WHEN THEY DON’T NICKER AT YOU IN THE MORNING… YOU KNOW something is wrong. Dodger had a bad day.

It was immediately clear that something was wrong.  Every single morning, Dodger, my  36 year-old Shetland pony, nickers to me.  He is the first to see me, and he is the first to send his morning greeting.

Except, not this morning.

He was laying down – a very bad sign.  Dodger is always up and waiting for breakfast.

I ran inside and got my Say Whoa to Colic. i was so frantic, I couldn’t get the wrapper off of  the package and I dropped my water container… my hands were like awkward mits.  Finally I just ran out with it all every which way in my hands.

Dodger got up when he saw me coming with the syringe… but he didn’t move fast enough and I caught him easily.  I settled myself so I wouldn’t spill any of this precious remedy – and I gave him half a dose.

Then I rushed through feeding the others.

… back to Dodger.  He wasn’t OK.

He was laying down again.  Ack!  I could hear his tummy rumbling and he wasn’t sweating or biting at his sides.  Weird.

I removed Norma Jean from their pen so that I could make sure I knew who was pooping, eating and drinking.  I wanted Dodger alone.  I put shavings down, mostly so I could see his activity, not so much for comfort because the ground is soft.

And then… as I went through the fence to get Mama Tess’ fan… I saw that the little Pepper tree near his paddock had been eaten on one side.  Dodger ate the Pepper tree last night.  I had just gotten new hay and they were all revolting.  I guess Dodger decided to eat the tree instead of his dinner.

I then wondered if maybe he had too many pepper leaves and had indigestion.

So I ran inside to google that.   All I could find about Pepper tree poisoning was one man who said horses that eat pepper leaves/berries have really awful breath.  THAT WAS SOMETHING I HAD NOTICED when I was giving him the syringe of Say Whoa to Colic.  His breath was not at all sweet.  It was foul.

Did he ingest too much pepper tree?  Did he have indigestion and not colic?

This was Dodger in Grass Valley about 10 years ago. He was the leader of the Shetlands, stout, strong and stoic. Now, he has lost most of his fantastic mane and tail –  and is a very old gentleman of 36.

As you can see, there are hardly any leaves on the right side of the little tree. Dodger ate them. But, according to Google, Pepper trees are not poisonous – did he have indigestion?


It was still too early to call the vet, so I decided to have my coffee and wait 30 minutes to see how he was doing after they syringe of gold (I love the Say Whoa to Colic product!).

But before that, I drug out Mama Tess’ fan because I didn’t want to do that after the sun got too hot here…

tick tock tick tock.  It is amazing how long 30 minutes can be when one is worried.  I knew the Say Whoa would at least settle his stomach, if it wasn’t colic.  I had to sit on my hands and not watch him like a two-minute egg.

After 30 minutes, he seemed brighter and he was up.

Good.  OK.  Time to rig up Mama Tess’ misting fan.  It hasn’t been used since she passed (November 13, 2015).

I was able to dig out the fan easily, I was able to find an extension cord easily and a new hose to attach to it, easily.  All good.  The fan started right up! But, all the water nozzles were calcified over and clogged.  So I found one of Finn’s sprayer nozzles and put that onto a hose and hung it in front of the fan.

It worked.  Dodger liked it.  He immediately positioned himself right in front of the misting fan.

I waited another 30 minutes.  He had not gone down, but he was not his normal self.

I offered him food.  Everykind of food I had here.  His favorites.

Nothing.  He wouldn’t eat.  He would be interested in what I was offering – like he was hungry.  But then it seemed like he couldn’t determine what I had, so he didn’t try it.  I swear, it was like his ability to smell was off or nil.

He seemed hungry, but couldn’t bring himself to eat.  He’d walk from his hay tub to his water tub to his grain bucket.  He kept sniffing, but wouldn’t eat.

I continued to hear gut sounds.

I left a message with the vet.

He liked the fan… But he wouldn’t touch his bucket. He stayed upright, but he wasn’t normal.

He’d move back and forth from his water to his fan. He would sniff at the hay as if he wanted to eat it, but he didn’t. It was as if his ‘smelling’ was off. It looked like he couldn’t determine what I was giving him.


I was pretty sure he wasn’t colicing, but he wasn’t eating, either.  He would walk around and then come back to the fan.  He didn’t lay down and he didn’t eat.  He pooped once.  (Phew!)

At this point, I was totally perplexed.  What was wrong?  Were his tastebuds off because he ate so much pepper?

Every 30 minutes I would check on him.  He wouldn’t eat, but he seemed fairly bright.

I rigged up a mister in front of the fan because the fan nozzles were clogged. It worked! He loved it.


I told the vet what was going on.  He immediately thought Dodger was ‘trying to colic’.  But when I told the vet that he had been standing all day…he thought that maybe his teeth hurt and told me to offer him a mash.  I said I had been doing that, all day, all kinds.

Then he suggested I take him onto green grass.  If he eats it, we are good.

(PS:  He thought my theory that Dodger couldn’t smell properly, was crazy.)


To my amazement, he ate!  (Head slap!)  Why didn’t I think of that?!  He ate the green grass with gusto.  Wow.  That never occurred to me.

Thank Horsegods!

He ate the grass right away! Why didn’t I think of that?!


I called my vet and elatedly told him that Dodger ate the grass easily and normally.

Then the vet asked, “How old is Dodger?”.  When I reminded him that Dodger was 36, the vet took in a deep breath.  Not a good sign.

“Well, maybe he is just starting to decline.  Maybe the heat got to him and he was having a bad day.  You know… he is a very old pony.”  The vet told me to keep the misting fan on him until the temperatures change (all Summer and into the Fall).  He also suggested I let Dodger graze on green grass every day.  AND, moisten/soak all of his food (which I mostly do already) – even his hay.

The vet said that he could come out and take Dodger’s blood for a geriatric panel, but that will just prove that he is an old pony, which we know.  He told me to save my money and just know that Dodger is now like a 90 year-old human.

I knew Dodger was old, but now I had to face the reality.

My pony is a very old man.  Time to be extra gentle with him.

And so I will.

When I just went outside to shut off his fan and mister for the night, he came right over to the fence. I could see by the hay remnants on his fly mask, that he had been eating.

And then he proceeded to eat the remnants of hay that he had thrown out of his feeder. At least for tonight, he was good. Thank horsegods. Now I will be able to sleep.   Even though I know he’s older… today was just a bad day.  Tonight he is OK.



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6 comments have been posted...

  1. Sarah Taylor

    If the misting nozzles un-screw, soak them in vinegar overnight to clear the blockage. Or cut the zip ties and soak the whole ‘circle’. Glad Dodger is feeling better.

  2. Mary Lu Kennedy

    Prayers for Dodger that he will be okay! Maybe an update tomorrow?

  3. Calvin48

    I have two horses with similar-looking manure, but one of them has a tendency towards mild gas colics. I feed that horse a pound of cracked corn in two feedings per day. The other horse gets half a pound of whole oats per day. The horse who eats oats swallows at least half of them without chewing so they come out in his manure unscathed. The birds and ground squirrels like this very much, but it also enables me to identify which manure piles belong to which horse. I can keep track of the amount of manure the gassy horse is passing without having to separate him from the other horse.
    Dying is such a long drawn out process in the well-cared for horse. I am seventy, and have lost a few horses over the years. It’s never been fast or easy. Your pony will put you through a rough time, and you have all my sympathy. Bon chance.

  4. Sally

    I so love your stories, so like my own. Thank you for sharing. Love our babies, take care ???

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