Lots to Say

Those of you who watched the video from Presto’s very first hour of life know that he was born talking. Baby horse apparently has lots to say, because his first couple days were filled with lots of adorable little whinnies, especially at people. Then he got sick and was too busy fighting for his life and feeling miserable to talk anymore, and we went a long time without hearing anything from Presto.

Until yesterday, that is.

His main vet Dr. Kari was greeted first thing in the morning with a loud “GET OVER HERE AND TAKE THIS MUZZLE OFF SO I CAN HAVE BREAKFAST” demand. He can make all the demands he wants right now, if he’s feeling good enough to talk it’s fine by us. Then he neighed at Uncle Skeeter (the Cushings horse that has been living next to them at the clinic), and said hello to one of Michelle’s friends when she came to visit him.

Little dude is making up for lost time I guess, because now he has a lot to say, and it makes us all SO HAPPY.

We also had another amazing development yesterday: semi-solid poop. When your baby horse has been shooting 100% liquid out of his butt for 12 days, you have no idea how exciting semi-solid poop really is. Yesterday’s update from Dr. Kari:


Only horse people really understand the importance of proper poop.

That’s the only update I got yesterday, but fingers crossed so hard for an equally good one today. I really hope he can keep getting better and stronger from here. I’m heading back up there bright and early tomorrow morning to visit him!

Hannibal Baby

Presto might hate his muzzle, and he might look a little bit like the baby horse version of Hannibal Lector in it, but *knocking on every wood surface within reach* so far it’s working.

He can’t wait to kick the crap out of all of us when he feels better.

Yesterday morning they took the muzzle off briefly, and he readily went over and nursed (that is victory #1, because when he truly feels bad he has no interest in nursing). They watched him for a while to see if he would get colicky (pre-muzzle he would nurse and then within 15 or so minutes he’d be colicky) and he never did! So the plan is to slowly and steadily increase his nursing time to ease his intestines back into a normal routine.

In the meantime Presto will still be getting his plasma and extra fluids to make sure he’s getting what his body needs. His electrolytes still kind of fluctuate a lot day by day or even hour by hour, so they’re constantly checking that and adjusting the content and quantity of his fluids as needed.

A lot of you have asked how Sadie is handling all this, and the answer is: like Sadie does. She’s a beast but she’s very intelligent when it matters, and she’s been pretty great. Well… once they moved her to the outside pen, because she was SadieSmashing the stall inside (she legit left gouges in the metal from her teeth). But she allows the vets to do whatever they need to do with Presto, and she stands dutifully over him while he sleeps, which is a lot. She knows that something is up with him, because when he lays down for what she deems to be too long, she tries to get him up. I don’t think she quite understands why he doesn’t act like a “normal” baby (ie a terrorist in a tiny horse suit) but she’s pretty patient about it.

We’re to the point where the updates from the vets are becoming less frequent, which… is generally a good thing. “No news is good news” and all that. Not that it lowers my anxiety level even a smidge, but it’s nice to know that he’s probably not in their top 3 most critical patients anymore. I’ll take that any day, even if it means less communication. I’m just really really (really really really) hoping the the positive trajectory continues and things get better for the little nugget from here.

And Henry, Too.

While Presto’s foal fort experiment was a failure, the muzzle was a success. He was really angry about it, but yesterday he wasn’t colicky at all. He got extra fluids and more plasma via his IV, and this morning they’re going to re-ultrasound to see how his small intestine looks. Fingers majorly crossed for a less angry, more normal looking intestine so that he can try having some milk again.

Amidst all of this going on with Presto, Henry has been a bit of the forgotten child. Luckily he doesn’t seem to mind, and everyone was more than willing to make sure he was taken care of while I was gone. The barn worker kept him fly sprayed, and Karen even went over once last week to give him cookies. Apparently he was not derpy around her, which makes me think it really must be me.

no shortage of derp when I’m around

I came home to a fat, sassy Henry who seemed happy to see me (it’s probably just because I equal more cookies, but whatever) and seems to have not missed a beat. And, honestly, being around him has really helped to raise my spirits in general. My thoughts are still always with Presto, but Henry provides some much needed levity to the current situation. It’s funny, before Presto was born I was stressing out about which shows I was going to get to and how badly I needed a dressage lesson, blah blah blah. All of that is on hold now, and none of it really feels like it matters that much. I’m just really thankful to have Henry.

