough.

Finally, on Sunday around 3pm, Freedom pooped up a storm. There was rejoicing all around! Four days straight of nursing her horse and watching him in constant pain and distress took it’s toll on Savannah. Even though he would probably have been happier back out with his buddies on his acre and a half in Los Altos Hills, Savannah has kept him at her home for the remainder of the week, just so that she can go and hug him whenever she feels the need. The barn owners apologized to Kathy and Savannah and have agreed to stop feeding clippings. The horses really did enjoy the mountains of fresh grass, but it was too much.

A couple times a year, the pathways are used by one organization or another for races or runs of some sort. As the paths can be indistinct, when there is an organized run/walk, white, chalk arrows appear on the paths and roads. There must have been one of these runs on Sunday. Walking to the arena on Monday, there was an abundance of arrows, with one exception. In the middle of one of the streets, was a 3ft in diameter doubled, white circle, with multiple arrows pointing to one of Freedom’s 1/4 cup droppings, now completely dried up, with “EWWW!!!!” written in large white letters on it. I really do understand that stepping in a big, fat poop patty in the middle of a pathway is extremely unpleasant, which is why I take the time to remove them. But a tiny, dried, drop that’s been run over by cars in the middle of a road? Personally, I’d rather deal with a mountain of poop than with the nastiness and entitlement of so many of the people I meet now a days. For the record, it is most likely that the offended individual was NOT a resident of Los Altos Hills.

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