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  1. #1
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    Mar. 31, 2004
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    Default What happens when a horse is down for a long time?

    Need some jingles here... A friend had a (boarded) horse get his foot caught in his halter while she was away from the farm for a few hours. Horse could have been down for 20 minutes or 3-4 hours, no idea how long. DH went over to help and he said it doesn't look good--horse had no desire to get up. Vet was there when DH had to leave to go to work.

    They did get him propped up with the tractor, skid steer, a sling of some sort and some hay bales.

    DH said the vet mentioned something about toxins in the muscles when a horse is down for a long time. I'm wondering if any of you CoTHERs know anything about the physiological state of a horse that is down for a while, probably struggling? Clearly there could be injuries to the back/neck/hips/spine/leg, etc., that could be contributing.

    Obviously having a halter with no break away strap was an issue here.... But this is what the owner provided. I know my friend is just sick over this.



  2. #2
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    May. 21, 2012
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    If it's any consolation- I really doubt that a breakaway halter would break for a stuck foot- there just isn't enough leverage.
    I hope the horse recovers.



  3. #3
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    It an do as the vet said. Also their stomach may not work as well because of the weight on the nerves that work everything. Hope she recovers well.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  4. #4
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    Usually if the vet can't find a neurological reason why they can't rise (they'll test for reflexes in the legs, back and tail) I've seen them give a whacking big shot of Banamine, you assemble a stalwart crew and everybody heaves the dearly beloved back onto his feet, possibly with the aid of enough "persuasion" to induce a minor adrenaline response. It's a bit harsh but sometimes you have to do it to save their lives. I've also heard of people using heavy equipment and a makeshift sling; tree-service aerial-lift buckets can work pretty well for this. Obviously, using equipment, containing any possible panic is a factor.

    Once you get him up, steady him from the sides if need be and lead him around to walk off the stiffness; that's also what the Banamine is for. Be aware that at times, especially with old guys, the "being down" was secondary to an episode of colic and they may do it again.

    Over the years, we've had to help a great many of the Ancients out of these kinds of cast-in-the-open predicaments, and such in no way shortened their lives.
    Please update us as the more I can learn about this stuff, the better! Jingles!!


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  5. #5
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    Well I don't know any details but I guess they are putting him down. :/(



  6. #6
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    Wanted to add my DH didn't seem optimistic. And he's no stranger to large livestock animals and horses. Ugh. I feel really sick about this.



  7. #7
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    Sep. 15, 2008
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    Sorry about your friends loss. My friend recently had to put down her draft gelding for the same reason. He went down on ice outside and was down all night. He was well over 17h. They were not able to get him up.



  8. #8
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    Very sorry to hear they lost him. It's never easy; my sincere condolences.

    Let's keep this thread going, though--it's an important subject you don't hear a lot about. Anyone who's had experience, how did you get them up, after how long, and how did they fare?



  9. #9
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    Jul. 25, 2003
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    It's called Rhabdomyolysis. It happens to humans too. When my father fell and wasn't found until the next morning, we were told that for elderly people, it's a very serious problem with a significant mortality rate.

    I'm sorry about your friend's horse.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
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  10. #10
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    I'm so sorry. I've heard that their lungs can fill if they are down too long as well.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derby Lyn Farms View Post
    Sorry about your friends loss. My friend recently had to put down her draft gelding for the same reason. He went down on ice outside and was down all night. He was well over 17h. They were not able to get him up.
    When I heard that a horse was down and they needed help I wondered if it was an issue with ice. We've had a lot of wet/melty weather followed by cold/freezing weather. I was sick to hear that it was a foot in a halter. So preventable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
    Very sorry to hear they lost him. It's never easy; my sincere condolences.

    Let's keep this thread going, though--it's an important subject you don't hear a lot about. Anyone who's had experience, how did you get them up, after how long, and how did they fare?
    YES. I want more info in case it ever happens to me or my horses....

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogie View Post
    It's called Rhabdomyolysis. It happens to humans too. When my father fell and wasn't found until the next morning, we were told that for elderly people, it's a very serious problem with a significant mortality rate.

    I'm sorry about your friend's horse.
    Oh I have heard of Rhabdo... do you know if it is ever treated in horses or is it just a lost cause? I know they had discussed waiting until morning to put him down, but he was cold and in rough shape. I'm not sure if they're going to try more or what. I know my friend is beside herself.



  12. #12
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    Oh I'm so sorry for your friends. How upsetting

    To address the question, when a horse is down for a couple hours (or less in heavier breeds), there can certainly be nerve damage from pressure, also weight of the abdomen restricts lung inflation and the horse perfuses less and less. It eventually reaches a point of no return.