Really hoping that we get some good news for Presto with today’s ultrasound… little dude has been fighting so hard for so long, he deserves to have things start getting a little easier for him.

The Foal Fort

They ultrasounded Presto’s belly yesterday, and the good news is that they didn’t find any intussussceptions. They couldn’t really make a definitive assessment on strictures though, partly because his small intestine was enlarged and inflamed. Obviously it’s very irritated, which we knew already from his colicky behavior, but seeing how enlarged it was made them decide that his gut needs a bit of a break from trying to digest things. They want to give him 12-24 hours off of milk and with limited water so that his intestines have some time to “rest”.

But how to do that?

They built him a foal fort. Basically they just blocked him into a section of the pen with hay bales, shavings bags, and a round pen panel so that he and Sadie could still see each other, but he couldn’t get to her to nurse. They were quite proud of their fort and sent me pictures of it, and of how mad it made Presto.

angry baby

He started pawing at it almost immediately (he has Sadie’s attitude, thank goodness, because it’s probably the only reason he’s still alive). I was joking with the vet about how long it would last, because we’ve all seen SadieSmash, and I’ve seen Presto back up and SadieSmash a water trough already. It’s genetic apparently.

Yeah. Maaaaaybe 15 minutes til the fort breach occurred. It was worth a try.

So she was going to try a muzzle last I heard… I’m not sure how to keep that on an angry baby either, short of duct tape and superglue. But hopefully they can accomplish it so that his tummy gets a break, and hopefully the break is what his intestines need to help heal and “reboot” themselves.

Back to Reality

While I’m super thankful that I was able to take off work to stay up in Midland last week, it was really hard to drive my car out of the parking lot at the vet clinic yesterday. I didn’t want to leave Presto, not when he’s still feeling crappy. It took all the strength I had in me to push the gas pedal and drive away, and it was an extra shitty drive home. It sucks feeling so utterly helpless.

His weekend was okay, still pretty up and down. He has periods where he feels really good, but then periods where his stomach still hurts a lot and he looks colicky. He feels good enough to want to nurse a lot, but then all that fluid gets in his stomach and it hurts. He goes from fairly happy baby to fairly miserable baby within minutes.

His bloodwork actually looked better yesterday than it has pretty much the whole time. But with the way he acts so colicky after he nurses, the vets are afraid that he’s got a stricture  or intussusception somewhere. Considering his bloodwork and how long it’s been, he should be digesting things more easily than he is. They’re ultrasounding him today to check, and I really really hope that he doesn’t have either. A stricture is basically a narrowing of some area, in his case it would be somewhere in his intestine, usually caused by scar tissue. An intussusception is when the intestines start folding into themselves. There are not a lot of treatment options if he does have these, especially if it’s severe.

So, please keep your fingers crossed today for good results from the ultrasound. He’s fought too long and too hard to be brought down by a complication like this.

The Tough Stuff

Not gonna lie, Presto being sick is hard. Really hard. I’m not much of an emotional person but this week has managed to hit a pretty wide range. When Presto is feeling good, I feel good. When Presto is feeling bad, it’s like my heart is stuck in a vise. Yesterday was one of the latter.

He had a couple of very brief good moments, but for most of the day he obviously felt pretty crappy. His protein had dipped and his electrolytes were out of whack again. We live in a constant cycle of up-down-up-down. By the end of the day his bloodwork was looking better but it was obvious that his tummy was hurting. 

After 7 hours of sitting out there with him, I was drained of positivity and had to leave. If horses really can sense our moods, I didn’t want that around him. I gave the vet my number and she said she’d keep me updated overnight if anything changed. Bless her, I think she’s about to hook me up to a Valium drip and put me on Ulcergard.

