One thing you’ll learn pretty quick about Texans is that we love talking about the weather. If you’ve spent more than five minutes here, you’ll know what I mean. This past year, there was one day where it rained, hailed, snowed, hailed some more, then heated up to a balmy 60 degrees. In two days, it was in the eighties.
The state itself has such sprawling accommodations that it boasts almost all biome varieties within its’ borders, save for Arctic conditions—which, if you’ve never had a blast of icy wind in your face midwinter in the Great North of Texas, you would heartily agree that in some parts of the year, Arctic conditions are arguable.
This summer has been one of the hottest on record. I know, I shouldn‘t complain that much, but it’s been plain miserable the past couple weeks. And this time, the heat got personal.
Horses are in their prime temperature range (where they’re most comfortable) when it’s about 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter than that, and depending on the condition of your horse, its age and overall health factors, you’re in danger of a horse having a heat stroke, or worse, a case of impaction colic.
In the horse world, colic is the number one cause of untimely death for horses, mules, and donkeys from all walks of life. Colic, in human terms, is a much milder version sen most often in human infants that is remedied by changing feeding tactics, but it’s rarely deadly. Horses, however, have a digestive system hard wired to cause issues, not to mention backwards in the case of nutritional effectiveness, so a case of colic in a creature that physically cannot vomit is extremely dangerous. Add to that the movement and stress of a 1,000 lb animal being uncomfortable and you really run into issues.
Ideally, you want to maintain a horse diet as closely as possible to their natural one—pasture grazing as much as possible with little to no grain, as much as possible of the diet coming from forages. For human convenience, the influx of grain usage and its expendable energy became a necessity to the horse diet as grazing options became more limited during the progression of the industrial revolution.
Why is this personal, you ask?
Heat almost killed my horse.
I was sound asleep when the barn manager called and texted me in the middle of the night. By the time I was up at five in the morning, he had been in miserable distress with colic. I threw some clothes on-fast enough to not even notice that I had thrown white shoes on (at a barn, which was pretty dumb for me) and raced to his stall. When I got there, he was cast against the side of the stall-an equine term meaning he was laying on his back, belly up, legs splayed above him. It was difficult to get him up, but thankfully, he was still more mobile than I would have guessed at that point.
For the next several hours, I spent my time walking him, listening to his belly for gut sounds, praising him for defecation and drinking water. Despite my efforts, he was trailered to the vet in the next town over within a few hours. I relentlessly badgered the vet, spending time in the barn that albeit as high-tech as they come was still a sweltering tin-roof that might as well have been an oven.
The next couple of days were filled with a flurry of anxiety, tense waiting and staring at the phone, then trekking to Aubrey to spend time with Teller. After several bags of $160 liquid IV, the spark came back to his eyes.
It’s now September and Autumn is rapidly approaching. Fingers of colder weather grip the mornings a little harder each day and anticipation rises. After a nearly ten-year hiatus, I plan to truly put Teller under saddle and clock excess trail mileage. I cannot wait.
We were lucky to catch the colic early enough for Teller to recover fully, but others aren’t so lucky. Had we waited a couple more hours, who knows if he would have survived. I’m glad I had Lucas and his wife and the staff at Jim A Dee. He has been relocated to a pasture that better suits his tendency to overheat with more shade and he’s back to business as usual.
A genuine heartfelt thanks for Weems and Stephens Equine Veterinary Hospital in Aubrey, TX, for twice the standard of excellence in care for the problem child known as Teller.