    Again, I am so sorry.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calico View Post
    Oh I'm so sorry for your friends. How upsetting

    To address the question, when a horse is down for a couple hours (or less in heavier breeds), there can certainly be nerve damage from pressure, also weight of the abdomen restricts lung inflation and the horse perfuses less and less. It eventually reaches a point of no return.

    Again, I am so sorry.

    Thanks. It isn't even my loss and I feel awful. The owners of the horse looked for a LONG TIME to find this guy--their dream horse.

    I'm imagining there was nerve and tissue damage (as many of you have mentioned), as well as possible structural damage (if he struggled). Add to that the cooler temperatures and him laying in the snow for hours... UGH.

    I'm truly hopeful that our local horse vet (not the one we normally use, who is very experienced and 3 hrs away) is really sure this is the end of the line for him. The local vet is brand new to veterinary medicine.... I just hope she's not being rash.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RegentLion View Post
    When I heard that a horse was down and they needed help I wondered if it was an issue with ice. We've had a lot of wet/melty weather followed by cold/freezing weather. I was sick to hear that it was a foot in a halter. So preventable.



    YES. I want more info in case it ever happens to me or my horses....



    Oh I have heard of Rhabdo... do you know if it is ever treated in horses or is it just a lost cause? I know they had discussed waiting until morning to put him down, but he was cold and in rough shape. I'm not sure if they're going to try more or what. I know my friend is beside herself.
    It is tying-up.
    The reasons are several, one being down for long, especially if also struggling.

    We had a horse fall thru the ice, barely got him out and he was touch and go for a while, his legs swelled like stove pipes, but he made it and was fine afterwards.

    So sorry for your friend, that is so sad.



  15. #15
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    Yes, rhabdo... also known as recumbant myopathy. Such a big animal being down for so long will start to cause muscle damage to the muscles on down side of the horse, and the toxins that are released are hard on the kidneys. Even a horse that is having surgery is at risk for it. It can be treated, and some horses who are down for hours can recover. Cold temps, exhaustion, and a host of other things play into it, too. It sounds like one of the horrible accidents that horses can get into.



  16. #16
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    Exertional Rhabdo is one of the things that are called tying up IIRC, which is treatable but damaging, leads to muscle wasting and possibly more susceptibility to further attacks - my mare tied up back in the '70's but at that time the vet didn't differentiate between the various syndromes that are called tying up, so she was able to be treated, a month of stall rest with slow return to full work and she did have a reduction of muscle mass in the hindquarters. Very dark urine, treatment was tubing with gallons of water and electrolytes to flush the kidneys, something abut the dark urine being from dead and damaged cells.

    It's not good.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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  17. #17
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    I have nothing more to offer outside of what has already been shared above. But, I am so very sorry for your friend's loss. Just a horrible, horrible accident.



  18. #18
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    Does anybody know a firm time frame by which time they MUST get up to prevent this syndrome? I ask because we have oldies who occasionally, especially in these first warmer days of Spring, will sleep very hard and stay on the ground long enough that they have trouble rising, and sometimes need help.

    Interestingly, younger horses in the herd will often approach and GET them up when they think they've been there long enough. Is one hour OK, but 2 hours too long? If I know, I'll make sure I'm out there assisting if I think one has been there too long! My vet's coming by tomorrow to finish up shots, I'll ask her opinion and post it here, too.



  19. #19
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    In my - admittedly limited - experience I helped with an older (20+) mare that went down in the pasture and was down for maybe about two hours. There was no clear reason for her to have gone down; I suspect it was just that she was older and took a nap and after a try or two at getting up was hurting and tired. She got a high dose of banamine and after waiting a bit to make sure it had kicked in, she showed no inclination to get up herself and was clearly having some difficulty breathing. We ended up, between four of us, getting her to her feet and then bracing her so she stayed standing. She made a recovery that day, but was put down a few weeks later when she went down again in the same way.

    I would guess there's no easy rule of thumb for how long a horse can be down without worry, and it also depends, I'm sure - on their side, or sternal, or back and forth between the two? summer or winter? age and any existing conditions that might cause problems, such as arthritis or neurological difficulties? why did they go down in the first place, and were they struggling? are they in a stall and is getting cast a possibility, or are they in a flat, open field?
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  20. #20
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    My younger guy will go down in his stall at night to sleep, we have cameras down there and he will sometimes stay down 2+ hours. But he will move around some. He will lay up and then lay flat out, so not sure if the movement helps with not putting to much pressure on areas for to long. My older ones don't stay down as long as him, maybe an hour or so. Maybe age is a factor in it also.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



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