I looked out a window last evening to see Miss Rose, our little Arabian mare, lying apart from the other horses with her neck stretched out and her head repeatedly lifted in an odd way.
"This is not good," I say to myself.
When I go to get her up, she coughs up milky froth, tinged a yellowish-green, that POURS from her nostrils and out her mouth. I've never seen a horse spew like this, and can't imagine what horrible disease has overtaken the poor thing. She's vaccinated against the typical respiratory diseases like flu and rhino, and has not been off the place nor in contact with any unfamiliar horses for many months. Her temperature turns out to be normal, which wouldn't be the case with flu or rhino. What the heck??
So I go to the house to call Dr. Denise, our veterinarian, and happen to spy the May issue of Horse & Rider on the kitchen table. The top cover banner line (which I wrote) was "EMERGENCY! HOW TO HANDLE A CHOKE CRISIS." I remember that the article said something about coughing and fluid discharge, so I give it a quick scan, and--sure enough. Miss Rose's symptoms match those of a horse with an obstruction in the esophagus.
When Denise comes on the line, she agrees that this is most likely the situation--one that's a 9-1-1 problem for a horse--and says she'll be right out. She sedates Miss Rose, gives her an anti-spasm medication, then breaks up the obstruction with a tube passed through a nostril and down into the esophagus. Except for a bloody nose from the procedure, Rosie turns out to be fine.
I'd never seen a choked horse before, but I won't mistake the symptoms next time. And I'll be just as swift about bringing in veterinary intervention, because this was not a do-it-yourself treatment situation.
Now I know why we get "THANK YOU, HORSE & RIDER!" letters from readers who've been assisted by articles in the magazine. I know just how they feel!