Equestrians have been reminded of the dangers of dry sugar beet after a yearling who broke through a gate and ate the sheep’s breakfast spent more than a week in veterinary hospital.
Trustee Barbara Mills is sharing the story as a reminder to owners of how dangerous accidental consumption of dry sugar beet can be.
She explained they had given Beckitt his breakfast and gone into the field to feed some of the other animals.
“When we got back, the gate into where the sheep are was down,” she said, explaining they put it back up and did not think much of it as Beckitt was on the correct side of the fence.
Ten minutes later, Beckitt was not right and was shaking and stretching his neck, bringing up mucus into his mouth and nose. They called the vet, who said to keep an eye on him and to see if it cleared. It failed to, and the pony started showing signs of mild colic, so the vet came out.
At this point, the charity was still unaware that the pony had eaten dry sugar beet and thought the choke was caused by his normal feed. But when the vet put a tube down to clear the blockage, they found sugar beet at the end of the tube and suddenly, the broken gate made sense.
The vet suspected that the sugar beet was swelling and blocking Beckitt’s oesophagus, making the situation very serious.
The pony was fighting the sedative and tubing, increasing the risk of matter from the blockage travelling into his lungs, which can cause aspiration pneumonia. He was taken into Oakham Veterinary Hospital and it was decided that his only chance was an operation under general anaesthetic.
The charity was given a 50:50 chance of him coming home again and it took 10 buckets of water to clear the blockage.
After a week in hospital, with IV painkillers, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and a large bill later, Beckitt is on the mend and has returned home. The sheep also have a new diet — not including sugar beet.
Barbara said the day before the choke incident, Beckitt had been due to be castrated and had reduced feed owing to sedation for the procedure, which had to be abandoned after he pulled up one of his testicles. She said she thinks this could be why he was feeling particularly hungry the following morning.
“He is usually a really slow eater, but because his feed had been reduced the previous day, he was obviously feeling hungry — I still don’t know how he got the gate down!” she said.
She added that she is sharing his story to remind others of just how dangerous even a small amount of accidentally ingested dry sugar beet can be to horses.
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“He couldn’t have eaten much as the sheep only get a few handfuls and I would have thought they would have eaten most of it,” she said, adding that Beckitt will not eat soaked sugar beet so “god only knows” why he decided to eat it dry.
“In the 30+ years I’ve had horses, this is only the second choke we have had and the only issue we have ever had with sugar beet.”
The Nottinghamshire charity is fundraising to pay for his extensive treatment. For information, visit the Hoofprints Miniature Haven website
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