When you look after horses, it is always the little differences that make you look and think about how your charges are feeling. When I was working on a yard I would always see where they would stand normally in the morning before anyone else came on the yard.
Noticing any differences in behavior will help you when your horse is under the weather. There are also several signs that can help you decide what might be troubling your horse.
- A horse that was not alert, head low and ears unresponsive. If this is out of the normal, as some horses can have a sleep during the day.
- Not eating and drinking their normal amounts.
- Anyone, or all of these, is prominent: ribs/hips/croup/backbone, or if the top of the neck is sunken, then the horse is underweight.
- The mucous membranes may be yellow (indicating jaundice and ruption of the liver), pale (indicating anemia, probably due to infection) or blue (indicating lack of oxygen, due to poor circulation.
- If the skin appears taut. When the skin recoil test is made, the pinched skin stands proud, being slow to recoil. The horse is dehydrated.
- The coat can be due and staring, a possible cause of worms.
- Any abnormal area of heat and swelling can be signs of a blow, infection, or possible strain or pulled tendon.
- Droppings may be loose, very hard and/or irregular, which can show problems with digestion.
- The horse’s urine red/brown or black. Possible signs of azoturia.
- Temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) may be raised lowered: temperature more than 1F or 0.5C above or below normal. Pulse raised or lowered. Respiration shallow and rapid.
- Showing signs of unlevel steps.
- Discharge from the nostrils or eyes.
- Eyes not fully open and/or third eyelid showing.Blood slow to return to capillaries after refill test.
- Showing signs of discomfort. For example, pacing around the box, looking around at, or kicking at belly; frequently getting up and lying down; pawing the ground; trying to stale and failing; patchy sweat; ‘tucked up’
- Excessively overweight.
Each horse will have the own distinct habits and behavior pattern, make sure you know your horse well. In this way, you will notice the slightest abnormality that may indicate ill health. You need to act immediately if you notice something is amiss. Report to the yard manager or call the vet. Quick responses may limit the spread of disease, reduce the need for lengthy treatment and keep the horse’s suffering to a minimum.
The best idea is to incorporate regular inspections into your daily routine. While working around the horses, you must constantly observe them. First thing in the morning, however, the horses will have been unobserved for many hours, therefore this first inspection is vital.
Therefore checking water supplies, rugs and signs of health, making sure the horses are safe, happy and healthy. The same applies before and after a lunch break and especially last thing at night when you much make every effort to ensure the horse are securely and safely rugged and staled with a plentiful water supply. Do the same for your field-kept horses. In this way, many accidents and illnesses can be avoided.
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