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when a horse is down: best course of action

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  • when a horse is down: best course of action

    Yesterday I was working at a barn when a horse got himself caught in a pasture gate. Someone noticed within a few minutes, found him lying on his side, pastern caught in the chain around the gate -- partially holding him up. We released his leg, but he laid there and would not move. His back legs were stiff/rigid, no struggling, loud groaning, eyes rolled back.

    50 minutes later, no change, and the Vet arrives. Says "we need to flip him over." After that is accomplished he gets up, walks, and long story short there is a good chance he'll be okay.

    QUESTIONS: Why did flipping him over work??? Why was he so seemingling rigid - to put it bluntly, his legs looked like he was already dead -- rigid, pointed straight out, immobile? Was there something more we could have done for him while waiting?

  • #2
    My guess is blood circulation. He still had good circulation on the side that wasn't being compressed by his weight, so flipping him over allowed him to better use the limbs that weren't "asleep" yet.

    Sort of like when one of your legs falls asleep when you're sitting cross-legged. You don't get yourself up with the fallen-asleep leg. You use the "still feeling okay" leg.
    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


    • #3
      Or he could have thought he was still pinned down, and flipping him over convinced him otherwise.

      My old mare was weak on one side and if she laid down on that side couldn't get up. She'd just lay there waiting for the "flip this horse" crew.
      The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
      Winston Churchill


      • #4
        The horse may have thought he was already dead, given up in that position. The eye rolling would be a sign of that. This attitude is seen more often in cows than horses, but sometimes in horses of a certain temperment. It would be the opposite of the type that fights like a caged demon from hell when caught up in a fence.

        If he was on an uphill when he was caught in the gate, getting up may have been practically impossible for him.

        Rolling them to the other side is a pretty standard option with a cast horse, it's usually easier to roll them over than to pull them directly OUT of the fence/gate where they are caught. But you have to roll them with ropes on both front and hind legs simultaneously, so as not to damage the spine or twist them too much. Then watch that the initial casting was not done BECAUSE the horse has colic, and was not thinking straight with his rolling.


        • #5
          Flipping horses is a technique that horse folks should learn to do as correctly as possible, to prevent other problems in the process or later on.

          As mentioned, doing both front and hinds at the same time is BEST.

          We learned correct flipping, safety procedures to use in that process, to make it safest for both horse and people involved. Ropes can be used, but in the opinion of the Clinic Trainer, a 2 inch wide, nylon web tow strap is the better tool. You need two straps, one for front, one for hind end, and people to do the job quickly and smoothly together.

          It was quite amazing all the uses he had for those 2inch web tow straps, in helping equines that were in trouble! I think they are about 20ft, maybe 24ft long. Can also be used to pull a horse out of a hole! He used a hook ended stick to place the straps where needed, to keep people away from flailing hooves and injury. He recommended a boat hook, which was rubbery, but with a good hooked end on long stick to pull strap into place.

          I now have a pair of the tow straps myself, and the knowledge to use them without hurting horse or my family in rescuing the horse.

          I also do not know what the deal is with flipping them over, but it seems to make them think some effort to rise will work this time. I have seen it happen a number of times when the horse was cast and gave up. Puts new life back in their little minds!


          • #6
            If he were laying with his legs uphill, the weight of his innards on his lungs would have been making it hard for him to breath too so he would not have been up for any exertion. But in general, flipping one over would give it new inspiration.
            Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


            • Original Poster


              This horse was completely free of the fence -- we opened the gate, and he was completely clear. Flipping him actually put him on the wrong direction of a very slight slope. But it certainly did the trick.

              It was a learning experience for me, I never dreamed that horse would ever get up again -- the rigidity/paralysis, and the loud groaning had me believing he was done. You should have seen the elated crowd leaing this boy back to the barn!