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Posted 5/19/2011 4:37am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

The weather matches the mood on our farm this week; no doubt it has done its part to exacerbate it a bit as well.  We cancelled our Farm Picnic / Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday because the forecast was for rain and thunderstorms.  Then on Sunday morning when Roy went down to the barn to feed the animals, he found Bud, one of our two Belgium Geldings, lying on his side in obvious pain.  Draft horses, all horses I suppose, are susceptible to colic and intestinal problems.   Immediately Roy tried to get Bud to his feet to get him moving and thankfully Bud was very cooperative.  After walking him around for half an hour, Roy came in and called a vet.  It is not easy to get horse vets to come to our area. There are many vets who feel as comfortable treating a dog as they do a cow, but horses are another story. On top of that, it was Sunday morning.  Roy spoke on the phone to several friends who have horses and our neighbor just over the ridge to the south offered to come by and have a look.  Bob and Bud had not been out to pasture yet. It has been too wet and with their touchy intestinal systems it nees to be a gradual process -- just a little at a time.  We were all quite puzzled as to cause of Bud's distress, but regardless, it wasn't getting any better.   We took turns walking him and he was very cooperative.   He seemed to appreciate the company.   When left without a person to guide him around the barnyard, he'd go to the barn and lay down and sometimes roll.   It was clear he was in pain.   When Sharon arrived we gave him a shot of a muscle relaxant, but rather than increase the gurgling in his stomach, his intestines got increasingly quiet.   A quiet belly on a horse is not a good sign. 

From mid-morning till mid-afternoon we took turns walking Bud, waiting for the vet to arrive.   When he stopped walking, he'd occasionally hang his big head down to nuzzle my head and shoulders, but as the day wore on, his willingness to walk decreased.  By the time the vet arrived, we were walking in tight circles.   I am a novice to horses, which probably fed my optimism.  I expected the vet to arrive with tubing and mineral oil and we'd get this thing cleared up quickly.  Because of threatening skies and nervous girls, when the vet arrived, Roy came out to the barn and I went to the house to be Frances and Riley.   I was stunned when just ten minutes later Roy called me on my cell phone with the diagnosis and options:  Bud's intestines were indeed twisted and blocked.  Surgery was an expensive option that required travel to Penn State or the Bolton Center and the Doc gave that only a 30% chance of working.  The mineral flush was an option but that meant putting Bud through days of agony with only a 10% chance of recovery.  The vet was recommending he be put down.  My jaw dropped.  This was not what I expected.   So we had options, but not really, not options that we could afford or justify.  Bud had already been sedated for the examination and was relaxed, one more injection that he wouldn't feel and he was gone.  It was a quiet and shocking end to our day. 

 Bob, his teammate in harness, whinnied and searched for Bud all evening.  Every time I've been in the barn this week, Bob has come around, looking for company and hanging his head to be stroked.  

The question we are sitting with is "now what?"  Having draft horses has been an important interest and goal of Roy's for a long time, but it has been a bittersweet addition.  Our first team, Eddy and Andy, were sold in January because, while beautiful and spirited, they required a little more training time and experience than we had to offer.  Bud and Bob seemed the perfect team for us.  Strong, gentle, and already well trained.   A single draft horse is fine for some things, but pulling logs, spreading manure, these jobs require a team.  And Bob is lonely.  This week we are trying stay focused on our daily chores and giving ourselves a little time to regroup and figure out our next step.   Good draft horses are not cheap and some would say they are impractical.  Then again, look at the price of gas.  How practical is it to increase our dependence on fossil fuel.   And I've yet to have a tractor drive over to me and nuzzle me with its silky-soft grill.