Tales of a Coun­try Vet

Good grass can quickly go bad when it gets into an an­i­mal’s gut.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Growing - TR­ISHA FISK

When good grass goes bad

Af­ter a long hard win­ter, farm­ers and an­i­mals all welcome the tan­gi­ble touches of spring. They might celebrate the ar­rival of the first daf­fodils and jon­quils, the pussy wil­low flow­ers or the wild clema­tis blooms.

But what re­ally pushes all the right but­tons is the grass turn­ing a bril­liant naïve green and start­ing to show a bit of length. Stock that are look­ing stream­lined greed­ily make the most of the fresh pas­ture and be­gin to fill out again. Even the pet an­i­mals, the ones that have been pat­ted and spoilt with feed sup­ple­ments through the wet cold of win­ter rel­ish a bit of fresh spring growth.

But noth­ing in life is sim­ple, and there’s a lurk­ing dan­ger grow­ing in that new grass.

At least, the Vet as­sumed that was the case when he was called out to the Smithers’ place to at­tend one of their horses which was down and groan­ing. They had four of them, all spoilt rot­ten, brushed to a bright shine in sum­mer and kept snug with sta­bles and sup­ple­ments in win­ter.

The girls were want­ing to get their two horses in train­ing for the sum­mer show cir­cuit. Both their an­i­mals were top jumpers and worth a mint, if jump­ing and dres­sage were what you wanted a horse for.

But the Smithers weren’t the Vet’s favourite clients. They were a bit too pre­cious, when to his mind a pig hunter’s solid work pony was just as good as a dres­sage horse.

But a horse in pain de­serves a visit, what­ever its ge­neal­ogy.

“Sounds like colic,” he said to Mar­garet Smithers when the call came through. “Make sure the girls keep the horse walk­ing around. If it goes down and rolls we could end up with a twist in the gut and we don’t want that.

“Oh, and get Brian to go along the road to old man Cooper’s place. Get a cou­ple of bot­tles of his home brew off him.”

And then he hung up, chuck­ling. He knew full well that the Smithers fam­ily shud­dered at the sight of their mot­ley neigh­bour’s place and cer­tainly never con­versed with the old boy so­cially. But the truth was, Coop made a nice yeasty brew and it might just help the horse bet­ter than what­ever pale ale the Smithers had in their pantry.

The crook horse was a bright ch­est­nut geld­ing called Sher­lock, a good 16 hands high, a per­fect white star on his face and two white hind legs. He was sleek and soft-coated, but his eyes were dull with pain and he didn’t like be­ing pulled around the pad­dock by Sarah, the older of the Smithers girls.

She was do­ing a good job, but was clearly up­set and fraught with worry. “He keeps stop­ping and try­ing to lie down,” she sobbed. “I have to slap him to get him to keep mov­ing.” “Good girl. You’ve done well.” The Vet had a lis­ten to the horse’s belly with his stetho­scope and gave him a cou­ple of quick in­jec­tions: Bus­co­pan to re­lax the gut mus­cles, and an an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory for pain re­lief.

“This should help pretty quick, then we

Sher­lock was sleek and soft­coated, but his eyes were dull with pain

will have to wait and see if it’s just colic or some­thing more se­ri­ous.”

“He’s on just his nor­mal feed, it’s never trou­bled him be­fore,” said Sarah. “Did you let him out to graze?” “Yes, he re­ally likes the new grass, so we left him out while I helped Linda brush Dono­van down and then we took a while, pulling his mane.” She in­di­cated a black horse peer­ing over the yard fence. Its mane was tidy and trim, all the fuzzy-ended hairs plucked out. It would have been a time­con­sum­ing task, even for two of them.

“Well, that is prob­a­bly the prob­lem, too much fresh green grass that his gut isn’t used to af­ter win­ter.”

At that stage Sher­lock sub­sided to his knees with a har­rumph. But the Vet was onto him in­stantly, a good slap and tail pull and loud “Yaaaah!” that any equine, pig hunt­ing pony or fancy dres­sage horse, would un­der­stand. It was enough to sur­prise Sher­lock back onto his feet.

“Keep him go­ing round. Now, did your dad get any beer from Mr Cooper?”

“I’m not sure, he was mut­ter­ing about it but did head up the road in the car.”

Not long af­ter, Brian Smithers drove up be­side the Vet’s car and climbed out with a cou­ple of huge brown bot­tles cov­ered in dust. Not stand­ing on cer­e­mony, the Vet took one, knocked the cap off on a nearby fence post, took a quick swig, nod­ded ap­prov­ingly, then raised the horse’s head and chugged the frothy liq­uid down its throat.

You could smell the yeast from yards away, but the horse didn’t seem to mind the taste. It was one of Cooper’s worst brews, or his best if you wanted to help a horse with a sore stom­ach.

Sarah went back to walk­ing Sher­lock in cir­cles and af­ter a few min­utes we heard it. A great snort­ing, burp­ing belch. A stum­ble, then a long, loud fart.

Al­most in­stantly the horse’s ears came for­ward and his pace loos­ened.

“Life’s a gas isn’t it?” said the Vet proudly. “Now, let’s just have another lis­ten to him. Yep, that sounds much more nor­mal. Keep the rest of that bot­tle in case he re­gresses, but I think he will be ok now. Just make sure he gets a bit of hay or fi­brous feed be­fore you let him onto the lush grass. Give his gut a chance to adapt to it.” He turned to Brian Smithers. “I reckon you owe old Cooper now, just imag­ine what the cost of surgery could have set you back. A cou­ple of beers is a pretty cheap cure. The old bug­ger just loves a meal out and a good yarn.”

“Yes, well,” mut­tered Brian. “We are grate­ful, of course, but…”

“I’ll men­tion it to him on my way past if you like,” said the Vet cheer­fully. “No trou­ble!”

“Oh well, thank you, of course. Yes, hmm, I’ll tell Mar­garet... and what about the other bot­tle?”

“Oh, that one? Very im­por­tant that one.” The Vet picked it up and de­posited it care­fully amongst his gear.

“Bloody good medicine that.” n

The Vet took a quick swig and nod­ded ap­prov­ingly.

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