Caring for a sick horse

Caring for a sick horse


Caring for a sick horse or an injured one is something that you will probably have to do at least once in your
equine-saturated life. It is very important that you know the proper way in which to care for a horse that is sick or recovering from some form of
injury. On this page I have briefly summed up a few of the essential basics that you should know, as well as a few helpful tips which will make things a little bit easier on you. However, please do be aware that I am only giving you the shortest of summaries here, and that the instructions and orders of your veterinarian must be followed above all else. Also remember that each situatioin is different and has its own set of difficulties – consult an expert on the matter or your veterinarian if you need more details which will help you in your particular situation.

The basics

These are the six most crucial things you need to know when you are caring for a sick horse:

1. Always follow the instructions of your veterinarian! This is the single most vital thing you can do when you are caring for a sick horse. If you are concerned about anything or cannot remember what he/she told you to do, be certain to call and ask as soon as you possibly can. To prevent yourself from forgetting any important orders, it would be a good idea to take detailed notes while they are telling you everything. Make a copy of the notes – one you can stick in the tack or feed room; the other you can keep with you at all times so that you will have it there when you are unsure.

2. Cleaniness is very important when you are dealing with an unhealthy horse. If the sick horse you are caring for is not too ill, you can give him a good, but very gentle, grooming each

3. If it is autumn or winter, you must keep a stable rug on the horse to keep him warm.

4. Always make one hundred per cent certain that the horse you are caring for has fresh water at all times, otherwise it will get
dehydrated and thereby hinder its recovery.

5. If you are caring for a sick horse or an injured one who cannot go out to graze at all, make sure that
you pick it a few handfuls of grass for it to enjoy, but only as long as your veterinarian says that it is alright. Never feed the
horse lawn trimmings.

6. Make certain while you are caring for a sick horse (or a hurt one) that you keep its routine as normal as
possible. This helps to keep the horse relaxed, which will aid the recovery process in the long term.

Giving a horse medicine

The medicines you will come across whilst caring for a sick horse will come in many a diverse variety of shapes and sizes. They can
be in the form of powders, pills, liquids or capsules. There are different ways to successfully get your horse to down them without it spitting them out once you are gone.

1. Powders: the easiest way to feed your horse powdered medicine is by mixing the right amount into its
feed. It is best to use tasty, moist feed, as this will completely conceal the taste. You can also sprinkle the right
dosage of powdered medicine onto a slice of bread with some treacle. You feed this to your horse by folding
the bread to hide the powder, and handing it to your horse in bite-size chunks.

2. Liquids: liquid medicines are most easily fed to a horse by being mixed into its food like a the powders. However,
you can also drop the right amount onto your horse’s tongue, inside lower lip or squirt it into your horse’s mouth
with a syringe. Most horses are not too keen on this, though, so if you want to avoid a struggle, go for the first option.

3. Pills: since horses, just like dogs and children, tend to spit out pills if they are fed to them whole, it is
best to crush the right amount of pills between two spoons and feed them to your horse like you would the powders.

4. Capsules: you can use an apple to feed your horse capsules. Cut a diagonal slice out of the apple and press the
capsule down into the pulp of the apple. Then you can feed it to your horse like a normal treat without it even noticing the difference.

Preventing boredom whilst under confinement

A sick or injured horse can be put under ‘house arrest’ in its its loose box for weeks on end if if they are significantly hurt or ill. Since horses were
not born to be confined to stalls, the prevention of boredom is one of the most important aspects of caring for a sick horse.

1. The hay trick: divide your horse’s hay and feed ration into smaller-than-usual bits to keep your horse busy eating it throughout
the day. This is also better for its stomach as well as its mind.

2. Spend time together: visit your horse as often as you possibly can. When you come, make a fuss of him with treats (as longs as the veterinarian
has given titbits like apples and carrots the a-okay), grooming and talking. Horses like the sound of people’s voices and the touch of their hands, so your company will definitely prevent your horse from feeling lonely.

3. Turn up the radio: if you are not able to get to your horse as much as you should to keep him company, you can try putting a radio in his
loose box. Horses like listening to the sound of people talking. Some horses also like music, as long as it is not
something too heavy or intrusive like rock or metal. Try a ‘lighter’ genre like pop or country – you may find that your horse likes Taylor Swift!

4. It’s time to play ball: if your horse is allowed to move around, you can hang a hanging ball in its stall for it to knock around with
its muzzle. You can also get hanging balls which you can smear with treacle, or fill with pony nuts. This will definitely
keep your horse from getting bored. If your horse is well enough to be in a small arena (about the size of a lunging ring), you can
give it a special horse-sized football to play with.

5. Furry friends: the other thing you can do when caring for a sick horse is introduce your horse to a barn cat or equine-friendly dog. Horses are generally get along splendidly with
cats, dogs, goats, cows and sheep. Cats are particularly good around horses; they like to curl up on their and take naps.

The recovery period

This is the final stage of caring for a sick horse. As your horse starts to get stronger and the veterinarian releases it from the loose box or arena, you can start taking your horse for
short, daily walks around the neighbourhood. If you are not walking near any roads, you can just use a halter and lead rein; if you are
going to be around roads with regular traffic, use a bridle and make sure that you wear your riding helmet, sturdy boots and bright clothing. Remember to always put yourself between the horse and the road and to walk with your eyes towards the on-coming traffic. If your horse is not comfortable around cars, just walk it around the paddocks and stable yard. You can let it graze a bit,
as long as the veterinarian has given you the go-ahead.