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911 for Miss Sophie

My regal, long-legged sister Miss Sophie is a showstopper Oldenburg. We are the same age but she towers over me, casting a shadow of shade when we face off at the gate.

When she goes anywhere everyone comments on her incredible beauty. “Oh my! What a gorgeous horse you have there.” These flattering comments are not about me although I also have a lovely floating trot, with my own sense of style. All this attention has clearly gone to Sophie’s head and she always squeals at me when she passes by my paddock heading into her stall for that much-needed beauty rest. Her delicate skin is sensitive and she must wear a hooded sun-sheet much of the year, so she looks like a veiled princess out grazing on the hillside.

Most of the time I ignore Sophie and only commune with her sister, Promise, who is more interested in me. We like to hang together and converse along the fence, under the big oak tree that shades both our pastures.

However, just a few days ago I saw Sophie rolling over and over in discomfort. I peered through the three-board fence to see what was going on out there in her grassy kingdom. She was clearly in distress. Inca saw it, too, and we walked up to the barn paddock to bang on our fence feeders summoning Charlie’s attention. Out he raced to catch Sophie to bring her into the barn. Next, he dashed to the house to alert Heather that Sophie was acting strange and pawing in her stall, and going down to roll repeatedly.

Heather followed all the proper steps of calling the vet, cold hosing her to bring down her temperature, and removing all traces of hay from her stall. Next, Banamine was administered for pain relief. Sophie rested quietly once she stopped her rolling fits. A video camera was placed in her stall to record her every move, and she seemed content to snooze all afternoon. 

By sundown Sophie was then allowed out into the smallest paddock which is easy to monitor from the house. She seemed to be getting better, passed manure and was drinking plenty of water. However, the following morning Sophie began rolling and showing signs of stress and pain once again. The colic was very much still an issue for her.

The old rule of thumb is a horseman is in deep trouble if a horse experiences colic through two sunsets. Although her gut noises and vet examination showed signs of improvement on day two, Sophie was still not out of the woods. Critical care was now necessary in hopes of saving her life. The decision was made to take her to Tryon Equine Hospital immediately. Inca and I watched her load into the horse trailer wondering if we would ever see our fancy princess again.

Tryon Equine Hospital’s beautiful new facility is state-of-the-art with a large airy barn, reception area and operating rooms. With a warm and professional welcome, Sophie accepted this new situation of being away from her herd, quite well. She noted that there was a sweet blaze-faced weaning across the expansive aisle way, as well as an older paint quarter horse, some big bay jumping show horses and a noisy wild stud colt making his presence known to all. 

Bags of fluids were suspended from the ceiling of most of these patients’ stalls. Each horse could walk around their stalls while the fluids eased into their systems. Sophie joined them with bags installed above her new digs. Fluids and some medication for pain were administered. Here, her condition could be monitored by the professionals round-the-clock, affording some rest for her family caregivers who had stayed up with her the previous night.

Heather was assured that no news was good news from the hospital. A progress report would be available via phone in the morning. Thank heavens sunrise brought good news.

In total, Sophie spent two days and only one overnight at Tryon Equine Hospital as the fluids helped her flush whatever was causing the partial impaction. With glee, she loaded up into the trailer homeward bound. Sophie was cleared to be turned out for the evening on her grassy meadow. Tail held high, she galloped around her field reuniting with her sister and pasture pal, Promise.

In fact, it was hard for me to believe, but she trotted over to greet Inca and me with a joyful nicker, her elegant arched neck bending down to sniff my upturned face. This marked the first time Sophie has given me the time of day. I think that brush with death might just have humbled her a bit. Welcome back home, Sophie, we missed you princess. I, too, have experienced colic while here within HERD Rescue. Unlike you, I recovered by the first sundown. Glad you made it as you gave us all quite a scare. •

Pebbles is the “spokespony” for HERD, or Helping Equines Regain Dignity, a local nonprofit that saves equines from dire conditions and in many cases slaughter. She dictates her monthly columns about her adventures and what a rescue organization does to Heather Freeman. Pebbles and Freeman can be reached through HerdRescue.org.