Whenever a horse comes into the clinic with an injury, it reminds me how glad I am to be a cat. Horses don’t have nine lives like cats do, so you’d think that they would be a little more careful! They are also not as smart as cats, at least in my opinion. You are welcome to disagree, but I will point out that I’ve never scratched my eyelid off (knock on wood)!
I’ve been running the clinic here at Springhill Equine long enough to see some trends develop, and I thought that a good way to start the New Year would be to share some of my insights with you, my loyal fans. There are things that make all your horses unique, and then there are things that make them all similar. The similarities are what we’ll look at today.
Some things are preventable, and some things are not. For example, you can’t prevent your horse from rolling and jamming his foot through the fence; that’s just something that a lot of horses do. You also can’t prevent your horse from being a complete jerk, and getting kicked by one of his pasture mates as a result. Sometimes those things just happen, and we do our best to patch them up when they do.
Other injuries are a little more preventable. Horses are going to develop itches on a pretty regular basis, whether it’s on their eye, or ear, or chest. You can’t control the itch, but you can limit what they have to scratch it on. Things like barbed wire, old rusted-out car bodies, nails sticking out of posts and walls, broken gates with sharp edges, ancient farming implements, broken buckets, and all other sorts of things can be removed from the horse’s pasture, paddock, and stall. Even if the horse has been grazing around it for years without a problem, it only takes one instant in time to produce a dramatic injury. I see it all the time.
I’ve watched the docs sew a lot of eyelids back on, and remove a lot of them that couldn’t be salvaged. A lot of those come off while they were scratching on gate latches, metal feed/water bucket handles, nails, and barbed wire. I recommend doing an inspection of every space that your horse has access to at least once every few months. Things change, nails work their way out of boards, the horse sharpens the edges of things she scratches on constantly, they break a bucket or a board, and so on. Basically, if you wouldn’t want a two-year-old kid messing with it for safety reasons, you probably don’t want your horse messing with it, either.
Replacing that strand of barbed wire on the top of your fence with an electric wire is a really good idea. Barbed wire is a great thing for a horse to scratch on, and they will abuse it until it abuses them. New barbed wire is dangerous because that’s when it is the sharpest. Old barbed wire is dangerous because it’s rusty. The cost of replacing it? About the same as a weekend emergency visit from your veterinarian.
Speaking of fences, keeping your fence up and in good repair is another great way to prevent injuries. Some of the more serious injuries the docs see happen when the horse gets into a place that it’s not supposed to be. Remember Coby, the horse that managed to get inside the old horse trailer and then fell through the floor? He’s not the only one that’s managed to get into trouble. Just this past weekend, Dr. Lacher saw a horse that got through the fence and got her leg trapped in some stuff on the other side of it, and did some serious trauma to the muscle, nerves and veins. She’s going to be recovering in a stall for months as a result of it. It happens on a regular basis, and for most horse owners, it’s the first time something like that ever happened.
So, take my advice (it’s really good advice, as it’s coming from a cat): learn from the experiences of others. You don’t have to learn everything the hard way! Clean up your horse’s area, and inspect it on a regular basis. Don’t assume that it’s fine now because it was fine last year. Be proactive about safety, instead of reactive. As my grandcat always said: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!