The morning was pitch black. I turned on the exterior barn lights so they could light the landscape gradually, and give the horses’ eyes a chance to adjust. I let the mares in, then turned on the overhead light. When I went to the back, I saw my paint and colt standing, and Freedom, my friend Michelle’s horse, on the ground. Mornings when I need to feed extra early, it is normal to see at least one of the horses lying down and at least one standing guard. What was not normal was for Freedom to stay down when a meal was coming.
When I opened the gate, Dally and TeRado casually walked in. Freedom rolled and didn’t get up. I immediately knew he was colicking. With all the improvements since his rescue, he is still prone to gas colics. Normally a dose of Banamine was enough to get him through it. Not so this morning. During a Masterson Method clinic the previous day, I had heard someone mention the “under-the-tail-points” were good in a colic situation. After I fed the other four, I started applying the technique. By 7:00, he started to look better. I went in to get ready, then was back out at 8:00 to check on him. He was down again.
This was a Sunday, the second morning of the Masterson Method introductory clinic. I reached out to the clinic organizer, Marty Clark, to let her know I had a horse down and would be late. By 11:00, Freedom still wasn’t back to his normal self, so I loaded and took him to Waller Equine. When I spoke with them earlier, the plan was to leave him for observation and for them to intervene if he wasn’t improving. I didn’t want to miss anymore of the clinic, so I dropped him off, asked for a work-up and left.
During one of the breaks during class, I saw a missed text from Michelle. Dr. Beadle wanted to put him on fluids, what did I think? Fortunately, when she didn’t hear back from me, Michelle made the executive decision for fluids and sedation.
Fast forward to the end of the day. We were wrapping up the weekend, and Samantha Walker, the instructor, asked how Freedom was doing. I shared what I knew, which wasn’t much, and ended with “I hope and pray this isn’t how Michelle and Freedom’s journey ends”. After we dismissed, one of my classmates told me of a horse that had been colicking for 5 days. There was an acupressure point she felt would help. She airdropped the video. Samantha also offered suggestions and other things to try. When we parted at 6:00, I had no idea what the next few days would have in store.
When I arrived at Waller Equine at 7:00pm Michelle hadn’t been there long and Freedom was on the ground looking as if he’d given up. I thought they had just sedated him, but later learned his last sedation had been almost two hours earlier.
Freedom had continued to decline through the day, if he wasn’t sedated, he was rolling in pain. Freedom was diagnosed with an impaction colic in the large intestine. He was hooked up to IV fluids, but if we waited too long, part of his intestine could die, creating other complications. Many factors were considered with the vet’s recommendation, and Dr. Beadle strongly recommended surgery or be ready to euthanize if surgery wasn’t financially an option. Dr. Beadle gave us space to discuss the options, none of them good.
Mark, (Michelle’s beau who is a small animal veterinarian), was pushing for surgery since it was clear Freedom was in pain, Michelle was trying to weigh her options, and I had to face the hard reality that I could not take care of Freedom after surgery. In a leap of faith, I told Michelle that if Freedom is to have the surgery, we will find his next place to go. My concern was if we went through with the surgery, and we didn’t find the right people to take care of him, he would be put in more pain for potentially nothing. It was better, in my opinion, to lose him now than to lose him after surgery.
While Michelle started to contact potential post-surgical caregivers, I sat down behind Freedom and started working the under-the-tail-points. He started yawning and shaking his head, so I was feeling pretty good about the application of what I had learned over the weekend. Periodically, I would see Dr. Beadle looking in on us. I have no idea how much time lapsed, but Freedom stood up. It was clear he still was not feeling good, it was clear Mark couldn’t stand to do nothing while Freedom was in so much pain, and Michelle had not connected with anyone about post-surgical care. I was happy he was up. Now I could find the acupressure points my classmate shared with me. After a short time on the first point, Freedom, kicked out a few times, shook and passed gas. It’s not often I’m happy to have gas passed in my face!
Nine-thirty Sunday night, and we finally had someone who said they could take him after surgery. For me, that was a huge weight lifted. Angela is a licensed veterinarian technician, so I knew he would be in the best of hands should he have to go to surgery.
