My veterinarian, an accomplished horsewoman in her own right, is a very pragmatic person. She always opts for the simplest answer, especially if it minimizes cost for the owner and suffering for the horse. If a problem can be resolved through time, simple measures, or basic ingredients, why pay for expensive and extensive diagnostics? Most things can bear a little time to see if the simple approach works. I cannot count how many times, over the years, I have heard the phrase “It can’t hurt, and it might help!”
Over the thirty plus years of knowing Dr. K, I have seen countless cases where the simple thing turned out to be the best thing. Not that she shies away from the latest technology or diagnostic tools – but my experience has also shown that they usually just confirm what her exam has led her to conclude. So, I have long been content with trying the simple solution first. All of this is leading to my latest “It can’t hurt, and it might help” experiment.
Nash has been prone to colic since he joined our family (from his racing owner, it sounds like a long term issue). It’s always a passing and self-resolving incident, that we treat simply with pain management. Lest you think we have taken this situation lightly, let me reassure you that is not the case. In the early days we had veterinary care – but there was no clear cause for the issue. Because we feared the invisible possibilities, we all agreed that this was actually worth the investment in all of the high-tech diagnostic tests. So, several years ago, I took Nash to the local veterinary school and they did the works. He was scoped, x-rayed, ultrasounded (is that a word?), and had all of his fluids tapped for further testing. It was a long day, in which no obvious causes were found. The conclusion was likely chronic gas colic.
Since that time, we have managed the best we can. The addition of probiotics seemed to have a positive effect, though have not been a complete cure. We’ve soaked his hay, and significantly limited his exposure to grain hays. All of this management has certainly reduced, but never eliminated, the incidents. In fact, over the past several months I’ve been getting the feeling that they might be slightly increasing. I cannot be sure, since we aren’t always around when it happens – but the signs seemed there. My concern was enough to start me looking for other potential solutions.
It was an simple response to a post on gastric ulcers that led me on an apparently fortuitous journey. I’d responded to the post, which claimed that more than 90% of domestic horses have ulcers, by describing my experience with how clean Nash’s stomach was. Someone responded with a comment about ulcers in the hindgut. Off I went to Google to learn more. Landing upon an official veterinary site (I can’t remember which), I was reading about likely supportive care a veterinarian would recommend. That was when I had my “It can’t hurt …” moment!
What they said was a likely supportive treatment was corn oil, for lubrication, and low daily doses of psyllium, to carry more moisture into the hindgut. Certainly neither would cause harm – both are given to horses regularly, and have at times been part of my feeding routine. So, why not? The most it would cost me is a little money. I didn’t expect a lot, but was at the point that I was willing to try anything. That was just over two months ago, and it seems to have had an astounding effect!
Not only have all signs of colic incidents disappeared, but Nash’s whole nature seems to have changed. He’s happier, brighter, more relaxed, and more sociable. His whole posture is also changing. Granted, he is getting regular work – but he has been for several months now. The significant improvements we’ve seen all seem to have occurred during the time of his new supplements. Of course, I can never know for sure – but for the cost of a little corn oil and some psyllium pellets, I’m not about second guess it!
Now, this is in no way an endorsement to avoid vets, or try to cure serious illness or injury yourself. I worked for Dr. K for several years, so I have an above average understanding of horse health – but I still consult her on anything I have any questions about, or that seems dangerous to the horse in any way. But, the next time you face some choices for treatment, and there is a simple, non-invasive option that might work, just try saying “It can’t hurt, and it just might help!” Your pocketbook and your horse just might thank you!
Be good to your horses!