Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answering a Cast(ing) Call

By Darlene M. Cox

As a horse owner, one circumstance you will most likely encounter will be assisting your horse when he becomes ‘cast’, which means when he has laid down in some fashion and is unable to get his feet under him in order to stand.

A horse can be severely injured and even die if he lays cast for a long period of time.

Horses are not designed to lie down for a long period of time and will have difficulty breathing if cast very long. Weight and the physical make up of his body will put a lot of pressure on his lungs causing suffocation. A horse may also twist a gut when thrashing around trying to free him. Cuts and abrasions may also be sustained from his struggles.

Casting situations may present themselves in a variety of ways. A stalled horse may find himself cast when he lies down and rolls. This most often will occur in stalls with dirt floors that have a dip or swale in them. The horse’s back will be in the depression with his hind feet against the wall. A similar scenario can happen in a paddock or field, with the horse finding his legs cast under a fence railing or through the wire mesh. Occasionally, a horse will find himself cast in a field when he lies down on an incline with his head pointing downhill and feet uphill. I’ve most often seen field casting in mares heavy in foal and older arthritic horses. I’ve even seen a horse cast in a trailer.

Depending upon the horse, this can be a pretty scary situation, both for the horse and his owner. Desensitizing your horse to having his feet entangled or held down by something will be valuable training if he finds himself cast, as he will remain calm until help arrives to free him from the predicament.

Don’t panic if you find your horse cast. Assess the situation before going in and trying to free up your horse. If your horse is in a panic and is thrashing his legs wildly, do not get around his feet, as you could be seriously injured. Cover his eyes with something (e.g., a towel), as this will be somewhat calming, and speak softly. In some casting situations, moving the horse’s head and shoulders will be enough for him to get his feet under him and allow him to stand. For others, it may be necessary to pull a leg or two around. Do not directly approach your horse’s legs. Instead, it is best to approach your horse from behind his back and loop a rope around the fetlock of the leg that is against the ground (or wall). Occasionally, you may need to loop ropes around both the front and rear ground-sided legs. Do not tie the rope. The loop will prevent the horse from injury as he struggles to stand or if he becomes more panicky. A tied rope may tighten causing injury or your horse may become further entangled in the rope whereby exacerbating the problem and causing additional panic. Once the loop(s) are in place, simply pull the horse over and away from the object that may be casting him. Step back quickly after you have rolled the horse free, as he will be in a hurry to stand.

Once your horse is standing and has calmed down, assess him for any injury that may have occurred from any struggles while cast. Pay particularly close attention to the heel bulbs, coronet bands, fetlocks, pasterns, knees, and hocks. Check for cuts, abrasions, and swelling.

I hope this article will be helpful to you if you answer your cast(ing) call.

Happy Trails!

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