Thoroughbred Makeover candidate Otter, an off-the-track thoroughbred gelding owned by Hannah Schofield of Milestone Sport Horses in Lovettsville, Virginia, was referred to the Equine Medical Center for emergency colic evaluation and treatment.

The evening prior to Otter’s arrival at the hospital, Lizzy Aksten of Piedmont Equine Practice in The Plains, Virginia, was called in to evaluate and treat Otter on the farm after he had displayed colic symptoms and seemed unusually dull.

Upon locating an impaction in Otter’s large colon, Aksten administered Epsom salts, electrolytes, and Banamine. When the impaction did not resolve overnight, the gelding was referred to the Equine Medical Center. 

At the center, intern Julia Borgens, initiated a complete colic workup. Blood work analyzed in the center’s in-house laboratory did not reveal any remarkable abnormalities. Aksten’s diagnosis of a severe large colon impaction was supported, and aggressive medical management was initiated.

Once in the stall, Otter was started on fluid therapy and lidocaine, and administered fluids through a nasogastric tube. After a few hours, he began to display more significant signs of colic, and it was decided that surgical intervention would be necessary.

Otter’s large colon was severely gas-distended and had to be decompressed using suction. During surgery, Maureen Kelleher, clinical assistant professor of sports medicine and surgery, found that his small colon was severely distended with multiple partial thickness serosal tears secondary to the distension.

A small colon enterotomy (an incision into the gastrointestinal tract) was performed, and feed material was rehydrated and removed from Otter’s small colon. The large colon was filled with firm manure. Both a small colon and a large colon enterotomy were necessary to remove all of the impacted feed material from the gelding’s system.


Otter recovered remarkably well after surgery and remained comfortable under the watchful eyes of surgery resident Megan Lowman and her team of clinical support staff. Intravenous fluid therapy, analgesics, and antibiotics were continued, but Otter was slow to pass manure. Fluid therapy was continued with minimal food intake until manure production and passage were normalized.

After six days in the hospital, Otter was ready to go home with a diet plan and detailed rehabilitation information, including an abdominal wall exercise program to strengthen him during his recovery.

“I am eternally grateful to Dr. Kelleher and her team for saving my sweet boy and taking such good care of him during his stay at EMC,” Hannah shared. “Although I couldn’t wait to have him home, I was at ease knowing he was in the best of hands.”

Bred and owned by Maccabee Farm in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, Otter is by Alternation (by Distorted Humor) out of an Afternoon Deelites mare Midnite Deelites, who was bred by Audley Farm in Berryville, Virginia.

Racing as Got to Get Out, the gelding started seven times, winning a maiden claiming race and finishing in the money four times at Belterra Park, mostly in maiden special weights for registered Ohio bred horses, before retiring from the track in August 2019.

The Equine Medical Center wishes Otter and Hannah the very best for a long and successful eventing career! 


Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.