description: 2015 dark bay Thoroughbred filly
type of rescue: Animal Control Seizure
intake date: 1/27/2017
departure date: 8/17/2018
length of time with SAFE: 1 year 6 months
Raven was humanely euthanized due to colic. Rest in Peace, sweet girl.
Raven was signed over to SAFE by Snohomish County Animal Control after she and her dam were seized from the owner for neglect and starvation. Sadly, Raven’s mother did not survive. Raven herself had two serious bouts with colic while in the county’s care and received treatment at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital. During her time at SAFE, she had several episodes of colic, and we worked very hard to find treatments and feeding routines to keep her stable. During the summer of 2018, we really thought we’d figured it out: we used automatic feeders to deliver tiny portions of feed to Raven round the clock. Things were going so well that Raven was able to be turned out on grass, starting with 5 minute session and slowly increasing until she was able to spend half the day in a grass paddock. But sadly, after a wonderful, happy summer, Raven experienced another serious colic. She was transported to Pilchuck Vet Hospital, but our vet concluded that there was nothing that could be done short of exploratory surgery, and with Raven’s history, she could not recommend that course of action. Letting Raven go was heartbreaking for everyone at SAFE, and we miss her terribly. But we are comforted knowing that we gave her a good life and that we did our best for her. Rest in peace, sweet Raven. We will never forget you.
We are so sad to announce that we lost a dear friend last week. Raven, our three year old Thoroughbred filly, was humanely euthanized on Wednesday after a bad colic.
We love all of the horses that pass through SAFE, but every so often, a horse comes along that works their way into the hearts of most everyone they meet. Raven was that horse. Her loss has been unbearably sad for the volunteers and staff here at the barn.
Our Raven was a stunningly beautiful horse: tall, athletic, and high spirited. She was so vibrant and full of life that it was easy to forget what a hard beginning she had. As a young horse, Raven was seized by Animal Control along with her dam. Both horses were starved and badly neglected, with painful hooves and protruding ribs and hip bones. Sadly, help had arrived too late for Raven’s mother. Not long after they were removed from their owner, she was found down and unable to stand. Vets determined that there was nothing that could be done for her, and she was humanely euthanized. Raven’s chances for survival seemed bleak as well. She had two serious bouts of colic while in county custody, and both times was treated by the vets at Pilchuck Vet Hospital. This was especially difficult for her because she’d had very little human contact up until this point, and found people to be quite strange and scary. But she was smart enough to accept the help and care being offered to her, and soon the Pilchuck staff nicknamed her “Sweet Pea,” a testament to how brave she was.
Raven was released to SAFE after she was discharged from the hospital. She was a pathetic little thing, sad and scruffy looking, and covered in rain rot. This necessitated even more human contact for her, and it was not long before she decided that we were okay. From that point on, she was a friendly, curious, and interactive horse. Though she never set foot on a race track, Raven possessed a lot of the personality traits that we typically see in off-the-track Thoroughbreds. She was exceptionally playful, and the more noise her toys made, the better. The most social horse in the barn, she insisted on greeting everyone who came into the barn and demanded as much attention as possible. And in her paddock, she entertained herself by digging enormous holes. We’d fill them in, she’d dig them back out again. She seemed to love making people laugh, and she definitely loved being scratched and petted as much as possible.
But there was something not right inside Raven. We’ll never know if it was caused the neglect she suffered at a young age, but her digestive system could never seem to keep pace with her spirit. She had frequent colics. Most were short-lived and passed relatively quickly but sometimes she was uncomfortable for longer periods of time. She was seen by vets from Rainland Farm and Pilchuck and tested for every digestive condition we could think of, to no avail. The only way we found to minimize her symptoms was through control of her diet. Again we tried numerous combinations of feeding for her: different hays, no hay, no grain, only grain, only pellets….Raven would do well on a particular diet or medication for a period of time, but the colics would return.
This past May, Raven went to Pilchuck for an extensive diagnostic workup with internal medicine specialist, Dr Wendy Mollat. She was given a full abdominal ultrasound, which only revealed one abnormality: the location of Raven’s spleen. Was this the cause of her colics? It was hard to say. But our friends at Pilchuck came through with an incredible solution to Raven’s feeding woes. They donated an iFeed automatic horse feeder to us, a device that could be set to dispense small meals to Raven in her stall all through the night. The idea being that keeping her eating more or less constantly throughout the night would help neutralize stomach acid and more closely mimic the natural grazing behavior of horses. She would also receive timed feedings of grain while outside in her paddock during the day. This system provided the best results for Raven, and allowed us to add one more thing to her routing: grazing.
