By Patty Lamson
When I first met Hemmingway, a talented 4 year old Weser-Ems (German Oldenburg Pony) stallion, I would have never guessed the things I would learn from him. He had a successful start in showing in Germany and I planned to build on that and show him in dressage. Unfortunately, a problem in one of his teeth derailed that plan and started a cascade of events that led us down a totally different path.
After the dental problem was finally identified (it took two bone scans, a Cat scan of his head and numerous xrays over a period of over a year), dental surgery was performed to remove one of his molars that had a hole in it that went up into the root.
He was sent home ten days later on antiobiotics and Bute. It was all too much for him and he went to UC Davis with a severe case of colitis the next day. Somehow they pulled him through it and he was able to come home after four weeks. He looked terrible and had lost a lot of weight. He recovered fairly well until about three months later he developed a thick discharge from one nostril (on the side of his head that the tooth removed).
Packed him up and took him to a referral clinic. There he was sedated and xrayed and it appeared a tooth adjacent to the original problem tooth was fractured (likely during the first surgery). They sent us home. Due to his history, the vets wanted to do some consulting before doing anything to this little horse. Unfortunately, the heavy sedation seemed to have slowed his gut down too much and he colicked severly the next day. He went back to the clinic the next evening and had colic surgery the next morning. He had a 180 degree twist but the intestines seemed otherwise in good shape! He pulled through the surgery really well.
After a couple of months of healing, we tackled the fractured tooth problem up at UCDavis and they were able to remove the tooth through his mouth, sparing him another skin-flap surgery. They did have to drill into his sinuses to clear out the infection however.
So after all the problems with the teeth, the veterinarians said he would not be able to have hay any more or he would be at risk for choke and more colics. They recommended a pelleted diet made up of grass hay pellets, alfalfa pellets and a pelleted Senior feed. He ate this mixture well. When he seemed to be experiencing some breathing issues, the percentage of his diet that was the least dusty, the Senior feed, was increased some. The intention was good, but in hindsight this was probably a huge mistake, and he probably should never have been on that feed at all. Within a short time on the increased amount, Hemmy became for lack of a better term, “crazy”.
I am not talking high or spirited. He became spooky and nervous beyond belief and almost seemed like he was hallucinating at times. He seemed outside his skin and acted at times like he had OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)—he would obsess over items that scared him and could not let it go. No one could tell me what was wrong with him. In desperation I figured it had to be something he was eating and pulled him off everything but timothy pellets. That brought him back closer to the earth but he was still far from normal.
Over the next few years, I carefully tried to make a few dietary adjustments (got him off pellets and back on hay) and tried an array of calming supplements (most did nothing and some actually seemed to make him worse). We treated him for ulcers several times as he seemed in a constant state of stress. That would help some but improvement was transient.
This last winter we again treated him for ulcers and used some Ranitidine following the month of Gastrogard. We also added EquiShure for his hindgut. He was also on a couple of products that also helped keep him stable, Focus Equine (which aims to support brain function) and MagRestore (a highly bioavailable form of magnesium) during this Spring. Around this time (April 2012) I started reading more and more about whole foods and BioStar. With Hemmy’s sensitivities to different feeds and supplements, it made sense to me to try and go a more simple, natural route, if possible, with his diet.
With assistance from Tigger and Gundi Younger, we came up with a plan to add some whole food products to Hemmy’s diet without taking him off anything he was on that seemed to be agreeing with him. In early May we put him on Optimum EQ, Tum-Ease, Chia Seed, Celtic Sea Salt, and Guinness beer (he wasn’t sweating) in a base of timothy pellets. He also gets almonds and Claire Thomas’ low-carb cookies. He was still having a “melt-down day” now and then, so Tigger suggested adding Empower Hemp Seed Oil.
He had now been weaned off the ulcer meds and another GI tract product and Recover has been reduced to one scoop per day. His coat is now bright and glowing. He seems happy and more settled than we have seen him in many years. He is getting back into a more normal work schedule. There is even hope that I might get back to riding him in the near future! (Younger riders have been assisting me with him during the past couple of years as the spooking was too much for my older back!)
It appears we are on the right path finally and that his current diet is agreeing with him. Whether he will ever be normal again we don’t know. This is by far the closest we have been in many years!
Thanks to Tigger and all the other people who have helped me with this little horse!