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BLOG: Emma Booth recounts every horse owner’s worst nightmare

Zidane following colic surgery. Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

Zidane following colic surgery.

Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page


By Emma Booth

When it comes to caring for our horses, we can be as cautious and careful as humanly possible, but the truth is, sometimes things are completely out of our control. I’m not saying that we shouldn't be cautious with every aspect of caring for our equine partners — because we definitely should. What I’m saying is that we need to be prepared for the situations we aren't expecting or are hoping don’t happen. We need to be ready for the emergency situations.

I’m always extremely vigilant with my horses’ care, especially when it comes to feeding. They always get the same feed at the same times every day — breakfast lunch and dinner. The same is true for the feeding of hay — always the same type and they have access to this from slow feeder hay nets 24/7. They always have fresh, clean water. They are properly warmed up and cooled down before and after work. These are just a few of the basic horse care precautions all riders should be following, no matter what level or discipline.


Emma Booth and Zidane on the main arena i Rio, 2016 - Photo Emma Booth Para Equestrian facebook page

Emma Booth and Zidane, pictured here at the Rio Paralympics.

Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

When I saw my dad at 7am one morning a few weeks ago, he commented that one of the horses had been banging on the door since just after 6am (he can hear this from his end of the house whereas I can’t). I hadn't had breakfast or finished getting ready by any means, but I knew that this was unusual, so I went straight down to the stables to check. I thought that I would simply find one of the stabled horses banging at the door, but what I found was much worse.

Despite putting the horses to bed the night prior without having changed a single thing and keeping everything in our routine the same, I awoke to every rider’s worst nightmare — an extreme case of colic.

Zidane was absolutely frantic — he was puffing like crazy, steam surrounded him like a cloud of smoke and he was covered head to toe in shavings. When I opened the barn doors and came inside, he put his head out of the stable window and looked at me whilst continuing to puff like a steam train, and his eyes were set on me for a brief moment as if desperately asking for my help. It was then that I felt more helpless than ever.

My brain instantly went into panic mode. I got his head stall and pulled him out of the box, took off his top rug and called my groom, Raquel, straight away. As soon as she heard the word colic she said, “I’ll be there straight away”. Luckily she lives close by in Somerville, and within a few minutes she was at mine. In this time I had spoken to my vet on the phone and the decision was made to put Zidane on the float and get him to South Eastern Equine Hospital as soon as possible. Not long after we arrived, Zidane was given pain relief, thoroughly examined and it was decided he was going to have emergency colic surgery.

The next few hours were probably the longest of my life. We waited while he was having surgery for any kind of news at all. They found that Zidane had a benign tumour in his small intestine, which had a long stalk attached, that had actually wrapped itself around three portions of his small intestine, causing them to choke. During the surgery they therefore had to remove over four meters of his intestine. We were extremely relieved to hear that the surgery had gone well, but we still knew that Zidane wasn’t out of the woods just yet.

Apparently he came out of the anaesthetic extremely badly, and while thrashing when waking up, he actually opened a small part of his suture line — not the news you want to hear after a major surgery such as this. Despite everything, he eventually came around and slowly but surely started to recover. Seeing him up and on his feet the next morning was a huge relief. As I said, we knew we couldn’t relax completely just yet — he still had a long way to go — but it was a really good step in the right direction.


Raquel taking Zidane for a walk for the first time following his surgery. Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

Raquel taking Zidane for a walk for the first time following his surgery.

Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

The care that Zidane received from Robyn Charman and her colleagues at South Eastern was incredible. We were kept completely in the loop every step of the way, and always knew he was in the most capable and experienced hands. I really made the whole extremely traumatic experience a lot easier than it otherwise could have been. I am eternally grateful to these amazing people for the care they showed Zidane and for saving the life of my competition partner and best friend — I really would be lost without him. It is an experience like this that makes you reflect and truly appreciate the things you love and realise how lucky you are for certain things in your life. The joys these beautiful friends of ours can bring us is something that should not be forgotten or taken for granted.

Zidane is now home and back to his normal, cheeky self. We still have another six weeks before we can start any walking work under saddle and an even longer wait before we are back to full work, but with the help and guidance of my vets and expertise of my amazing groom, I am very confident that we will be ready in time to campaign for a spot on the team for the World Equestrian Games in September next year.


Zidane home at last! Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

Zidane home at last!

Photo: Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page




Issue 38


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