At the beginning of summer, we started the long process of getting Raven acclimated to eating fresh grass. She started with 5 minutes on grass, no more, no less. This was increased to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and so on…an extra 5 minutes longer on grass each day. We watched her carefully…no sign of colic. Soon she was spending an hour every morning on the grass…then two hours…until finally she was out on grass for half the day, every day. This was when Raven really took flight. Nearly every morning, before taking even a bite of grass, she would run…and run..and run. She would buck and fart and leap into the air. In these moments, she was pure beauty, pure joy. And everyone would stop what they were doing to watch her, to take in the beauty of her movement as she pounded the earth and flew through the air. It was magical. Every single day, it was magical. She could be a real horse.
We had a wonderful summer with no colics. Raven was put back into the Horsemanship program to start ground work in preparation for being saddled. Not a moment too soon, because this horse had grown up big and energetic, and she could be rather full of herself! Some days she was an angel, and some days she would challenge her handlers. Some days it was as if all of the life and spirit inside was ready to come bursting out! But throughout it all, she was a good girl, with a lot of try, who really wanted to please. It was a huge moment for all of us when we watched Joel Conner saddle her up and climb aboard for her first rides. She was a superstar. She was ready to become a riding horse, and someday have a home and a person all her own.
But it was not to be. Last Tuesday, she seemed off when she was brought in for the evening. The evening crew noticed that she wasn’t eating, and we realized that she was colicking. Dr Lewis from Rainland was called out to see her, and she was tubed with fluids and given banamine to make her more comfortable. But she continued to act agitated…lying down in her stall, getting up, going back down. When these symptoms did not get better, Dr Lewis was called out a second time. Raven was very sick, and she was hurting. Dr Lewis advised us that the best course of action was to transport her to Pilchuck, where she could be put on IV fluids and monitored throughout the night. So at 2:30am, we hooked up the trailer and drove our girl to Pilchuck. Thankfully, the veterinarian on call that night was Raven’s good friend Dr Mollat.
Dr Mollat started by doing an ultrasound, and what that revealed was not good. Several loops of Raven’s small intestine were dilated, and nothing was moving through her system. The fluids she had been given earlier in the evening remained in her stomach. She was tubed again to drain the liquids in her stomach and hopefully make her more comfortable. But because she wasn’t digesting the water in her stomach, she was becoming dehydrated, so she was put on IV fluids overnight as well as medication to manage her pain. We left Pilchuck at 5:30am and went home to pray for a miracle.
Unfortunately by morning she was showing no signs of improvement. Another ultrasound had revealed more dilation in her small intestine. She was still in pain. The next step would have been exploratory surgery…but Dr Mollat did not feel that Raven’s issues would be resolved with surgery. It was not the right choice for her. There was nothing more that we could do.
So we made the very difficult decision to let her go.
Saying goodbye to any horse is painful. To say goodbye to one so young is devastating. But it was the right choice to make. We loved her too much to let her be in pain. And as hard as it was to let her go, we knew that we couldn’t let her face another colic like the one she was battling. There comes a point at which you have to face the hard reality that you’ve tried everything but some things are just not possible. But what we could do was ensure that she would never feel this pain again. So we let her go. She passed peacefully, surrounded by people who loved her.
Here at SAFE, we’ve been struggling to deal with this tremendous loss. We take comfort in knowing that we did everything we could possibly do to give her a good life. She had a lovely wonderful summer in which she got to run on the grass every single morning, and live life like a normal horse. Without the careful and loving care she received at SAFE, she might not have had that time.
We only had a short time with her, but the time that we had was precious and wonderful. She flies free now, and she lives on in the hearts of everyone who loved her.
rest in peace, sweet baby
we miss you so much
To our delight, Raven is getting ever closer to being a “normal” horse. We have been getting her out on fresh grass little by little to see how her digestive system handles it, and she’s doing well on it. She’s off all medication and now the only additive we give her for digestive needs is a probiotic supplement. We continue to watch her closely for colic signs, but so far so good. She also really seems to enjoy her iFeed automatic feeder and is very comfortable with her routine. When we first took her off of hay completely, she seemed very annoyed when her neighbors were getting hay but she was getting skipped. But now she just waits calmly because she knows that hers will soon be dispensed.
Terry has also started Raven back up with groundwork, and with basic things like dealing with fly spray. We had stopped working with her on this while we tried to get her GI tract figured out, but she is back at it and learning quickly! Her personality is sweet and amusing, and she has become a volunteer favorite. She has come far in becoming a well-adjusted equine citizen, although she is still a baby in some ways. We’d like to send her out for training soon to get her started under saddle, but have a few things to figure out first with logistics on how we would set up a feeder system for her while she’s away.
