One Year Later

By the time this issue goes to print, my mare will have crossed the one-year mark since her second colic surgery.

What started out as an exploratory surgery ended with the surgeon telling me she had a displaced colon and a 50% chance of making it past 5 days because of the poor condition her colon was in.

A lot has changed since Keira came home from that second surgery. She can no longer eat hay, and requires a diet of hay pellets, fresh grass, and grain. And there are still moments where she’s sensitive to big weather changes and extreme temperatures. But we are finally finding our groove and getting back into the swing of things with our new normal.

Bringing a horse back from two colic surgeries was not an easy journey, but a year later we are finally back to chasing our dreams. Photo by Nichole Chirico

Nutrition First

It took a while to figure out what Keira’s diet would consist of now that she was missing 70% of her colon. And there was some trial and error when it came to figuring out what she could or couldn’t eat.

Once we started re-introducing a full flake of hay to her diet, I noticed things started to take a turn for the worse. But after talking with my vet and my horse’s internist, we decided to give the low-bulk diet a try.

Sure enough, after a week of being on a hay pellet diet, she was back to feeling great. I’ve tried re-introducing hay back into her diet at a slow pace, but I’ve found that her body is happiest when most of her food comes in pellet form. (But don’t worry, she still gets the occasional handful of hay here and there!) Since this is a longer-term solution for us, I went ahead and purchased a slow feeder designed for hay pellets, so that she could slowly eat hay pellets throughout the whole day.

Not only did we have to adjust her diet because of her lack of colon, but we also had to adjust her diet so she would slowly start putting on the weight she lost during all of this, which left her at around 700 pounds.

Back to Work

The journey back to the saddle was a very long process. After the trauma my mare went through last year, I was in no rush to get back to training and with all the weight and muscle loss she experienced, and I decided to take it extra slow bringing her back to work.

The first few months included lots of hand walking, and eventually we got the OK to start putting her in a small turnout pen again. From there I started to incorporate some round pen and groundwork training a few times a week.

Once I could walk, trot, and lope her in the round pen, it was time to start throwing a saddle on her back and doing some groundwork with the saddle on. I took my time with saddling, as I wasn’t sure how she would respond to the added weight. Plus, I wanted to work on building back all the muscle she lost during the last six months.

Finally, it was time to swing my leg over the saddle. I wasn’t sure what to expect with bringing such a young horse back to work after nearly a year off, but she picked up right where we left off!

It’s been about six months since I started riding Keira again, and it’s been a slow journey getting her back in shape to do some of the more intense reining maneuvers. But we reached another milestone recently: we got the sliders put back on—just in time to slide into summer riding!

I’m hopeful that in a year she might even be ready to compete at a show. But in the meantime, I’m just going to take it slow and enjoy every second of the ride.

[Read: Find your Passion]

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