Time was of the essence. There wasn't a second to lose. A life was at stake.

Upper level dressage rider and Williston resident Elly Schobel was confronted with a nightmare no horse owner wants to face.

But the situation that developed on Nov. 18 have left the horseman grateful and thankful, not only to the veterinarians who played a role in saving her horse's life, but also to the motorists who yielded the right of way as she raced against the clock to transport her horse from one veterinary clinic to another so life-saving surgery could be performed.

It was Schobel's assistant, Lauren Campbell, who first noticed there was something off about the horse at about 12:30 p.m., she said.

“Lauren said, 'Call the vet, the horse is going south,' and I did,” said Schobel. “My personal vet is Dr. Leslie Kinchen at Ridge Haven Equine in Ridge Spring. She and her assistant, Dr. Tegan Giacobone, fought for this horse like it was their own kid.”

The veterinarians made a concerted effort, and the horse showed signs of improvement, receiving fluids and pain medication. At about 3:45 p.m., Schobel made the decision to return home as everything appeared to be under control.

But the dressage rider's life would be turned upside down in a number of minutes. As she was on her way back to Williston to feed the rest of her horses, she received a phone call at 4:10 p.m. from Dr. Kinchen, who informed Schobel that her horse had taken a turn for the worse.

Kinchen suggested Schobel call Dr. Lisa Handy at Carolina Equine Clinic. Communication would become critical if the horse was to survive.

“It was a massive colic, where the gut was twisting onto itself,” said Schobel. “In retrospect, we didn't have any dead tissue, but it was so painful that medication was no longer working.”

It took Schobel 20 minutes to get back to Ridge Spring, where she loaded the horse on her trailer and began her trek down U.S. Route 1. The planets must have been aligned as the horseman, who was blaring down the highway with every light on her truck and trailer flashing, made her way through traffic, and every motorist facilitated the journey by moving out of her way.

The dressage rider also had the good fortune of timing on her side as she found herself going through a series of green lights. The trip that usually takes anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes took only 10.

When Schobel arrived at the Carolina Equine Clinic, Handy had the operating room ready and her team in place. When the horse came off the trailer, the veterinarian was jogging with the patient, administering pre-op medications.

And within five minutes of arriving at the clinic, the horse was in surgery, said Schobel.

“It boggles the mind that every light was green, every person communicated, so this has to be a special horse,” said Schobel. “Everything came together so quickly. I can't tell you how grateful I am. I'm so grateful to the citizens of Aiken, the ones that aren't horse people, who saved me minutes that this horse didn't have. I'm also grateful to the generosity of the veterinarians who were involved.”

The horse was in surgery at 5:30 p.m., and the procedure took about seven hours.

“I saw her when she recovered, was up and when they were wrapping her belly at 12:30 the next morning,” said Schobel. “Julie, Dr. Handy's vet tech, stayed with the horse all night to make sure she was OK. These people are so dedicated. We're so lucky to live in Aiken.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.