Many thanks to our vet partners at Rainland Farm Equine Clinic and Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital for helping us get Raven farther down the road to wellness, and closer to being able to find her forever home.
Raven’s colic saga has unfortunately continued since her last update. Although her colics are usually very minor, we still want to get to the bottom of the problem and find a solution if we can. We hauled her into Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital last week for an internal medicine consult with Dr. Mollat.
Dr. Mollat performed a full abdominal ultrasound on Raven. There was nothing found that would indicate an inflammatory bowel condition, as her intestinal walls all looked normal. Everything looked normal, with one exception. Raven’s spleen is out of place. On exam, it was discovered that she had colon in between the spleen and the body wall, which is abnormal. It’s unknown if this is the cause of her colic episodes, but it potentially could be.
The bad news is that, short of exploratory surgery (which was not recommended at this time), there aren’t really any more options for diagnostics to determine the source of Raven’s colic episodes. The good news is that we have some ideas to try going forward that will hopefully help decrease her stomach aches. Pilchuck donated an iFeed automatic horse feeder to us that we have set up to give Raven frequent small meals throughout the night. These frequent meals will help neutralize stomach acid and more closely mimic the natural grazing behavior of horses. We will also begin offering Raven fresh grass to see if her body tolerates it. Fresh grass was not a new idea, but we have been waiting for a cessation of her colics before trying it.
Ulla from the iFeed company came out to help us set up our feeder specifically for Raven. It was incredibly useful to have her guidance in figuring out the system since none of us here had used one before. Raven figured out quite quickly that this nifty little grey thing outside her stall spits out little portions of food 15 seconds after it makes a noise, and that it does that 12 times every hour and a half.
We are hopeful that we’re getting ever closer to finding the best management plan for Raven with the help of our support team of veterinarians at Pilchuck and Rainland Farm. It’s likely that she will continue to have minor colic episodes throughout her life, but keeping them as minor and as infrequent as we can is the goal.
Our sweet Raven got to go on her first overnight sleepover last week. We have been trying to figure out her digestive issues and the next step was to have a gastroscopy performed to rule out stomach ulcers as a source of her intermittent colics. We had not had a colic episode in several weeks, but she has recently begun grinding her teeth, which can be a sign of ulcers.
Raven loaded into the trailer like she had done it hundreds of times before, and the haul there was uneventful. It took her a few minutes to settle into her temporary stall at the clinic, but she did great overnight and enjoyed having a pony as a neighbor.
The results were good news–the scope showed no signs of ulcerations in her stomach. As much as we were hoping for this good news, if she had indeed had ulcers at least it would have given us an answer. Some additional tests were run including bloodwork, which showed a low protein level. She has been started on a temporary medication regimen to see if we can adjust a few things. She will get a recheck in a few weeks and based on the bloodwork and progress at that point we will hopefully have some answers and a game plan.
This week Raven got a dental as she is preparing to start training. Our little girl is growing up! Dr. Fleck found nothing in her mouth that would be causing her to grind her teeth, so we’re leaning toward it being just behavioral at this point.
Our weekday barn manager, Lori M, introduced oral medications to Raven with applesauce when she had to be on a long course of antibiotics several months ago. Thanks to this, Raven is a pleasure to medicate. One of her current medications is given three times daily, so this is a very nice trait for a horse to have! Luckily we won’t have to do this medication routine for very long. But in the meantime it makes life a little easier, and also a little amusing.
Stay tuned for an update on the recheck in a few weeks!
SAFE volunteer rider Casey has been working with Raven in preparation for our Colt Starting Clinic with Joel Conner on March 15-18th. Our goal is to make her first ride as uneventful as possible and for Raven to be as relaxed about a rider up top as she is with her handlers on the ground.
Casey is putting many hours into introducing Raven to new things and supporting her through the process. This young mare is coming along nicely and all the efforts to give her a great foundation are starting to pay off. Casey has been able to successfully saddle her a number of times and has begun to teach her to tie in the arena. She is surprising us all with how relaxed she has become and is making this process look easy! The best results is to have her this relaxed about new things and proves that the horsemanship work is giving her the tools she needs to have a successful start.
When you look at Raven, it’s hard to believe that this big, beautiful filly was a rough-coated, dull-eyed, rain rot covered baby less than a year ago. She has truly blossomed! She amuses us daily with her playful personality and enthusiasm for life.