He looked pretty bad by that point, and had all of us worried. I talked to her a little before I left and asked her if I was torturing him and she emphatically said no, he’s a fighter and still has a chance, and we should keep giving him one. No one is ready to give up on him yet. They ran him another liter of plasma (he’s full to the gills with plasma by now, he’s had so much) and he perked up a bit. I slept with my phone 6″ from my ear so it would wake me up if she texted again. Everything is just so touch and go with him right now, and he goes up and down so fast. There is constant fear of a bad text or phone call.

Thankfully the vet texted this morning and said he’s feeling good again. Up and nursing and playing a bit. At this point I really just want him to feel better. When he has his good moments he looks so normal and so happy, bucking and playing like any other foal. I want him to feel like that all the time. 

We’ll keep plugging away at it, and keep giving him every opportunity to make it through this. I’ll keep buying as many donuts, sparkling waters, and beers as it takes to keep his vet team going. They’re angels, and of course, big fans of Presto.

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday was a better day for Presto. When I got there in the morning the vet was running him a bag of plasma and at one point he turned his bum around and half-heartedly tried to buck at her, which made both of us really happy. Later on in the afternoon he had a really impressive 30 seconds where he looked almost normal.

Then he laid flat out for 3 hours because he’d tuckered himself out too much. He’s still super super weak. His bloodwork is a bit better as far as balancing his pH, but his proteins are still really low due to the diarrhea.

He was also nursing a bit better yesterday (still not as much as normal, but better). His general routine is to sleep for an hour or two, get up and drink some water and nurse, stand there and try really hard to be interested in what’s going on, and then lay back down again. The majority of his movements are in slow motion. He still looks quite sick most of the time.

But still the sweetest

Having to fight off both strains of Chlostridium obviously is not ideal. One is hard enough. Both is nuts. The objective at this point is to get his system working optimally again so that he can start to heal himself and be better able to fight off the infections. He’s getting everything he can possibly get, but with foals you have to be really careful to not make changes too fast or you can completely overload their system. 

Obviously he’s still a super sick baby and he’s got quite a hill to climb. He’s a fighter though, and he sure is giving it his best shot.

And of course, just as importantly, I have to keep thanking all of you guys day in and day out for the continued support. It’s amazingly overwhelming to see so many people rooting for my little dude. There have been a lot of tears this week, especially those of appreciation for the kindness of strangers.

Unbeknownst to me, a reader Tonia set up a donation fund towards Presto’s medical bills. Trust me, no expense is being spared in our efforts to save him and money is absolutely no object here, but the help is really sweet and much appreciated. I’m having an issue trying to get the link to embed in this post on my phone but hopefully she’ll come post the info in the comments.

I’m hoping for another good day today… so far it’s been up/down/up/down so it would be really awesome to start stringing together some “up” days.

The Chlostridium Rollercoaster

Well, yesterday wasn’t a good one for Presto. He wasn’t nursing as well, poop still very liquid, and he was very very dull. Little guy is still extremely sick, and still testing positive for both C perf and C def.

The (now huge team of) vets are doing everything they can think of to do for him, but it’s still very much touch and go. As of right now it could still go either way. Presto is fighting, but he’s awfully sick.

This morning he’s a bit more perky again, and nursing better, so we’ll see what today brings. Keep up the good thoughts guys! He really needs it.

Presto Update 

First of all, thank you guys so much for the outpouring of support and encouragement for Presto. Of course we love him to bits, but to see how much everyone else loves him too… I can’t even put words to how much it means.  Like Betsy said yesterday “If love and hope from strangers can save your little guy, he is certainly getting all he needs.”. I wish I had the time and battery life to personally thank each and every one of you, but please know that I see your comments and I appreciate them more than you know. And so does Presto I think, because all this positive energy has been working.

I’m president and founder of the Presto Fan Club, who wants to join?
We are still not out of the woods yet (foals are so incredibly fragile) but he’s continuing to improve. His bloodwork is moving in the right direction, although a few things are still out of whack. He’s got a bit more energy – enough to canter a few steps and give a teeny buck in the stall, and to fight the vet a little bit when she gives him his oral meds. Nowhere near a normal amount of foal energy, but it’s an improvement. He still has liquid diarrhea, and they really want that to start firming up. We cleaned his bum yesterday and put some Desitin on it, since he’s currently just one big walking Liquid Poo Butt, poor dude.

