A night of pure terror

"A champion is someone who gets up, even when he can't."

~ Jack Dempsey

I am Manchester and I witnessed the whole night of plain terror. I know that Chazot will probably not remember. He was under so much pain that his brain was both in total panic and yet in survival mode. All started with a routine maintenance. The vet was here to float our teeth. As the vet often does, he gave us a sedative and we became somewhat unaware and sleepy. When I woke up, Chazot was not right. He told me that the vet also updated us about vaccines. I was surprise that both treatments were done the same day. Helyn wondered about the thought of giving vaccine after sedation but the vet insisted that there was no possibility of interference.

He was away giving a clinic in Florida and the vet reassured Helyn that it was no risk at all. The vaccines were not scheduled. This was only a day to have our teeth checked and taking care. Viewing our records, the vet insisted on giving us vaccine injections.

As the effects of the sedative were fading, I realized that Chazot was agitated showing discomfort in his whole body. He was acting colicky. Helyn observed the reaction, talked on the phone with he and they both decide to help Chazot with an injection of Banamine. The medication seems to work at first and Chazot was back with is usual complain about food, not enough. We only had a little bit of hay, which is normal procedure until the effects of sedation have totally disappeared.

Around midnight Chazot was pounding angrily breaking a sweat. I know that they have a video and audio system connecting our barn and their bedroom. I was hoping that Helyn would hear Chazot’s agitation and effectively she did. She was there a few minutes later calling the vet. I had bad feeling when I heard through Helyn’s phone that the vet was complaining that she was in bed.

Chazot was now experiencing excruciating pain. Helyn was walking him waiting for the vet but Chazot’s brain was flipping back and for between awareness and he was walking following Helyn, and loss of connection where he was trying to throw himself violently onto the ground,  whenever he was walking on the grass or on the driveway which is hard surface. Chazot is 1650 pounds. Helyn is tall but quite fine. I don’t know how she convinced him to walk and not roll. He threw himself onto the ground a few times but was able at some moment to reconnect with her. She was talking to him, screaming at him when his brain was gone, gesticulating at him. She used all the energy she had to keep him going. This nightmare lasted one hour or more. Through brief instants, the pain was less intense and Chazot was waking not too reluctantly. Helyn was then on the phone with him describing the situation. Several times she had to interrupt the phone call because Chazot was going into another violent crisis. 

I can imagine his wariness. He was 1000 miles away, giving a clinic and there is nothing he could do. I remember that two years ago, they had a comparable problem. Chazot was diagnosed of having colic and the violence of his reaction even after the vet had administrated drugs and sedatives directed everyone thought toward the possibility of impaction. However, the vital signs were not bad. There was a discrepancy between the violence of Chazot’s reactions and a relatively reasonable heart bit and no temperature. I knew what the problem was but I could not tell them. It was in a corner of the property a growing plant that is poisonous for us. You could barely see it but Chazot found it. He tasted it, looked at me thinking, curious, and he tasted it a little more. This type of plant does not kill us but give us a serious stomach hake. I told him, You should not eat that, this will make you sick. I was new in the family and at this time I was a little jealous of his athletic abilities and a little annoyed by his arrogance, I turned away thinking, after all, it is your stomach. I felt so bad this evening when he was throwing himself onto the ground into violent convulsions. I learned then that Chazot was having ulcers and was in fact starting a treatment for his problem. I imagine that the poisoning effect of the plants was aggravating the ulcers. The vet asked to he, Is your horse a Sissy? We both shake our head simultaneously. Chazot is in fact quite hard to pain. This reinforced the thoughts that Chazot was developing an impaction. They were making preparations to send him for eventual surgery. Both, the vet and he talked about the fact that the first thing that will be done at the hospital will be to put him under IV fluid. The vet was seeing signs of slight improvement and he was thinking that even if the symptoms aimed toward severe colic, the problem might not really be colic. The vet agreed to put Chazot under IV fluid. While the first bag of fluid was dripping into Chazot’s veins, the vet went back to its hospital to bring back more bags of fluid.

