This is a big term used to describe a condition that happens to a horse after castration when the small intestine decides to escape through the holes left in the abdominal wall that were occupied by the testicle cords before castration.
This is the story of my Stallion, Numen Estelar and his experience in 2006
It goes without saying that Numen Estelar and I were a team. My husband says we had a thing going. He was not only my riding buddy, but as a stallion, accepted me as his leader and respected me. He loved being groomed and I guess I may be dreaming, but I really think he looked forward to seeing me each day, at least his knickers made me feel that way.
Paul and I decided to stop breeding horses, so we decided to geld Numen and retire him to a life of pleasure riding. Yesterday was that day. Unfortunately, our plan to liberate him from a life of being caged alone turned into liberating him of his life. The following is an accounting of the day. My hope is that what Numen and my family & friends went through will in some way help others to not go through the same agony.
The vet arrived at 10:30. I brought Numen into the barn and we gave him routine anesthetic, laid him down, and we did a routine castration. He came through with flying colors. Being a Paso Fino with strong constitution, he got up faster than a normal horse. Everything looked good. The vet left and Numen was rummaging around for scraps of hay. Everyone went to the house for a bite to eat and a break.
About an hour later we came back to the barn. I didn’t hear anything and decided to look in on him. When I couldn’t see him standing I looked over the edge and there he was lying practically upside down with a bundle of entrails hanging out of the scrotum area. They were in a bunch about a gallon in amount. He was in obvious pain and panting. I rushed outside and called the vet on my cell.
As soon as Cindy saw what was going on she ran to get Paul. We tried to keep Numen calm until the vet again arrived. We were told to try to keep the entrails wet. Numen was in so much pain that he was hitting himself on the walls. He collapsed and knocked me down and almost rolled on me. He rolled himself up on his back against the wall. It must have been the most comfortable position he could find because he stayed that way for about 10 minutes. We just kept wet paper towels on the entrails bundle and tried to sooth him. He was groaning and sweating and panting. I can’t even imagine the pain he must have been going through. He got up again and went down again one more time. This time we sat on his shoulder and neck to keep him down. All we could do until help arrived was pet him and talk to him. It must have been a half hour until the vet got there. Numen immediately got pain relief. I thank God for pain medicine.
The vet said that his small intestine had worked out through the hole that was left after the testicle was cut off. The cords run up through into the abdominal cavity and after the testicle is cut off, they shrink up and leave a hole. Once a loop of intestine starts into an opening it is like a snake and just keeps going. Numen’s only hope of survival was surgery at Washington State University Veterinary hospital to put the intestine back in place. They had already been called and were expecting us. They were a three hour drive away.
We held Numen down and the intestine was packed into the scrotum cavity and sewn in. Numen was given lots of pain meds and he got up on his feet and walked outside to the horse trailer. He actually nickered to the other horses. It gave me strength. He was clumsy, but he loaded. We left him loose just in case he would go down but he had side panels to lean on for stability. The vet gave me more pain meds to give him on the way.
What a horrendous drive it was. I drove and Paul kept me company and answered the phone. Periodically Numen would poke his nose out the side slit in the trailer, as was his custom, and this gave me hope. I knew that as long as he did this that he was still on his feet. Two thirds of the way there I started to see that his nostrils were flaring pretty big and he seemed to be panting. We stopped at a rest stop and I gave him the pain meds. The rest of the way there he did not put his nose out, but I could see a wisp of his forelock flying out the window. So I knew he was still on his feet. What a tough little horse he was. I was praying and telling God how much this guy meant to me. My heart was literally aching in my chest. God calmed me and let me know that he too had a special place in his heart for the horse. After all he is coming back on a magnificent white one. I found comfort in this.
A team of people were waiting for us at WSU. We opened up the trailer and I led Numen out. He nearly fell as he took the step down and I really had to lift hard on his head to help him out. He walked into the place and down the hall and into a well lit stall. There were lots of questions, and forms to sign and Numen was hooked up to tubes and had his temperature taken, and was given more drugs. They shaved his belly.