Right now our biggest challenge with Raven is with keeping her GI tract happy. She has continued to be incredibly sensitive to changes in feed, and we still have her on a very strict feeding regimen that is carefully managed with the help of our veterinarians at Rainland. We have slowly been introducing hay back in at a rate that her body will tolerate, with the goal being to make her as “normal” a horse as possible in relation to feeding. It is a slow process bringing her along from a place of such malnourishment as a foal, but we are making good progress.
Raven has made it clear that we are doing this feed transition on her body’s terms, and she lets us know if we’re going too fast. We are finely in tune with her mild colic symptoms and hyper vigilant about watching her response when we make diet adjustments. We have had long periods colic free that is very encouraging. Even though it’s slow going, we believe she will indeed get to a place where her feed management will not be so much of an issue.
Here are some lovely photos taken by Jessica Farren last week at SAFE. As always, thank you Jessica for capturing Raven’s beauty so well.
Lisa has done a lovely job gentling this young athletic Thoroughbred mare. Raven is an elegant thoughtful young girl with a world of potential. We hope to start her this spring and lightly ride her this summer. She is just turning 3 this year so she still needs a lot of time to grow and for her body to mature. We are keeping things light and fun with her as she comes of age and we are lucky to watch as she blossoms into a stunning horse.
Raven showed much improvement and maturity in her second Horsemanship Clinic at SAFE. Casey had this to say about working with her:
I had the pleasure of working Raven in both groundwork sessions of the November Joel Conner clinic. She settled right in to the high-energy atmosphere. She had no problem moving around the arena and other horses, and really cued in to my feel, which is a testament to the work that Lisa had done with her. I’ve continued to work on readying her to be started under saddle, which we hope will happen this spring. She is such a fun, inquisitive and sensible youngster, I have no doubt that she will make a great partner under saddle.
Raven was such a brave girl for her first groundwork clinic with Joel Conner this past month. Thhe transformation in her was really something to see. Raven is learning to relax and accept new things and find peace and comfort from her handlers. She is beautiful to watch and we are very hopeful for her future! Here is a recap of the clinic from Lisa who is working with Raven:
Raven and I participated in both of the Groundwork sessions of the Joel Conner clinic in June. At the start, Raven was very unsure of being in the arena with all the other horses, of the loudspeakers, and of the spectators. We started out working through some basics just on a lead and she slowly started to settle and hone in on the work.
Up until the clinic, I had introduced Raven to the flag only 3 or 4 times and it she had quite a bit of trouble with it; she would spin around to face me, race backward, even rear up. It was never aggressive behavior, so we simply worked on moving her feet FORWARD to get out of trouble and find a release. She was working through this quite well on our own, but the clinic environment plus the flag were too much and she reverted to her ol’ standby of flying backward. Joel took Raven in hand and, throughout the first morning of the clinic, worked her through, moving her forward, releasing the hindquarters, and helping her find peace with the flag.
On the second morning, Raven was still pretty dubious of the flag, but was settling more and more quickly every time it was reintroduced. Joel also introduced her to some rope work and she did GREAT- leading her with a lariat rope around her neck, barrel, and even letting her feel it on her flanks and rump!
Over the past couple of weeks, we have continued working with the flag and advancing the rope work, including gentle leading by the feet which will help her learn to give to pressure around her legs – a great preparation for successful farrier visits and grooming sessions, but also a safety tool if she were ever to get tangled in anything around her legs! Raven is working VERY well with the flag now and, while she still exhibits some questions when the flag gets “big”, she stays calm and THINKS through the work.
I am just so impressed with this filly; not only is she gorgeous and athletic, but she is a willing partner, a hard worker, and one of the most affectionate young horses I have had the privilege to work with.
Raven is looking more and more like the beautiful Thoroughbred filly she was born to be! Her transformation has been slow but she has put on weight and the scars from her neglect are fading. It is amazing to watch the rain rot and starvation coat fall away and this young athletic beauty emerge. SAFE Barn Manager Lindsay has put a lot of time into grooming and loving on Raven. She has been on top of treating the rain rot, introducing Raven to sponge baths, and teaching her to stand for grooming. With all this great handling, Raven has become very sweet!
This past week, Lisa started introducing Raven to very light groundwork sessions. She is learning the foundations that will help her learn good manners. This foundation will help her make an easy transition into a riding horse.
