‘He came through like a champ’: 10lb ‘cannon ball’ surgically removed from stallion’s gut

  • A 16-year-old stallion is making a good recovery after a 10lb “cannon ball” was one of two stones removed from his intestine.

    Owner Rachael Weiner, of Black Dog Stables in Washington state, US, told H&H vets wanted to keep the larger enterolith, a build-up of minerals formed around a foreign body in the horse’s gut much as a pearl is formed in an oyster.

    “The vet asked if she could keep it and I figured they did save his life!” she said. “When I saw the size of it, I was blown away. It’s so heavy and the size of my hand; I thought that poor horse had been walking round with a 10lb cannon ball in his gut for however long. I’d always thought he was kind of a wimp but I take all that back now!”

    Rachel said Kids College Fund (Crash), whom she has owned since he was a weanling, first showed mild colic signs on 16 May. The former show horse, who took the Pinto Horse Association of America horse of the year title in his youth, looked better after initial treatment but the next morning, his condition deteriorated and Rachel took him to the clinic nearby.

    “They ultrasounded him but couldn’t see anything or hear anything, and he had gut sounds and his heart rate wasn’t that high,” she said. “They decided to treat the impaction aggressively, with oral and IV fluids, but the next day, the vet could feel something hard. She didn’t know what it was and it wasn’t moving. And he was getting progressively worse.”

    Rachel did not think she would be able to afford surgery; the treatment by that point had cost about $4,000 and the clinic needed another $5,000 in advance to carry out the operation.

    “His pain was controllable so I gave it one more day before I made the call,” she said. “But he wasn’t making progress. And at that point, people started donating.

    “I don’t like asking but a friend pushed me so I just put up a post to say if anyone felt like donating, they could call the clinic. And with what I had, I had enough for the down payment. It blew me away that people had done that.”

    The vet said Crash was a good candidate for surgery, as all his other signs were good, and “He came through it like a champ,” Rachel said.

    “When she put him on the table, she said if it went fast, it wouldn’t be good news, so I didn’t want to hear from her for four hours. It was kind of funny because every time I’d spoken to her she’d been a bit doom and gloom; I appreciated that as she wasn’t sugar-coating it, and I knew it had gone well because when she called afterwards, it was in a totally different voice.

    “So I knew straight away he hadn’t died, and she said ‘Honestly, these are fun surgeries’. I said it would be a lot funner if it was someone else’s horse!”

    Crash had one minor setback when his temperature spiked and he came out in hives but was then allowed home. After four weeks’ box rest, with hand-grazing, he will be allowed into a small paddock for a few weeks, and then more normal turnout. It is hoped he will be able to resume breeding duties next season.

    “He’s a tough kind of guy,” Rachel said. “His whole expression is different now and his eyes are bright. I’m surprised he wasn’t in more pain. During the surgery, before they took the stones out, the vet took a picture of them inside his intestine and it looked like a snake that had eaten something huge. I don’t know how it hadn’t ruptured; that would have been a tragic ending rather than this happy one.”

    Rachel added that her vet said often horses with big enteroliths will suffer recurring colic or have trouble maintaining weight but “he had the opposite problem”. It is thought the small one was flatter in shape as it was rubbing against the perfectly smooth and rounded larger stone.

    “I honestly didn’t think, when I took him in, that he’d be coming home,” she said.

    “He’s such a special horse, with not a mean bone in his body and I’m so thrilled by the outcome.

    “The smaller stone is beautiful and I almost want to give it a polish up! I’ve literally been carrying it round; partly to show people but also as a worry stone.

    “My own vet said sometimes they’ll open up the big ones but the other vet doesn’t want to and I don’t blame her — although she also said they might X-ray it to find out what’s inside, and I’d quite like to find out!”

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