The first bag did not really improve the situation but they all feel positive because Chazot was not becoming worse. After the second bag, it was a few signs of improvements. At the fourth bag, Chazot was now peaceful. The fluid helped into the elimination of the poison. They did not know that Chazot had eaten a bad plant but they were now thinking about such possibility. I remarked that the next day, any suspicious plant on the property was systematically eradicated. Helyn was screaming at him because he was eradicating her flowers as well. During this event, he was the one dealing with Chazot’s convulsions. He knew what Helyn was talking about when she was telling him on the phone about her struggle to keep Chazot walking.

Finally the vet arrived. She was set on the thought that she was dealing with colic and started her usual colic procedure. Helyn tried to inform the vet about their previous experience hoping to open her mind toward thinking out of the box. The vet did not listen following her procedure. Numerous injections later, the situation was not improving. The vet had used powerful sedatives and Chazot was turning to worse.

Directly with Helyn and also with he on the phone it was discussions about putting chazot under IV fluid. The vet argued that she did not think it was appropriated for the horse and that he should instead be sent to the hospital. Through the speaker of the phone I can hear he telling her that there was no trailer available on the farm. That it might be difficult to find a transporter in the middle of the night, that it was necessary to think about plan B and try to keep the horse alive until they can find a transporter. His voice was becoming more and more calm and cold. I know this voice, he had hard time to contain his anger. He told the vet firmly, This is what we want. We want the horse under perfusion now and we take full responsibility if it is a mistake. The vet argue that she had only one bag in her truck, he retorted, put him under perfusion and go back to your facility to bring more, The vet responded that their facility was not open overnight. I can imagine his face turning like ice. He asked if she knew some local transporters and she gave him a few numbers.

The vet put Chazot on IV fluid. His condition started to improve and the vet left. I understood later that he was frantically giving phone calls to find a transporter.  When Helyn told him that the vet had left, he told her to call the vet and ask her to come back since it was very likely that Chazot would relapse. Helyn did, and I cannot believe what I heard through the speaker of the phone. You want to pay me per hour to watch him die or to put him to sleep.

Chazot’s problem relapsed no more than ten minutes after the vet had left. The relapse was unbelievable. I have never seen anything so scary and violent. Chazot was convulsing his body shaking intensively. He had his right front leg above the ground and his left front leg was halfway bend. He contortioned his neck in a way I could not believe that we could take such posture. His body was under violent convulsions. He was then throwing himself against the wall, his shoulder, his neck and his head. There was liquid pouring out of his mouth and this gurgle noise coming either from his stomach or his throat. Helyn’s facial expression was plain terror and I can feel her terror. She was on a ladder holding the rope attached on Chazot halter. She was pushing with her right feet against the bar of the grill which is in the front of our stalls to gain some strength. This is how she succeeded to do not let chazot throw himself onto the ground. The telephone rang several times but she could not respond. She held Chazot together between the convulsions talking to him and in some instances Chazot brain came back to consciousness and he responded, However, the convulsions were becoming stronger and more frequent. Just before the vet came back the rests period between each spasm were no more than 10 seconds. At this point, I surprised myself thinking that death might be better. I was terrorized when I realized that Helyn also had lost hope. 

The vet arrived telling that a transporter was on his way and that he has asked her on the phone to give whatever medication Chazot needed for the transport. Obviously, he had found at 4am, a man who was kind enough to answer the phone, understand the gravity of the situation and transport Chazot to the hospital. Chazot walked in the trailer slowly and Helyn went with him.

Suddenly the barn was dead, dark and empty. I had to concentrate to do not panic. As my brain was on the edge of losing it, I had deep in my mind the confidence that they would not abandon me.  I knew something terrible happened to Chazot. We horses, we do not know what death is, but we can feel it and smell it and we fear it. These few hours alone were my time of terror. Then, Byron, who is cleaning our stalls and taking care of the barn arrived. Usually Helyn or he is feeding us early in the morning. Byron feeds me. He does not know too much about horses. His job is barn maintenance. However, I knew then that I was not abandoned; Helyn must have asked Byron to take care of me.

