If you're like me, you love talking about, caring for, and pampering your senior horses. Yes, they may be old, but they're still so full of life. Surely they'll be around for years to come. But there's nothing like a colicking 27-year-old horse to remind you that, unfortunately, our horses are mortals and won't live forever.

Shortly after I dismounted from a great ride on Dorado Tuesday night, I received a phone call from my mother in Michigan. She informed me that Taz, our food-loving Appaloosa gelding, wasn't eating his dinner. He'd lie down in his stall briefly when he came in for dinner and now was kicking his feet and swishing his tail.

Taz isn't out of the woods yet, but the situation is looking much better than it did two days ago.

Photo: Keith Larson

Mom called our veterinarian out to check Taz out after we hung up, and I went back to tucking Dorado in for the evening. All the while, a state of panic slowly set in. The fear worsened when I couldn't reach my mother on the phone for an update (although it turns out she was working with our veterinarian, who'd arrived shortly after her initial call).

After a short time, she was finally able to update me on the situation: Taz's temperature was low, and our veterinarian said he appeared a little shocky. There was no impaction and no choke, but he produced a small amount of reflux on tubing. The veterinarian listed a few differential diagnoses--some life-threatening, some not--before giving Taz a shot of flunixin meglumine and a dose of buscopan. He and my mother wait and observed Taz's behavior and attitude for a few minutes before proceeding.

Back in Kentucky, of course, I was imagining the worst-case scenario. It wasn't until about 9 p.m. that mom could update us (the other individual being my father, listening to the play-by-play from Illinois, where he was on a business trip). After our veterinarian administered the medication, my mother took a moment to give our other horses some hay (they'd finished their dinner and were growing restless). At that point, Taz perked up when he heard hay rustling and saw mom carrying feed around the barn. It was then that our veterinarian decided--since Taz's attitude had improved and he was in no outward signs of pain--that he'd leave my mother with detailed observation and feeding instructions for the overnight hours (small amounts of hay at intervals throughout the night) and an order to call immediately if anything deteriorated. He requested an update from my mother early the next morning and would proceed with diagnostics and treatment from there.

Now on Thursday, Taz's appetite, attitude, and condition appear to have improved. Mom says he yells at her whenever she walks in the barn and has been eating his hay and pooping like usual. My mother's been doing a commendable job of following the veterinarian's instructions and updating him at all requested check-in times. My father and I are both sleeping easier in Illinois and Kentucky, respectively, and are keeping up-to-date on the situation with updates mom sends several times throughout the day.

Taz isn't out of the woods yet, but the situation is looking much better than it did two days ago.

This episode reminded me that crucial to enjoy and savor every minute I spend with my horses--senior or otherwise--because as much as I'd like to believe it, they won't be around forever. Have your horses ever given you a reality check? I'd love to hear your experiences...please share them below!