Raven is very smart and catching on quickly. Lisa said that it is really great to work with a blank slate like Raven where everything is new. Watching her process and accept what is being asked of her is exciting and rewarding. Lisa wrote this about volunteering with SAFE and working with Raven: “This is why I cannot stop talking about Save a Forgotten Equine and the work we do for our horses upon arriving at SAFE in February; a severely underweight 1 year-old with a hideous starvation coat that couldn’t hide her terrible case of rain rot, and 3 months later, 100+ lbs later with a healthy, shiny, whole coat, looking like a real filly and learning to be a productive equine citizen.”
Here are some photos of Raven working with Lisa this week:
Lisa has been working with Raven and SAFE’s Herd Health team to care for Raven. Here is a a recap from Lisa about Raven’s journey so far here at SAFE:
Raven came to SAFE in January severely underweight, having come through two nasty bouts of colic while in the care of Snohomish County Animal Control. In cases of equine starvation, it is VERY important to introduce the proper amount and balance of food and nutrition slowly so as not to shock the horse’s system. Improperly handled re-feeding can result in colic and, in the worst cases, death. Because of these risks, we work very closely with our veterinarians when re-feeding new intakes at SAFE, constantly monitoring them throughout the day and night for signs of illness or discomfort. When Raven came to SAFE we were on high alert in case she had any more colic issues.
Under the guidance of Dr. Renner and Dr. Fleck of Rainland Farm Equine Clinic, we very slowly began to introduce Raven to a diet of a complete feed that would provide the necessary calories and nutrients and Alfalfa hay, which is gentle on a horse’s stomach and has high protein and calcium content with a good balance of fiber and caloric value.
Raven experienced mild bouts of colic several times early on in her re-feed program and, after 3 such episodes, the doctors at Rainland Farm decided to put her on a senior feed diet, completely eliminating any hay. There is some concern that her ability to digest forage (hay) has been compromised due to the fact that she was so severely neglected at such a young and developmentally critical age. We started with 5 small feedings each day, gradually increasing the amount of grain while decreasing the number of daily feedings. Under this routine over the past 6 weeks, Raven has not colicked again, is slowly gaining weight, and is definitely gaining spunk!
We have increased her daily feedings, nearly doubling the amount of food she can have, and are thrilled that, at 880lbs and 6 weeks without a colic episode, she is finally healthy enough to be vaccinated! We continue to monitor Raven closely and are hopeful that with a little weight gain and a balanced system, we will soon be able to slowly introduce hay back into her diet, eventually shifting her to a more natural, forage-based diet for good.
With said weight gain and balanced diet, we will also get to start saying “Sayonara! Adios! BUH-bye!!” to her thick, dull, unhealthy starvation coat and get to meet the sleek black beauty that is lurking underneath!
Below is a report from Lisa on Raven’s rain rot and the care she is receiving from SAFE to heal:
Raven came to SAFE in January not only severely underweight, but with one of the worst cases of rain rot we have seen. Huge patches of her back, hips, and rump were covered by the crusty bacterial infection, the rest of her long, unhealthy coat (what we call a “starvation coat” that will shed out as her body receives and adjusts to proper nutrition) and mane in mats. Our Operations Director, Herd Health Manager, Barn Managers, and volunteers began to treat this infection by applying an anti-microbial spray, letting it soak, then pulling up the hair and scabs that came loose.
“Raven’s rain rot is pretty bad… the worst I’ve had to clean. …the chunks started just falling out. Some dry but most had puss on the ends of the pieces. She stood and ate with a handler at her head.” ~Terry Phelps, Operations Director
Rain rot is caused by a bacteria (Dermatophilus congolensis) that lives dormant in the outer layer of skin and can cause small, pinpoint lesions when the skin is compromised; exposed to prolonged wetness, high humidity, extreme heat, or even biting insects. The bacterium then produces little threadlike tentacles (hyphae) that penetrate the living epidermis (skin) and spread like mad…. If left untreated, the horse can develop small lesions or, in extreme cases huge, painful patches of infected skin; such was the case with our Raven!
Providing a dry habitat and attentive grooming can prevent and, with the addition of antimicrobial baths and/or sprays, correct this condition; but it does take time. Raven is very young and has been mostly unhandled up until her time at SAFE… despite this, she has proven to be a very mild-mannered young lady and accepts our grooming, picking, and spraying with very little fuss. Her case of rain rot has made VAST improvements over the past two months and is now predominantly new skin growth with very few affected patches. With continued exposure to handling, regular grooming, a healthy and nutritious diet, and an introduction to manners and groundwork, we have zero doubt that Raven will be a lovely mare, aesthetically and in temperament; and she is already on her way to being an exemplary SAFE equine citizen!