I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people that obsesses over my horse. He’s 25 years old, retired, navicular, and far too easy a keeper for my liking. As he’s gotten older, his age has definitely caught up to him. Honestly, all this has turned me into a paranoid mess where he’s concerned.
Over the years, I’ve practically memorized his normal behavior, and whenever he does something unusual—like not nickering six million times while I’m walking to the barn—it sends me into a fit.
“Omg! Something’s not right. My horse is dying. Call the vet, 911, and probably a priest, too! All hands on deck! This is not a drill! I repeat: This is NOT. A. DRILL!”
While that may seem a little, ahem, much, it’s entirely necessary. Deviations in a horse’s normal behavior, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, can reveal a lot about your horse's health.
I used to have a Paint mare, Peggy, who was a total prima donna. She didn’t like to roll, wasn’t big on laying down, and bath time was her favorite thing ever. Unfortunately, she was a few handfuls too much for 14-year-old me, so after sending her to a trainer and having her sent back, we sent her back to her breeder.
A few years later, we found out through the breeder—also a close family friend—that she had colicked and died. Apparently, the folks that bought her (or possibly the folks that owned the barn where they boarded) saw her lying down in the rain—a thing she NEVER would have done normally—but didn’t think anything of it, so they went to get pizza. After they got back & they saw she still wasn’t up, they called the vet, but it was too late.
Peggy may have had her bitch moments, but no horse deserves to go out like that. Knowing your horse and how they behave on a daily basis can help prevent catastrophes like Peggy.
While all horses have their own unique quirks and personality traits, there are a few tell-tale signs that you can keep an eye out for:
- Not eating or drinking
- Nosing at the stomach
- Excessive sweating
- Labored breathing
- Rolling without shaking afterward
- No fresh manure
- And, of course, deviations from your horse’s normal behavior
Additionally, knowing what a horse’s vitals are and having your vet’s information handy in case of an emergency are also important, which is why I put together this horse health guide for you to use. I suggest printing it out on plain computer paper, filling it out, framing it, and hanging it up somewhere in the barn where it’s convenient and easy to access for everyone.
As a bonus, I’m not even doing the usual blogger thing and asking for an email address in exchange for the download because I believe every barn should have something like this hung up no matter what.
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