By Kirsty Kellaway
May 2011, Ria had not been herself for a few days looking tucked up and not eating much. At first we thought she was stressed as she had been put on box rest for a back injury, but even after going out 3 days later she wasn’t better – tremors, sweating, dropping weight and had rhinitis sicca. I called the vet who came straight out, he suspected Grass Sickness and she was taken straight off to hospital to have biopsies taken the next day. When they did the biopsies it looked like she had been a bit impacted at some point. Ria suffered with colic overnight and they had to tube her 4 times.
Two days later Ria was discharged and could come home, although she was very ill and sounded like she was snoring with every breath and not eating very much. The hospital vets said that whilst she was still interested in food and keeping herself hydrated she had a chance, so that’s what we did, gave her a chance, even though my vet at the time suggested otherwise.
Ria wouldn’t eat anything other than grated carrot and grass; we did lots of hand grazing for the first few days and after a week decided to turn her out for short periods. We kept trying with different feeds to encourage her to eat but she was incredibly picky, we found that anything that was high in fibre she would not touch. Dodson and Horrell Competition Mix is all we could get her to eat, and even then it had to be swimming in water. I felt it was the rhinitis that was stopping her from trying to eat, so I bought Easy Breath plus a supplement in liquid form and syringed this on to her tongue twice a day, and after 10 days the build up of crusty mucus started to come away!!
Within 2 weeks she was completely clear and her eating picked up. She would graze for longer but her energy levels were low and she looked very depressed. At times I wondered if we were doing the right thing, but everyone was very encouraging and just kept reminding me she was still trying and so should I.
Ria was passing stools but not very often and they were very hard, so as well as syringing the Easy Breath I was syringing liquid paraffin onto her tongue just to help keep the stools soft, making it easier for her to pass.
Although Ria had picked up eating she was still eating very little, and after reading some of the success stories on the EGS website I decided to try something someone else had tried, soaking nuts and syringing. I used conditioning cubes soaked in warm water and used a large feeding syringe to put them on her tongue, and she would then chew and swallow. This was very time consuming but worth it, for a few months she still continued to drop weight but then as if overnight something changed and she couldn’t get enough hard feed. At one point we had 8 buckets of feed made up outside her box and every time anyone walked past they would give her one!!!!
I’m a rather impatient person and was not satisfied with the speed in which Ria started to gain weight, so tried her on all sorts of different conditioning feeds, but she refused to eat. In the end I spoke to someone at Blue Chip and they suggested Blue Chip Pro, it has everything to build condition but is also great for the digestive system, I bought a bag and was amazed she ate it!! It is very high in calories and did a great job.
By Oct we were on 4 large feeds a day and eating a full haynet over night!! And spending most of the day in the field!!
I spent the winter worrying about her weight but I did not need to worry.
It is now April 2012, nearly a year on and she is fabulous. She is back to her normal self and if anything she looks better than before. I am still not riding her but have no fear she will return to full work and hopefully one day BSJA Showjumping. I am working her on the ground, we are lunging in the Pessoa over poles and jumps, she is free schooling over jumps and I am long reining. The idea is to get her back as strong as possible before I ride her again.
However this doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun, last month I took her to a show to do a little in hand stuff for her education. I wasn’t expecting to do well but nearly cried when the judge awarded us 3rd place in Best Conditioned and 5th in Prettiest Mare, also qualifying for the championships in September!!
I hope this gives people hope!! The Equine Grass Sickness Fund has been very supportive and I thank them for everything.
I also would like to thank my husband for putting up with me through the hard time and for all his help, and also my Yard Manager and everyone at the stables for their help and support!!!