At 10.30am, he walked into the barn. I was surprised. He was supposed to be in Florida giving a clinic. I guess he has canceled the last day of the clinic and was able to take an early flight back. He opened the door of my stall telling me, he is alive. He prepared me for my turn out and walked by my side, I can feel that he was cautiously optimistic. Chazot was alive and calm and doing better but the answer to the question what happened was not clear at this time. It was not an impaction and Chazot did not need surgery. In fact, the ultrasound exam did not show any torsion. I heard that if Chazot’s condition continues to stabilize, he will have his stomach scooped in the afternoon.       

One hour later Helyn arrived. She was livid. She had held Chazot together during this full night of terror with her energy and she was now physically and mentally exhausted. In fact, Betsy drove her back. Betsy is a professor at the vet school. She is a pathologist as well as a great rider. She is a friend of both Helyn and he and realized that Helyn was exhausted. They knew that Chazot was now in competent hands and Helyn was able to come back home and rest as he was driving to the vet school to see Chazot.


They scope Chazot’s stomach and found ulceration on the upper part of the stomach, which is an unusual place for ulcer. The hypothesis is that may be the sedative used for our teeth floating irritated Chazot stomach. Perhaps the fatigue, slight fever, and physical discomfort that we experience after vaccination, aggravated the situation. Ulcers are extremely painful and perhaps Chazot’s organism was unable to deal with the combination. Other theories were suggested such as a fragment of tooth falling in the stomach. However, the thought of bad chemistry aggravated by an ulcer situation appears the most probable. Chazot does not do anything half way. His natural intensity does aggravate any problem by one thousand.

Nobody really knows exactly why ulcers are occurring. There are of course the usual reasons, stress, resulting from show, painful work, bad nutrition, frequent transportation, difficult living conditions and so on. Everything in our environment should keep us free of ulcer. Chazot has been treated two years ago and since he was doing very well. The food is precisely selected for containing beep pulp which is good for gastric situation. We are feed 4 times a day and at regular hours. We are in turn out  many hours every day on grass. We do not show. We do not travel. Sometime horses are coming at the farm for lessons but we do not find any reason to be stressed about visitors. The hay is great, we also have some alfalfa. Our stalls are so large that we can trot from the window to the door and the layer of shavings is very thick. We are in the best environment we can expect. However, Chazot does have ulcers. He feels that the training schedule is not regular enough due to his very busy clinic program. However, he knows that he cannot have us too fit and he keeps us in easy maintenance without much stress until he cans restart the training program. I know that he never gives up and she demonstrated during this night of terror that she does not give up either. I am pretty convinced that they are already planning some improvements. 

Today, the good news was that in term of drinking and gradual food intake, Chazot is evolving as best as one can expect. The bad news is that this morning some inflammation appeared in the lower leg. He was lame on the left leg. As banamine and other anti-inflammatory are fading out, an inflammation appeared today which was not apparent yesterday. Helyn and he asked for an ultrasound. The diagnosis is tearing of the proximal check ligament. The treatment is stall rest. Knowing Chazot, stall rest is not an option. You cannot even imagine keeping Chazot one month into a stall. Helyn was ready to fall back into desperation but he was not too perturbed. He told her, you know, two nights ago I was waiting for your phone call telling me that he just died. He is alive and he might come back home tomorrow. He probably hurt himself during the violent convulsions that he had when he was sick. He comes back with a leg issue but as you know, legs issues are my field. I will reeducate him and Chazot will explain how we did it.           


Manchester on behalf of Chazot  

(Chazot is at UGA and getting best of care photos on left Jean Luc and Helyn with Chazot)  

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Veternarian Dr. Barton at University of Georgia with Chazot