Having a pet of any species is kind of like having a child to many people, or at the very least, it is like having another small or large, furry, scaly, or feathered member of the family. In the case of owning or caring for a horse, it can be very similar to caring for a small child in the amount of attention and care it requires (though, its all on a much larger scale for a much larger creature!). Horses, like small children, can be accident prone, and it’s important to know what common things and places can be potentially dangerous.
In this article, we’ll look at a few of the things that can easily give horses cuts and talk about how to fix or avoid them.
- Stall Problems
- Sharp Edges
- Space Issues
- Pasture Problems
- Sharp plants and bushes
- Other dangers
- What to Do
Most horses spend a lot of or most of their time in their stalls. They sleep, eat, and are generally in there when they’re not outside, and while stalls are usually good places for horses to be, they can contain dangers that can cause injury.
Because stalls have a lot of wood, nails, and other materials used in their construction, sharp edges are very common. You wouldn’t want to step on a nail, would you? Well, neither does your horse. You wouldn’t want to have them sticking out of the walls of your house, would you? Ditto for horses. Look for nails sticking out of jointures in the walls and loose nails on the floor, and make sure that your horse’s stall is free from them. Nails can cause minor injuries, like small cuts and scrapes, but they can easily cause more serious issues such as deep puncture wounds in the soft sole of a hoof or tetanus if the nails are dirty/rusty. If a nail point is protruding through a jointure or board, consider replacing it with a shorter nail or filing down the protruding part until it is flush with the wood. Regularly clean stall and barn floors to make sure that there are no sharp or dangerous objects there. Some other sharp edges that can harm your horse include:
- Damaged hinges and latches to stalls
- Protruding wires
- Torn buckets or feed tubes
All of these can have dangerous edges that pose threats to horses and should be replaced or repaired immediately.
In addition to sharp metal, sharp wood can be just as dangerous to a horse. Splintering stall boards can have small, sharp protrusions that can cut or puncture your horse. Unfortunately, one of the major causes of rough wood in stalls is a result of the horses themselves: chewing.
Many horses like to chew on wood, and this behavior is the result of a few different stimuli. The horse may be nervous or bored, hungry, or it can simply be a habit. (Sometimes, a horse can pick up the habit after observing other horses doing it… just like a little kid copying their friends.) Not only can this be dangerous to your horse externally, it can be damaging internally if they happen to swallow wood chips or pieces. Stomach and mouth splinters: not good. Wood chewing can also mean that you have to replace the boards often, which can be both labor-intensive and costly.
To keep your horse from chewing the wood in their stalls, you can try a few things. First, you should determine why they’re chewing. If they’re bored or hungry, try giving them more feed or soaking their hay before giving it to them to bring out the sweeter taste and nutrients. If that doesn’t work, your horse may have a vitamin deficiency, and you should consult a veterinarian. You can also try to turn them out to pasture more to alleviate boredom. If stall boards are rough, try sanding them down to a smooth finish. If you can run your hand over it without any splinters or sharp spots, it will be safe for your horse. Finally, another solution to splinters warrants its own section below.
If a horse’s stall is too small, then it increases the chances that it will brush up against walls, hit its head on a ceiling, etc. and this can put them into contact with sharp wood, metal, and more. A horse’s stall should always be at least 12’ X 12’, and if larger areas are possible, it should be larger. Ceilings should be high enough that a horse has extra room even if it rears up, so typically 9’ or more is best. A horse that can move freely will have fewer chances to contact any sharp edges or splinters and minimize the risk of injury.
Your horse can encounter many dangerous things when they’re outside. Some of these things, like sharp rocks or dangerous topography, cannot be easily changed, and it may be best to move the limits of the pasture to avoid them. Other things, like plants present or fence types you can change, and you may need to.
Sharp Plants and Bushes
This may seem silly at first, but it’s true that there are plenty of dangerous plants out there. Thistles have sharp thorns, juniper bushes have spiny foliage, and brambles and briar can be very dangerous. If it’s sharp enough that you don’t want to touch it, then your horse shouldn’t be touching it either. Weed your pastures regularly to remove things like thistles and other spiky weeds and remove dangerous bushes and plants. Yes, we know that rose bush is pretty, but it shouldn’t be inside the pasture.
Fences to pastures and paddocks can have a lot of the same issues that do because they can have sharp nails, splinters, sharp wood, wire, etc. The best thing to do is check it regularly for any of these dangers and remove them.
There are plenty of other causes of scrapes and cuts, such as other animals, other horses, and freak accidents. Just try to keep an eye on the pastures for signs of other small animals that may be territorial (like groundhogs, certain birds, and other animals), and make sure that the horses you put out to pasture together get along.
What to Do for Injuries
Even with the best of vigilance, horses can still get scraped up. If your horse is injured, check the wound, and if it seems deep, wide, or longer than three inches, you should see a vet. However, if the cut is shallow and small, you can treat it on your own. Gently cleanse it with soap and water, then apply a wound spray like Fauna Care Equine Silver Spray to expedite healing. Don’t cover the wound with bandages, and check it daily for signs of infection or complications. With proper care and attention, you can minimize the risk of injury for your horse.