The surgeon told us that there was about a 50% chance of him making it through at this point. She told us that several things could happen. The best thing would be that Numens small intestine could be cleaned up, stuffed back in, and he would recover. The next best thing would be that just a small piece of intestine would be damaged and it could be cut out and put back together. From there his chances would go down as the damage gets worse. The procedure to save a horse like this will cost from $2500 to over $10000, depending on the complications. Paul and I decided that we owed it to our friend to find out what kind of damage his intestine had before we decided what to do next.
As they readied the surgery room, they said we could be with Numen. As I walked into the stall, I said, “Hello Buddy” and he tried to walk to me. The attendant gave me the rope and said I could hold him. Paul and I just stroked him and talked to him and he relaxed his neck and lowered his head. I asked the attendant if they gave him a relaxer and he said no. Numen obviously felt more comfortable with us. His neck and head were wet with our tears. Then they came for him and led him away. He walked away looking strong. I still had some hope, but my heart told me to be realistic. I may never see my friend again.
Paul and I spent 2 long hours in the waiting room before someone came out to tell us what they found. We talked about what our decision would be if his condition were less than ideal. We decided that if he needed any resection at all, that we would have him put down. His quality of life was of the most importance, not our desire to keep him around, after all that is why we gelded him in the first place, to get him out of solitary confinement.
A Dr. came out with a report. More than half of his small intestine had herniated down through both holes where his testicle cords had been. If he were to be saved at least 10 feet of his intestine would have to be cut away (that is half). The contamination was bad and peritonitis was certain. If he lived past two weeks, he would have a bad case of laminitis because of the poison in his system. Continuous colic was also a certainty. Diarrhea would be his constant friend. For months he would have abdominal abscesses that would need drained as they occurred. Scar tissue would also be an issue and possibly more surgeries. He may not survive this surgery because his oxygen level was down more than 50%. He also needed a plasma transfusion. In short our friend was dying before we ever got to WSU. I could not believe he was in such bad condition yet was so strong. I knew this horse had heart, but this was incredible. He made it this far because we asked him to.
We asked lots of detailed questions to educate ourselves about this thing that had happened, i.e.; how it happens, how to prevent it, and how to know if it will happen before the castration, etc.
With tears we told the Dr. to put him down. He was already asleep and would simply not wake up. His terrible pain was over. She said we could come in and see him, but we didn’t want to see him on the operating table. We wanted to remember him as we last saw him, walking strongly away. I asked for some of his beautiful tail hair. She left and was gone for almost 20 minutes. I asked Paul how long it takes to cut some hair. She came back with an 8 by 8 inch bag. It was heavy and when I looked inside I cried again. They had cut washed and braided three foot of his tail hair for me. These are such incredibly thoughtful and wonderful people.
We left for the long drive home. It was good so we could talk and grieve together. We decided that God had made sure that we could not save him. Only He knows why, but of this we are certain. It was his time to go home. Our incredible friends who knew of the tragedy at hand were calling to hear news and sharing our sorrow. We were already thinking of ways to share the news of this tragedy to help others who may want to prevent this from happening to them. The following small article is to help educate others. Numen will not have died in vane if even one other horse is saved from this horrible death.
Good bye Numen Estelar, our wonderful companion and friend. Paul & Gail Springer
The condition: Eventration of intestines through the inguinal ring.
The small intestine moves around in the abdominal cavity freely sliding over the openings after the testicle cords have pulled up through. Eventration happens when a loop of intestine slides down through an inguinal ring. Once this starts it is like a snake going through a hole. The intestine is about 20 feet long.
According to a veterinarian at Washington State University, about 7% of all castrations will end in this condition. There is no warning that this may happen. Some think that abdominal pressure plays a part, but there is no way to test for this. There is no way to tell which horses will have eventration and which ones will not. There is no way to see how large the inguinal rings are. It can happen for days following surgery. This condition happens as much to babies as older horses. It is not possible to sew the inguinal rings closed in a field situation because they simply cannot be reached.
The only way to be sure that your horse will not have eventration is to have a sterile scrotal surgery done in a hospital. All the openings are then sewn closed, even the skin, preventing eventration from happening and contamination from entering. Sterile scrotal surgeries are costly, but only a fraction of the cost of saving a horse that has contaminated or damaged intestines. This could be an option if you have a priceless friend.