His spirits seem good, he still wants and loves attention. He just isn’t as frisky and gets tired much faster than a normal baby. 

Hopefully the updates continue to be positive, and hopefully his poop will start firming up soon. That would make all of us feel a lot better! Please keep up the positive energy, Presto warriors, he still needs it!

“A very sick foal”

Friday was probably one of the top 5 best days of my life. I spent a good part of the day watching and playing with Presto, and getting to know his personality. He is, without a doubt, the coolest little baby horse I’ve ever been around. He loves people, to the point where he nickers a little greeting and walks away from his mom to come see you. My heart, it melts. I fell completely and madly in love with that little guy in less than 24 hours.

Saturday, by contrast, was one of the top 5 worst days of my life. Nothing seemed unusual at first… Presto was playing and nursing and acting just like any baby horse should. At 4pm he was cantering and bucking, really proud of how he was figuring out his legs. By 7pm he had bloody diarrhea and was very sick. I’ve never seen a horse crash that fast in my entire life.

We got him onto the trailer and into the vet hospital immediately. By the time we got there and they started working on him (IV tube went in, fluid and plasma were given, tests were run) he was not in good shape. He was laying there just trembling head to toe, obviously in a lot of pain. My heart broke for him.

The diagnosis was Chlostridium enterocolitis – basically a bad gut infection from a particularly nasty, fast-moving bacteria that newborns are succeptable to. The prognosis was “poor to guarded”. The first 24 hours would be telling, because foals either start to respond to treatment, or they crash and die within hours. The vets got a ton of antibiotics into him, gave him something for the pain, and by then he started to look a bit better. Still very far from normal, and he was still shooting blood out of his bottom, but no longer trembling at least. His bloodwork was not good – white blood cell count was through the roof. The only encouraging sign was that he didn’t have a fever. The vet made sure to warn us several times that this was a “very sick foal” but they’d do what they could and said he’d give us an update by morning. I walked out of there feeling like my dream come true had turned into my worst nightmare.

We spent some of the drive home talking to Michelle’s other vet, a neonatal specialist, who was away on a family trip at the time. Luckily the vet clinic was able to consult with him and they all worked together on the best plan of action. He said the fact that we caught it immediately was good, because he likely would have been dead by morning. Chlostridium is nasty, nasty stuff.

I did not sleep much on Saturday night, and what sleep I did get was full of bad dreams. I was so terrified that I’d wake up to a phone call saying my baby was gone. It took a little while to get an update in the morning, which I hoped was a good sign, and luckily it was. He was more comfortable, was nursing well, his diarrhea was no longer bloody, and his bloodwork was looking much better. He was very very far from being out of the woods yet – this kind of infection can take a nose dive in an instant – but so far he was responding to treatment. I bawled like a baby. Never been so happy about bloodwork and poop in my entire life.

We went to go see him in the afternoon and despite having a terrible tummy ache and having been poked and prodded endlessly, Presto still gave a teeny nicker and marched right up to us when we opened the stall door. He is still a bit dull and tired though, he basically gets up to nurse and then lays back down to rest. You can tell he doesn’t feel good. He enjoyed his scratches though (so itchy) and it made me happy to see that he was still friendly. A lot of sickly babies really start to dislike people when they’re constantly being stabbed with things and having gross stuff shoved in their mouths. 

The vet said he was a very kind foal, which was just about my emotional undoing in the middle of the clinic. But she was very happy with how he’s responding so far, although it’s still very early on, and she still really wants to see him have solid poop. At this point we’ve gotten the infection under control, but now we need to start undoing some of the damage it’s done. His prognosis now is “cautiously optimistic”. We definitely aren’t out of the woods yet… some solid poop would make us all feel a bit better, and his bloodwork needs to continue to improve.

Many of you have been following along with my updates on Facebook and Instagram, and I really really appreciate your support. All of us do, it means a lot. The number of people sending good thoughts and prayers to this colt are astronomical, and it seems to be working so please keep it up. I really, really, really need him to get better.