Russelle Graf Clallam County 4-H Senior Division riders who competed at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, from left, Emily Menchew, Madison Green and Kaylie Graf.

Russelle Graf Clallam County 4-H Senior Division riders who competed at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, from left, Emily Menchew, Madison Green and Kaylie Graf.

HORSEPLAY: Local girls place at state fair; dealing with a case of colic

Three Clallam County girls earned ribbons and placings at the Washington State Fair. Karen’s horse Indy develops, and is treated for, colic.

IT’S ALWAYS AN honor for Clallam County’s 4-H members who qualify to compete during September’s Washington State Fair in Puyallup.

The girls who competed placed in several events.

Here are the senior division results:

• Kaylie Graf and horse Kemper: blue in showmanship; blue in hunt seat equitation and eighth in state; red in stock seat, blue in disciplined rail; blue in trail; and blue, reserve grand champion and silver medal winner in bareback.

• Madison Green and horse Lily: high blue and callback in showmanship; red in hunt seat equitation; blue in stock seat; red in trail; blue in disciplined rail; and blue in trail.

• Emily Menchew and horse Tootsie: red in showmanship; red in stock seat; white in trail; and blue in disciplined rail.

Graf’s mother, Russelle Graf, said the girls had a wonderful time at state, with each rooting for and supporting each other.

In addition to show performances, they also took part in friendly competitions against other, such as a pushup contest against Mason County 4-H’s riders.

“Mason County won, as our gals found they couldn’t do pushups when giggling,” she said.

It wasn’t all fun and fair rides though. In addition to all involved in competing, the three were up and at the barn by 5:30 a.m. and exercising their horses by 5:45 a.m.

Then they cleaned the stalls and the barn aisle because all the barns are expected to be clean before fairgoers enter the grounds.

Horse owner’s fear

Colic is a word that strikes fear in every horse owner because it’s often fatal. So when it happened to my Indy, I feared the worst.

I first noticed something might be off with him a couple weeks ago.

As I left to run an errand, I noted Indy was lying on his stomach in the pasture with his feet tucked under him.

I wasn’t alarmed, though, as his head was up and he looked alert as his eyes followed my truck out the driveway.

I did think it a bit strange to see him lying down, though, because I’d seen both him and his mother, Lacey, the previous afternoon lying on their sides in the pasture basking under a deliciously warm sun.

Horses have the ability to snooze while standing on their feet.

They usually lie down about four hours within a 48-hour period. And that four hours could be broken up into increments of 20 minutes or so.

On this day, the weather was cool with gray skies and intermittent rain.

Thus, when I returned a couple hours later and saw him lying down closer to the house — and it was at his evening feeding time — I went to check on him.

As I knelt down to rub his face and neck, I could tell by his eyes he was in pain.

Immediately, I pulled out my cellphone and placed a call to local horse veterinarian Eric Splawn.

As my new home in Happy Valley is within 2 miles of Splawn’s place, he and his wife/assistant, Peggy Splawn, were at Indy’s side within 30 ­minutes.

He urged Indy to stand up so he could check his vital signs, including his temperature via a rectal thermometer.

As soon as Splawn inserted the thermometer, a shocked Indy quickly reacted by kicking out with his hind feet to strike Splawn.

Thankfully Splawn, aware of the danger, was able to quickly sidestep away.

Indy then received a tranquilizer. After it took effect, Splawn was able to determine Indy most likely had colic.

The term “colic” refers to abdominal pain — a bad stomach pain — rather than a specific disorder.

Conditions that commonly cause colic include gas, impaction, grain overload, sand ingestion and parasite infection.

In Indy’s case, Splawn put a nasogastric (stomach) tube through his nostril to alleviate gas and administer medications, including mineral oil to help push anything that might be impacted though the intestines and to help him defecate. I never had a horse with colic before, so naturally I was perplexed as to what caused Indy’s colic.

Splawn said there are many causes, so it’s difficult to know what caused it, but as the weather turns cooler, he starts seeing many more cases of colic.

It could be from dehydration, he summarized, because when their water is colder, the horse might think it too cold to drink.

If the water tank is dirty, a horse might hesitate to drink from it (not in Indy’s case because I’ve been diligent about keeping it clean).

Although when I first moved here, the water had a foul odor and taste. A carbon filter took care of the house water, but I had no filter on the outdoor water. I vowed to add one. Because all we could do was wait and see if Indy would be OK, the Splawns left with orders to monitor him closely for the next few hours.

He said to call again if I noticed anything didn’t look right, but if Indy looked like he was feeling better — and if he pooped — then he should be OK by morning, and thankfully Indy did poop and got better.

Bad water?

The week before, friend and fellow horse owner Zorina Barker stopped by.

When I told her about the bad-tasting water, we both then tasted it directly from the well head.

This time, it tasted good.

Looking back, I recalled a neighbor spent three days drilling for a water well, and that could have caused more than the usual amount of sediment flowing through my well. Coincidentally, not a week had gone by after Indy’s colic when Barker’s horse Dolly had colic.

She lives on the other side of Lake Crescent, and Splawn said he wouldn’t be able to get to her for five hours, not only because of the time to drive there but because he was on another call. Barker had a supply of banamine (a muscle relaxer) on hand, so she gave a shot of that, some watery bran and a drink of water.

After that, Splawn, over the phone, said he felt Dolly would be OK but to still keep a close eye on her.

A few hours later, about the time the banamine was due to wear off, I got a text from Barker, “Dolly pooped! Yay!”

Information about colic

The causes of colic are numerous, but generally they are related to the anatomy and the microflora of the horse’s gastrointestinal tract.

Some more common causes of colic include:

• High grain-based diets/low forage diets

• Moldy/tainted feed

• Abrupt change in feed

• Parasite infestation

• Lack of water consumption leading to impaction colics

• Sand ingestion

• Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

• Stress

• Dental problems

While horses do lie down to get proper sleep, they don’t do it for very long.

So when a horse lies down for an excessive amount of time, he could be suffering from a physical abnormality.

Colic episodes can include a lot of rolling, but many, like Indy, lie down and be quiet.

Many cases of colic can be treated successfully with medication, while others involving severe impactions or twists might require immediate surgery.

If you suspect your horse is having stomach pain, and if there are no signs of fresh poop from him, immediately call your vet.

While you are waiting for your veterinarian:

• Remove access to feed. If there is a blockage, any feed intake will only intensify the problem.

• Let the horse rest as much as possible. It is not necessary to walk the horse unless the horse is rolling and endangering himself or people.

• Do not administer any medication without the direction of the attending veterinarian. Pain medication might mask the colic symptoms and complicate diagnosis and treatment.

In addition, banamine if administered in the muscle can cause a clostridial abscess that can be fatal.

Banamine should always be administered intravenously, or, if you cannot find a vein to inject into, then the safest route is orally.

• Walk your horse, if it’s safe and recommended by your veterinarian, to stimulate gut motility and to prevent injury from rolling.

Walking too much can exhaust a horse, so only walk him enough to keep him from going down and rolling.

• Don’t administer anything via a nasogastric tube or syringe mineral oil into the horse’s mouth. If done incorrectly and the horse aspirates it into the lungs, he could die.

• Don’t try to give an enema, as it can cause a rectal tear, which itself could prove fatal.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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