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Avoiding Equine Emergencies in the Pasture

For as long as people have made horses a part of their lives, there have been horse related emergencies. Those who don’t know much about horses are often surprised that these seemingly graceful and beautiful animals are so accident prone. If you are just getting involved with horses, moving them home for the first time, traveling to your first competition or simply want the peace of mind that comes with being better prepared, there are simple steps that you can take to lessen your chances of an emergency resulting from an neglect, accident or illness. At the barn, many emergencies crop up during the time a horse is pastured. Roughhousing with pasture mates and running off excess energy seem like the most at risk times for injury. However, many accidents occur when horses become bored and get into trouble finding alternative ways to entertain themselves. Check Your Pastures To start, check that your pastures use fencing materials that are high enough, visible enough, and sturdy enough for horses. Barbed wire should never be used in a horse pasture, as a horse can become tangled and injure or even kill themselves struggling to get free. Pastures should be inspected on a regular basis for any damage to fencing. Not only can your horse get caught, cut or hung up on broken fencing, but you also run the risk of horses escaping and causing havoc and possibly severe injury. If you’re already out inspecting fencing, use the time to check for any holes or ditches in the ground as well. If you use wood fencing that horses are particularly fond of chewing on, cover them, use electric wire, or coat them with a non-toxic substance to prevent horses from ingesting pieces of wood or getting splinters along their digestive tract. Make sure the entire pasture area is free from foreign objects that can cause injury to a curious horse, or illness to a horse that decides to nibble on something interesting that may result in poisoning or impaction. Your pastures should be free from all debris, from rusting farm equipment to litter that may have blown there from a nearby road. Evaluate How the Herd Gets Along If your horses repeatedly come in “beat up” and bear scars from bites and kicks from other horses, you may need to re-evaluate your pasture set up. Horses can usually get along, but sometimes one “bully” can spoil the whole bunch and may need to be removed from the herd before he inflicts a severe injury on another. Even without a bully, if horses are crowded into a small area, they invade each other’s space and end up fighting. You may need to separate horses or provide additional space. Monitor What is Growing A barren pasture with nothing to eat is a recipe for bored, irritated horses that fight and get into trouble, and it is unhealthy as well. For optimum nutrition and well being, pastures should always have grazing available as well as fresh water. At times of the year when grass is scarce, pastures should be supplemented with hay. If horses become territorial and fight over the hay supply, it should be separated into smaller piles. At other times of the year, grass can become lush within a few days and it’s sudden abundance can cause illness. Always introduce horses to fresh grass gradually to lessen the chances of colic or founder, and do the same when bringing a new horse into the herd that is not accustomed to fresh grass. Keep in mind that at the same time nutritious grass is thriving, weeds usually are as well. Using a book that identifies toxic plants, inspect your pastures and destroy any weeds, flowers or grasses that are poisonous to horses. Provide Shelter Horses pastured for long periods of time also need shelter to escape the elements, as well as insects in the summer months. Inspect the inside as well as the outside of shelters for loose boards, nails or siding. Shelters should be positioned so that they block the prevailing winds and rain, and should be large enough to accommodate all the horses.

About the Author: Ann Marie Henry is a riding instructor and horse breeder who enjoys educating novice horseman of the finer points to horse care and safety. In her youth she competed in a wide variety of equestrian events ranging from barrel racing to junior jumpers. Visit her Children Horse Books site to read more about horses.

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