Georgia’s continuing story is just one example of the welfare issues that we care for, caused in many instances by ignorance and a lack of knowledge. Few people know that after Georgia healed from her broken leg in 2013, she went back to her owner and was fine for four months until she got a life-threatening colic. We were called out to help. This is not a story for the faint-hearted and it contains some very graphic images but ends in good news.
On Monday 14th April 2014 Georgia’s owner called us as he was concerned she was seriously ill. We arrived to find her colicking badly. After listening for gut sounds and taking note of respiration and pulse it appeared to be an impaction colic with a lot of gas built up behind it. We called our vet (there is no vet on the island) for guidance. On the vet’s advice, we gave finixin and mineral oil, which seemed to give her some relief. We took her for a walk and trot, trying to activate the hind gut, and advised her owner to keep her moving intermittently but also to let her rest, prevent her from eating and only allow her water. At the time we were unable to leave the farm for long as we had only one volunteer and 38 horses to care for; also we were preparing for the arrival of J, a young girl who is inextricably linked to Georgia.
When we returned to Georgia after a few hours, we found that the painkiller had not worked for any amount of time (often an indication of a severe colic). We called the vet again and were advised to administer mineral oil and buscopan, and give liquids orally, which eased her pain for about 45 minutes – then she started colicking severely again. We noticed that her rectum was beginning to push out a little and her stomach was very blown up and rock hard, indicating there must be a huge build-up of gas behind the compaction. Due to her past relationship with her, she trusted us, so we were able to massage her which helped her relax and take in fluids; however, this was for a very short period of time. She was in acute pain and it was very difficult to keep her from panicking for long.
After approximately another 12 hours she was given another finixin, which appeared to work for a bit, but she still needed very close attention. We settled into our sleeping bags, out in the field, on a very damp, cold April night and tried to get some sleep whilst keeping an eye on Georgia. Every time we would start to fall asleep she would get up, roll with incredible force, and slam into the ground. We did our best to break her fall as we were incredibly concerned about what damage she could be doing to herself internally. This continued for 5 hours…
At 5 am, knowing we had done everything we could and having another 38 ponies to take care of at the farm, we decided that we had to say goodbye. Both Stathis and I believed it was the last time we would see her … our last goodbye, and we didn’t know what we would tell J when she asked after her favourite horse, Georgia… We returned to our farm.
We spent most of the next day with J who had arrived, it was the first time we had seen her in nine months after the tragic death of her father. Alongside J’s arrival we kept thinking about Georgia; having received no call from Georgia’s owner we assumed the worst. However, we couldn’t get Georgia out of our minds, so we gave her owner a call and unbelievably he said she was still alive, and that he hadn’t called us, as he had thought there was nothing more we could do. Stathis and Emma (a highly experienced volunteer) ran to assess her; however, they could not find her in the long grass. It was getting dark and in the large space she was difficult to find. Around twenty minutes later they found her collapsed in the far corner of the field and they decided what to do next. They noticed the rectum prolapse had progressed considerably and her breathing was very laboured. Stathis left Emma with her, whilst he went to the village to get some cortisone and more finixin as the vet advised. In the meantime Georgia started panicking and galloping around, throwing herself into anything that was in her path, trying anything she could to help ease the pain. it was pitiful to see.
Stathis arrived with the medication. In the dark, with only a torch to light his work, he did the injections intravenously. Stathis is not a vet and Emma, who has worked at horse charities for many years, was amazed at his ability to find the vein in the dark. Georgia was exhausted but at last seemed to find some relief and began to relax. It was once again the early hours of the morning and having done everything they could, Stathis and Emma left again, believing this really was the last and final goodbye. We had asked Georgia’s owner to call ASAP the next morning to give us news.
Warning: graphic images to follow
Very early the next morning we received a call from a local farmer, asking if we had lost a young mare with a prolapsed uterus as he had found Georgia in his field. She had got out of her field and it appeared had tried to get to our farm. At that time we were the only ones who realised that it was her rectum that was prolapsed, not her uterus – this is how badly it had come out:
We retrieved her with her owner’s knowledge and brought her to the farm as this was the only way we could continue to give her the 24 hour supervision and care she needed. As she came towards the farm although exhausted she whinnied at the other ponies and took a few steps at trot.
We did everything we could to make her comfortable and put her in the company of her favourite horse Pyros . A lot of praying followed. Luckily we had Emma with us, she had worked at Redwings Horse Sanctuary in the UK and was able to contact a team of vets for diagnosis and recommendations on the best treatment of the prolapsed rectum. We did what was advised by them and monitored Georgia continuously, someone being with her 24 hours a day. The colic passed at last. But there was no change in the prolapse, no reduction at all. We prepared to put her down. Not an easy decision to make – firstly, having no vet available, and secondly, because she is so important to us. We sourced anesthetic and found a farmer with a gun …
But Georgia wanted to live. Georgia was hungry, thirsty and wanted to move. At first we put her on a diet of bran and honey every couple of hours to ensure everything was passing through properly. It was a little painful for her to poo due to her prolapsed rectum.We then started to add sugar beet, oil and short cut grass. She was peeing and pooing and, though a little weak, very interested in living.
So we continued, knowing that if she colicked again or if there were any signs of internal infection caused by the prolapse we would have to put her to sleep. We were able to send photos to and speak with a vet via text message in the UK. We decided that as long as she was eating, appeared to be free from pain and was pooing and peeing, we would keep trying. If she showed any sign of infection or discomfort, she would be put down. In no way did we want to prolong her suffering.
We washed the prolapse twice a day, used sugar to reduce the swelling and increase blood circulation and put penicillin on her rectum as well as using homeopathy for her recovery. We put her out onto grass for a few hours a day for her to graze and eat natural herbs that were growing on the farm such as chamomile.
It became apparent to us that her prolapsed rectum was not going to get any worse, however it was also not going to get much better. We were told by the vet in the UK that if it did not go back in after a few days it would be advisable that we put her to sleep.
We continued to treat it, focusing on the the healthy parts and eventually, the dead part dropped off. Emma came running to find us we couldn’t believe our eyes. The rest of her rectum retracted back in and Georgia then pooed out what her body rejected.
Georgia is settled now and currently living with us in a herd environment with Hermes, Ifestos, Gluka, Kleo, Chloe and Yiasonus, which has really helped her towards recovery. She is watched and cared for very carefully and we are always aware that she could colic again, so any signs of any discomfort are treated immediately, which just could not happen if she didn’t live with us.
If you would like to help our efforts with other welfare ponies like Georgia please do donate as without your help we just cannot continue to do this life saving work.