A Tympanic Symphony

I had a strange, slightly funny experience the other week.

I was teaching a client and her pony a couple of weeks ago. Usually they have a lesson first thing in the morning, or early evening. But this time it was at lunchtime.

The pony had been turned out at seven a.m. and then brought in ready for the lesson. When I arrived they were just tacking up in the stable, so tightened the girth and led her out.

As the little mare walked out she started swishing her tail, and clenching her hindquarters.

Concerned, I got my client to halt. It looked like she had a tick or something irritating her hindquarters and I wanted to investigate before my client mounted.

Someone suggested the saddle was pinching her shoulders and too far forwards, but the area of discomfort really seemed to be the back end.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, the mare stopped twitching as soon as she was halted and the saddle taken off. I checked her tail and hindquarters though but she was quiet and undisturbed, so we put the saddle back on and began the lesson.

About twenty minutes into the lesson, during the trot work, the little mare suddenly let out this humungous, most unladylike, fart; jet propelling herself a whole lap of the arena, swishing her tail angrily. When she could, my rider brought her back to a walk and then the tail swishing ceased and the mare relaxed and began looking around in interest – acting nonchalant, as if we didn`t suspect her of passing wind.

I got them to walk for a bit, unsure as to whether it was just a bit of gas, or something more sinister, but the mare was rapidly back to her usual self, so we continued the lesson quietly. After another ten minutes she passed droppings too, so I was sure she was fine.

Discussing, and laughing, about it at the end of the flat lesson, we decided that the mare goes into the field and gorges herself until lunchtime, when she dozes and digests her food before coming in for the night and either being ridden or pigging out on her haynet, which is why her owners hadn`t experienced this before.

I don`t think this mare had colic, in particular, tympanic colic, but she was definitely a bit bloated and it`s worth noting for if her owners ever want to ride in the middle of the day in future. It was also a good example of how light exercise can help relieve any abdominal pain, which is why vets often recommend lunging a horse who is showing signs of colic.

Tympanic colic is a funny name, which I think is why I remember it best. It`s basically flatulence, and is when gas is produced by digestion quicker than it is released, so the pressure builds up in the intestine and becomes uncomfortable. I`m sure at this point any men around will say “better out than in”, and in this mare`s case it most definitely was! You don`t need to panic with it initially, just monitor the horse, perhaps encourage them to move around, keeping an ear open for any gurgling in their gut. Remove the source of food if they are likely to still try to eat. If a horse is prone to this sort of colic you should consider restricting their access to rich spring grass, which is often a guilty suspect, or limiting their turnout if they have a lot of grass in their paddock, and then double netting haylage so that they can`t gorge themselves on it. If it doesn`t cease, or they seem to become more uncomfortable, or they don`t pass droppings then it`s time to speak to the vet to get advice or have them come out to examine the horse.

One thought on “A Tympanic Symphony

  1. hiddenhoarder Nov 5, 2015 / 3:58 am

    I wonder if this is what happened to my horse the other night. I never would have suspected colic by the way that he was acting but the riding instructor was sure he had a bit of gas colic. While we were lunging, he did pass some gas so she was probably right!

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