Disaster is a Heart Beat Away - What to do When Your Horse Gets Cast
Horses are ridiculously big accident prone creatures.
Sure they are gorgeous, and magical , and awesome.
But there are days I wonder how wild horses ever survived.
Did humans choose to breed the least thinking horses?
What a day!
February 4th was such a day here. I was at work, you know, earning money to pay for this somewhat expensive sport we play when I got a call. A horse was stuck. Scary for the people on the farm but I've gotten cast horses righted before so I stayed totally calm and said - "use soft ropes on off side legs and cover head if you need to - just roll the horse the right way around and all will be ok."
Back to concentrating on work. Another call. They couldn't get the fence cut. What? The horse wasn't up yet? How was that possible? I started worrying.
Another call. Horse still down. Please come home. Never in the history of time have I been asked to leave work for an animal crisis. There was no way I could say no. I called the vet on the way out the door. It was a long 35 minutes home.
As I pulled in the driveway he got up.
He was wobbly and very out of sorts but he was up. We brought him into the barn and gave him a careful once over with the vet. He had a contusion on his eye (from where his head had whacked the fence post as he tried to get up); he had skinned between his front legs where the fence had rubbed. He had two small nicks on his coronet bands and one on his flank. We later discovered he had rubbed his hind leg too - huge chunks of hair fell off.
How had he gotten so badly cast in the paddock we call the romper room because it is SO SAFE?
He had fallen asleep on a snow pile along a fence. The sun had come out and melted him down. He must have stretched out and put himself half under the fence. When he first went to stand up one leg went on the top of the rail and three stayed under it. Sigh. Well and truly, instantly, stuck.
Much effort and care went into getting him up. The fence was taken apart. The snow was dug away from him. His rescuers were as sore and tired as he was. But everyone was ok - for which I am eternally grateful.
What is Getting Cast?
Getting cast is when a horse gets stuck and struggles to right themselves and get up.
It's actually quite dangerous as horses are huge creatures and being stuck puts inordinate pressure on nerves, lungs and the heart (the weight of their own body does significant damage if it's for too long). Estimates suggest that a horse down for 3 hours can end up with serious irreversible damage to the respiratory and neurological systems.
We were very lucky. Wiser (yah - I know - what a name for him that day!) was down a little over an hour and had no serious impacts. He's had a chiropractic adjustment and is getting a massage this week. His hair is growing back, His shoe is back on.
What Can You Do When a Horse Gets Cast?
1. Stay Calm - drama and being upset won't help the situation.
2. Recognize that this is indeed a crisis and needs your attention,
3 Get help - ropes, people, tools at hand.
4. Work together being very careful of the horse- they are big creatures and in making an effort to stand could seriously hurt you. Stay clear of hooves and heads.
5. Consider the physics of the problem. Is moving a head, or tail end going to give a better way to get up? Would traction under the feet help?
6. Let the horse take a breather and rest but don't leave them down long.
7. Seek vet help if you need to resort to pulling the horse with a tractor - you can do major damage to the neck/spine pulling the wrong way.
8. Seek vet attention if you don't know how long they've been down. Respiratory problems may require medication.
Later That Day...
We gave Wiser pain relief and kept him warm and quiet for 24 hours then he was quite happy to resume his regular schedule!