For Love of the Horse

Knowing Your Horse

As a horse owner, I believe it is important to pay attention to every detail about your horse. If you know specific details, you will be “on top of it” if your horse gets sick.

Let’s face it, sometimes, horses just don’t get sick overnight. There are many instances in which your horse may show subtle symptoms that get worse and more noticeable over time. Sometimes, by the time you realize that something isn’t right, your horse is really sick.

Paying attention to details is important, even down to the little things that don’t seem like a big deal at the time. For instance, you may note on a calendar if your horses eye is swollen and watery one day. It may clear up in a couple of days and one may think that there was a foreign object that came out on its own, or that the eye was irritated by dust or hay. Just that one instance could be the beginning of Uveitis and you should make note. My Mustang mare had a swollen and watery eye once or twice a year for a few years. It cleared up quickly on its own and she never showed any sign of a problem with sight. One year, her eye did the same thing, but didn’t clear up as fast. When the swelling finally went down after about 5 days, I noticed that her eye was a bit “cloudy” looking. I immediately started treatment for Uveitis and she hasn’t had a swollen or watery eye since. The cloudiness cleared up and she never did have any issues with her sight. I still pay close attention to her eyes, just to make a daily mental note as to how they look.

Noting your horses normal temperature, respiration rate (both at rest and working), and normal pulse may be a saving grace if something is awry. Knowing your horse inside and out is key to catching a problem before it gets serious. It’s hard to note every cough or welt, but making a mental note will sometimes prove to be important later on. Even paying attention to their legs, under their stomach and tail, their coat, their overall conformation, feet, their weight, and how they move may allow you to catch something should they seem “off” or should something seem different. I watch my horses move and walk daily. I notice if there is even the slightest hesitation or limp. The faster I catch a problem, the quicker I can get it cleared up before it gets serious!

Also, noting overall temperament and daily energy levels will show you if something is wrong very quickly. If your normal “laid back” horse is excitable, there may be something wrong, and vice versa. If your mare is never “mareish” and typically has a good attitude no matter the “time of month” suddenly becomes testy, there may be something wrong. Write it down. Detecting a pattern is much easier when you have a comparison.

My mare's eye, now perfectly clear because I caught the problem quickly!

My mare’s eye, now perfectly clear because I caught the problem quickly!

It is so important to know our horses well, so that we can see even a slight change at a quick glance. Our lives are busy and it’s easy to just run out to do barn chores in the morning, half asleep and half rushing to get to work. Take that moment to look at your horse, REALLY LOOK at them. Make sure that they aren’t trying to tell you something is wrong. You’ll be happy to know you were paying attention when you catch a problem quickly and you are able to clear it up fast. Your horse will appreciate your attentiveness!