Tuesdays with Tony
What Your Horse Does All Day
I’ve heard from the cat version of the dark web that some of you are suddenly home way, way too much during the day. I hear some virus is responsible. Let me tell you, the cats aren’t happy about it, and we’d like things to go back the way they were very soon. Those of you at home have also been watching your horses a lot more. You’re noticing things you’ve never noticed before. This week I’m going to help you determine if those behaviors you’re suddenly aware of after watching your horse for 8 hours while pretending to work from home are worth a call to one of my Docs, or if it’s no big deal.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: us pets, small and large, spend a large portion of our time sleeping. In the wild, your horse would have to spend a large portion of the day trying to eat enough crappy, tough, dry grass to meet their nutritional needs. You have given them at least two square meals daily of delectable, nutritious concentrates, along with plenty of hay. While that hay is dried grass, it is of delicious varieties which were specially cultivated, and fertilized to provide optimum nutrition to the equine athlete. All that means your horse can spend most of the day sleeping under the thoughtfully provided fans, in their comfy stall, or in that perfect wallow they’ve made in the sandy area.
By now you’ve spent several days, at the very least, watching your horse’s patterns. As long as nap time happens around the same time every day, and involves snoozing either in sternal (the fancy word for sitting-up sleeping), or lateral (the fancy word for laying flat out) recumbency (the fancy word for laying down), then things are good. You may continue to “work” from home.
You will also notice normal nap time involves sleeping, then waking up, then moving on about one’s day. This is true for cats as well. If your horse is getting up, laying back down, getting up, laying down, and never truly sleeping, or getting on about their other daily chores, then it’s definitely time to call my Docs. Even better, send a video of the behavior to them via Medici. See last week’s blog if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say Medici.
Repeated rolling, without a good shake upon standing, is also a reason to call the Docs. As is laying around at inappropriate times and locations. You may have noticed your horse is particular not only about what time naps occur, but also where. Changes to these behaviors are often early signs of colic. Definitely a reason to call the Docs!!
Since you humans have provided all a horse could want, you may also notice them standing around an awful lot of the time. Much like napping, this often has a prefered location, especially if your horse is in a stall. While pretending to attend that Zoom meeting, you may be watching the camera on your horse. Take this opportunity to really notice how they stand around. Horses just hanging out will generally have one hind foot resting, with the opposite front foot popped forward a little bit. This keeps them stable, but allows that hind leg to really rest. Most horses will have a preferred hind resting leg, but will also switch legs periodically. There’s no hard and fast number here, but if your horse is constantly (think every few minutes) switching up the resting hind leg, there’s a good chance they have some level of lameness or soreness going on somewhere from the low back to the hind feet. If the opposite front foot is pushed more than about 6” in front of the other front foot, there’s a very good possibility that foot hurts.
Other clues to look for that can indicate pain, are resting against a wall, and piling footing underneath their feet. Horses will rest an entire side against a wall, or push their hips into a wall to help hold themselves up. A huge indicator of painful feet is stacked bedding underneath a portion of the foot. The most common way my Docs see this is pushing bedding into a hill that the horse then props their heels up on. By doing this, your horse has created their very own wedge shoe!
Eating, Drinking, Pooping, Peeing
These are the first four questions I often hear when my Docs are evaluating sick horses. Are they eating normally? Drinking the same amount? More? Less? Pooping as usual? And how’s that urine? Same color? Opacity? Quantity? These seemingly simple questions are huge clues about your horse’s basic well being. Now is the time to get a really good handle on how your horse normally goes about these normal daily tasks. Is the hay all scarfed down quickly? Or is your horse more of a savor-every-morsel kinda guy? How about drinking? A few visits to the water trough for a deep drink? Or more of a drive by sipper every time a cloud passes the sun? Get a handle on the details of the Big Four Questions, and you will be able to spot health concerns for your horse way, way before they become a big problem.
Many of you humans are looking at this stay-at-home thing all wrong. It’s not isolation, it’s a chance to understand a day in the life of your animals on an unprecedented level. This information can help you pick up on subtle clues about lameness, GI health, and more! As the official cat representative, I do ask that you keep these deep observational dives to the non-feline species. We cats would prefer to nap in peace!
Until next week,
PS ~Looking for fun things to do while keeping your distance? Springhill Equine has a ton of videos on our YouTube channel. Catch up on all those seminars you’ve missed. Our website has every blog yours truly has ever written. You can get sucked down a rabbit hole of information there. Need more? Check out Springhill Equine’s podcast: Straight From The Horse Doctor’s Mouth. And maintain your distance!!
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!