Danger, Danger Everywhere Danger

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Danger, Danger Everywhere Danger

How to protect your horse from perils in the pasture, stall and barn.

Flying Horse Veterinary Practice, LLCBrandy Snedden, DVM

Why horses should be bubble wrapped

Remember Newton's second law of motion?

Force= Mass x Acceleration

Horses have lots of mass as well as acceleration so they can generate lots of force, especially when they spook!

Horses are also often times too curious for their own good, putting their noses places they shouldn't and eating things they would do better to avoid.

Why do horses spook?
External forces

External forces: Gunshots, deer, shadow, butterflies, etc.

Can cause horses to run blindly.

Anything that is not EXTREMELY visible, can become a potential trap.

Why do horses spook?

Tactile: Unexpected or painful contact

Unexpected is similar to external and can cause blind panic.

Painful contact causes horses to jerk away and it is the sudden jerk that causes lacerations.

Danger in the Stall:

Buy buckets with rubber tip guards on the tail ends of the handle and/or wrap the ends with duct tape or electrical tape, so there's no way horse hair (or nostrils) can get caught.

Use a handle-less bucket or tub if you intend to set it on the ground. The handle can create a hazard if the bucket gets tipped over and the horse gets a leg caught in it.

When hanging, position buckets above pawing height.

Danger in the Stall
Tack hooks

While tack hooks are very handy, avoid hanging them over the front of the stall where a horse might catch them with their eyelid.

Instead find a way to secure them to the front of the stall either with nails bent up and back into the wood or with a loop of twine tied to the bars.

Danger in the Stall
Door Latches

Horses often perceive that if their head fits through an opening, it is large enough for the rest of their body and don't note protrusions such as door latches.

Horses can catch hips and shoulders on door latches as well as removing doors from their tracks.

Danger in the Stall
Hay nets

Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, haynets need to be hung neither too high, nor too low but rather just right.

When empty, the bottom should be no lower than the point of shoulder and the top at about the level of the withers.

Small holes are generally better than large but can still cause issues if not hanged properly.

Danger in the Stall
Stall Guards

Stall guards pose two possible dangers.Danger of getting legs caught in the stall guard

Danger of the horse injuring themselves on obstacles outside the stall.

When using, consider the Goldilocks principle from the haynet discussion and position just right.

Danger in the Stall
Blanket bars (with dutch doors)

Pairing a blanket bar with a dutch door can allow horses to reach over the stall and catch their lower jaw under the bar resulting in a mandibular fracture.

If using a stall guard, consider the same issue could happen with a blanket bar positioned beside the stall.

Danger in the Stall:

The term choke describes a blockage of the esophagus rather than the trachea, so unlike the same term in humans, choke in horses is not immediately life threatening.

Generally caused by eating too fast or without chewing well before swallowing (apples, hay cubes, dry beet pulp, grain).

Characteristic stance and bright green nasal discharge.

May resolve on its own in 30-60 minutes, otherwise call your veterinarian.

Danger in the Stall/Pasture

A properly fitted blanket on a compliant horse can be helpful in certain situations (old, thin, actively competing, extreme weather)..

Blankets and can turn into expensive veterinary bills or even death traps.

Blankets should be fitted properly with straps neither too tight nor too loose

Chest clips should face the horse so they don't get caught on anything.

Danger in the Stall/Pasture
Nylon/Rope Halters

If leaving a halter on a horse in a stall/pasture, stick to a break away or leather halter.

Nylon or rope halters can be great tools but should only be used when the horse can be directly supervised.

Danger in the Barn
Chain Shanks

Chain shanks can be useful tools in the right hands.

If the chain is not needed either switch to a normal lead or apply it around the halter until an acceptable amount is hanging off.

Never double the shank back on itself as a horse can get its foot caught in the loop and panic resulting in disaster.

Danger in the Barn
Extension cords

Keep electric cords out of horses' reach to prevent shock or electrocution.

Keep use of extension cords in a barn to a minimum (preferably none). When using be sure to use heavy duty cords.

If using Lasko box fans, use the ones with blue plugs as they have an internal fuse.

Free motors of dust annually at minimum

Danger in the Barn
Metal siding

Horses can easily kick through the metal siding on pole barns if there is no solid surface behind the metal to stop the hoof.

The resulting wounds are severe often include severing of tendons, arteries, veins and nerves around the canon bone.

To prevent this be sure to line metal siding at minimum 4 feet up anywhere horses can access the building (inside or outside)

Danger in the Barn
Feed bins

Feed bins should ALWAYS be kept between a closed +/- locked door.

A lid on a garbage can rarely stops a determined horse.

Horses that get into grain risk founder and life threatening colic.

Call a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY if your horse gets into the grain!

Danger in the Pasture

Horses are often too curious for their own good.

As discussed earlier they can also generate a lot of force when they spook (or go running headlong at night).

Minimize obstacles in the field when possible and when not possible, try to make obstacle more visible by painting with a white stripe or tape.

Danger in the Pasture
High Tensile Wire Fence

High tensile wire is often used because it is inexpensive, however a single injury can make the price difference moot.

Difficult to see (especially at night).

When hit at speed, it acts like a cheese slicer, with your horse's skin as the cheese.

It can also break and wrap around legs as horses struggle.

Danger in the Pasture
Barbed Wire Fence

Nicknamed Devil's Rope early on due to its ability to entangle and cause significant injuries to both man and beast.

Similar to high tensile wire in terms of visibility and worse in terms of injuries due to the barbs.

Danger in the Pasture

Named for the shape of the post makes when viewed in cross section.

Horses have been known to impale themselves on the posts.

Always use a cap for the post to minimize the risk.

Not sturdy enough for tying a horse.

Danger in the Pasture:
Cost of injuries

Wounds on average cost $500-$1500 by the time they are completely healed.

Your time medicating and bandaging horse.

Possible permanent loss of soundness.

Danger in the Pasture

Can occur in any horse grazing on sand (from arena or sandy soil of Florida).

Sand gets stuck in the cecum.

Causes signs of low grade persistent colic.

Can be tested by dropping a fecal ball in a jar of water and waiting to see if sand settle out.

Can treat with psyllium.

Danger in the Pasture:
Poisonous Plants: Foxtail

Many different types. Some grow to be almost 3 feet tall with drooping heads, other spread out similar to crab grass.

All have heads with soft bristles that can become embedded in horse's lips.

Can be in pasture or hay.

Danger in the Pasture:
Poisonous Plants: Good News

In general the dose makes the poison so horses, being rather large animals, often need to eat a fair amount of the poisonous plant to cause effect.

Many poisonous plants are unpalatable so horses will not eat unless there is nothing else available.

Danger in the Pasture:
Poisonous Plants: Bad News

Many plants cause similar, general signs such as colic or lethargy so it is difficult to determine if a particular case is caused by a specific plant.

Most plants don't have antidotes, and are treated instead with supportive care (IV fluids, activated charcoal).

Danger in the Pasture:
Poisonous Plants: Clinical Signs

Dilated pupils (nightshade)

Excessive salivation (red clover)

cherry red mucous membranes (cherry)

Muddy brown mucous membranes (red maple)

Sunburned white patches on body (alsike clover)

Sudden death (yew)

Danger in the Pasture:
Poisonous Plants: Prevention

Try to keep pastures appropriately stocked so that pasture is sustainable throughout the year.

If not possible, keep hay available to minimize horses searching for weeds to eat