Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
Horsemen don’t realize how heavy and large a horse is until it’s thrown against or under something. A simple tug on the mane of a cast horse will quickly reveal that the horse needs help.
Dr. Sally DeNotta is an extension specialist and assistant professor of large-animal internal medicine at the University of Florida. “A cast horse is dangerous and large, so you don’t want them in your stall alone.”
If a horse lies too close to a fence, stall wall or other solid object (or rolls over), it can be “cast”. The horse will then orient its legs towards the object and become “cast”. Horses must have enough space to roll on their stomachs and extend their front legs outwards to be able to stand. The horses then push their back legs forward and up, before moving onto all fours. Horses that have their legs folded against a wall without enough space to move or straighten their front legs will not be able to stand.
DeNotta stressed that a cast horse should be considered an emergency as the horse can become irritated and cause nerve damage or crush injuries to its muscles.
She said that it depends on the horse’s size and the hardness of the ground. It happens faster for large horses on concrete than it does for smaller horses in well-bedded stalls.
These injuries can occur in as little time as one hour. Horse owners often don’t know how long their horse has been cast.
Horsemen must quickly assess the horse’s temperament before they attempt to uncast it. Horses that are calm, level-headed, and able to be yanked when they’re lying down will not tolerate it. Call a veterinarian to calm the horse if it is anxious or if it seems agitated. Talk to the horse in a calm tone while you wait for the vet. After the veterinarian has administered the medication, the veterinarian can help uncast the horse.
What causes a horse’s cast?
Casting occurs when a horse lies down in its stall and rolls around. It could be a mistake on the horse’s end if it rolls up and then falls over, and ends up with its legs against the wall.
DeNotta stated that horses can sometimes become cast when they roll because of colicking. “That’s because their stomachs hurt and they don’t pay as much attention where they are rolling in the stall.”
Horses can get cast all the time, causing anxiety for their owners every time they have to place them in a stall. The horse may have a mental problem if the owner can eliminate poor stall construction or an ongoing medical condition.
DeNotta stated that it could be a lack of critical thinking skills and that he didn’t learn from his mistakes. I don’t know why he did it so many times, except that he was a regular outsider. He would find himself stuck if he continued his old habit of rolling up on the top and lying down. He didn’t realize that one thing lead to another.”
DeNotta advised that horses who are prone to getting cast should be stuffed heavily in their stalls.
Uncasting the horse
When dealing with a cast horse, safety is paramount. Cast horses can be aggressive and kick people trying to rescue them. Everyone involved in the rescue should stay close to the horse and not move away from it.
DeNotta stated, “I always advise people to grab the mane first and then make a big collective pull to try to pull the horse’s front end away form the wall.” You can injure his neck if you pull the horse by its head or by its halter. Pull the shoulders away from the wall by grasping the mane. You can usually get your shoulders back a little bit, so they can reach their knees and get their feet in front of the wall. If they can stretch their front feet out in front, they will be able to push off the wall and stand.
DeNotta advised against pulling on the horse’s tail to move it from the wall. This can cause serious injury to the horse’s head. DeNotta also cautioned horsemen against the popular method of roping the horse and pulling on it to move the horse over the wall. This method can be dangerous and risky, especially if the horse starts to thrash when the rope is attached.
She said that they could get the rope wrapped around their legs and injure themselves. You can pull their limbs towards you if they are pulled up toward you. Even if they are able to stand straight up, the rope attached to their leg when they stand can pose a danger.
Once the horse is freed by rescuers and is standing up, the veterinarian will examine the horse for nerve and muscle damage. This is especially important if the horse was kept for a long time or if it thrashed during the episode.
DeNotta stated that they can evaluate nerve function by watching horses move and blood work can be done to determine the extent of muscle damage. “Muscle enzymes will rise in horses that are down. This is why you’d expect them to rise even if the horse was lightly cast. They might be elevated in horses that have been suffering for a while and are subject to ongoing injury.
Blood tests are done to determine the levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and aspartate aminotransferase.
Get a scratch
Katherine Houpt, Cornell University emeritus professor and founder of the Animal Behavior Clinic, shared her insight on horses that are prone to being cast.
“Most horses will roll to scratch their backs. She suggested that the horse could be given a suitable sand pit, or any other surface to roll on outside of his stall. You might consider putting the horse in a paddock with only one horse or a companion horse if he is afraid of rolling in a group.
Houpt claimed she discovered a remedy for one habitualcaster when she suggested that the owner use a metal curry brush to groom the horse, particularly on the back, as she was doing her final stall check before heading out for the night.
She suggested that a surveillance camera be installed to monitor when the horse moves and how it casts. The owner can then take the necessary steps to stop it from happening.
Houpt also warned that if he rolls and doesn’t shake his head afterwards, he might be suffering from colic.
A veterinarian should be consulted if a horse has frequent episodes of colic, even mild ones. This will help the horse stop being cast.