After Angela and I finished talking, Freedom was looking better, so we asked if we could try to take him for a walk. When they asked him to move earlier, he couldn’t because of the intense pain. Thankfully, this time he felt well enough to walk with us. Freedom was moving well, so I encouraged Mark and Michelle to go eat dinner. When they returned, we led him back to his stall so he could be hooked back up to his IV.
The technician checked his reflux, determined the level of reflux had decreased enough and took the tube out of his nose. (Rather than re-insert the tube when there is a colic situation, they will often leave the tube in until the horse shows specific signs of improvement).
By midnight, he was looking much better. All of us were exhausted. Mark had an early appointment the next morning, and they were 45 minutes from home, so Michelle gave in and decided to leave. I understood Michelle’s concern, he had really turned around while we were there. Would he get depressed if we left? I remember Freedom looking relaxed at the back of the stall as I turned out the stall light.
The next morning, Michelle received a call from Dr. Beadle with the news “she had a miracle pony”. He had passed manure and seemed to be turning the corner.
When Michelle and I arrived at 10am Monday, he no longer had his IV. Though he looked much better, he still seemed off. We took him for a walk, and since he was eager to move out we went to the round pen. With patience and encouragement, I was able to get him to lower his head while he moved, and travel in a more relaxed state.
After we were back in the stall, I resumed the Masterson Method. When I started the under-the-tail points, he pushed into me. There was no question I had the right spot. When I took my hand away, Freedom proceeded to chase me around the stall, hiney first. I can only imagine how we looked to the casual observer. At one point when I wouldn’t do his bidding, he backed up against his water bucket to hit the point he wanted, then dropped a few small manure balls in his water. Clearly, he knew what he needed to get his system moving. I continued to apply the Masterson Method until about 1pm.
Dr. Cassie Schuster, owner of Wellness Ranch and naturopathic doctor, was available, so Michelle and I left. The intent of the visit was to see if she could provide support if Freedom stayed at my place. Michelle and I left Wellness Ranch with the good news Freedom could become one of her patients at Wellness Ranch.
When Michelle and I met back at Waller Equine at 3:00, Freedom still had not passed much manure. Dr. Cassie gave Michelle her low-level-red-light-laser and Michelle applied it along his bladder meridian. When she finished, he passed a couple of manure balls. After Michelle finished, I resumed applying the Masterson Method I had been taught over the weekend. First, I went to the withers and did the check and release, second, I worked the hind end from the top, third, I moved to lateral rocking and finally, I ended with head down. This was not how I was taught to do the work. As I worked one part, a new area would come to my attention, so that is where I focused next. When we finished, he left a nice present…the best manure pile I had seen from him since the nightmare began.
Michelle and I parted at 5pm. Since I live close to Waller Equine, I told her I would swing by around 8pm to check on him. On the drive home, I hit a figurative wall. I called Michelle to tell her I wasn’t going to make it back that night. My body was done. Freedom was in God’s hands.
Tuesday, they re-introduced food. Everything went well, so he was able to come back to my house that afternoon.
Three diagnoses strike fear in the heart of every horse owner: laminitis, founder and colic. All three at best can create management issues and at worse, death. Even with all the equine medical community knows and continues to learn, there are still cases where horses should have survived and don’t, and horses that shouldn’t have survived and do. What can cause the pendulum to swing one way for one horse and the other for another? We will probably never know.
I firmly believe Freedom’s recovery was the perfect combination of things: the extraordinary vet care he received, the applications of the Masterson Method, the use of the red light, the knowledge Michelle, Mark and I were there to fight with and for him, and last, but certainly not least, prayer. Our Creator put together the perfect orchestra for the benefit of one pony. His rough start that caused him to be seized by the Houston Humane Society opened the door for an amazing woman to adopt him. Their journey continues to create connections and touch lives in ways unimaginable.
The alternative therapies Freedom received were applied with the full knowledge of the attending vets.
Find more about Freedom and Michelle’s journey in the January 2018 edition of Houston PetTalk Magazine.
Photo credit: Photography By Prudence and Houston PetTalk Magazine.
Renee Adair, Equiaccel, LLC