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View Full Version : The correct way to help a downed horse get up?



sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 10:43 PM
So, I had a bit of a scary event at the barn today while I was working.

I was cleaning stalls, and glanced out just as the 29 year old went down for a roll. He's shedding and itchy, nothing strange there. Finished the stall I was working on, went back out to dump the wheel barrel.. and he's still down. Not rolling now, just laying there.

So I gave him another minute while I put bedding in the stall, thinking perhaps he was just gonna doze. But then when I went back out, he did not look like he was napping. He just looked.. off.

I went out there, started hollering a bit, telling him to get up. He grunted a bit, tried to sit up (he was laying FLAT), but his legs were not wanting to bend. At this point I was a few feet from him, behind him so I wasn't in range of his legs if they started flailing.

I waved my arms at him, kept telling him to get up, basically trying to be enough of a nuisance to him to keep him trying to get up and get away from me. He kept trying to roll up, but his legs just weren't cooperating. :(

Just as I was about to go back inside and grab a leadrope to put around his neck and give him a tug, he was able to finally roll with enough momentum that his legs just kinda tucked under him. After another REALLY LONG eternity of a minute, he was up.

I was alone on the property, the BO was at church and no boarders were there yet. I have no idea what I would have done next, honestly. :(

So, COTHers, I need to know. Horse is down, you're the only one there, what do you do to safely get him up? I know the dangers of getting hurt myself while trying to help the horse is also a concern.

Daydream Believer
Apr. 5, 2009, 10:51 PM
Honestly, by yourself, I'd not try it. You could get hurt and then no one to help you. The ONLY way I could think would be to use a hoist with a tractor to help lift a horse somewhat with a sling but again, by yourself that could be very risky with both heavy equipment and an unpredictable horse involved.

On possibility I would try is to try and roll the horse over if he might have a bad leg on the side he's down on and that is why he can't get up. Get two long leads and wrap them around the front and rear legs and you **might** be strong enough to roll him over...generally again that is a two person job.

It sounds like this old horse might be having some quality of life issues...perhaps his owner needs to take that into consideration?

sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 10:53 PM
Honestly, by yourself, I'd not try it. You could get hurt and then no one to help you. The ONLY way I could think would be to use a hoist with a tractor to help lift a horse somewhat with a sling but again, by yourself that could be very risky with both heavy equipment and an unpredictable horse involved.

On possibility I would try is to try and roll the horse over if he might have a bad leg on the side he's down on and that is why he can't get up. Get two long leads and wrap them around the front and rear legs and you **might** be strong enough to roll him over...generally again that is a two person job.

It sounds like this old horse might be having some quality of life issues...perhaps his owner needs to take that into consideration?

I agree, but he's kinda on the line on it.. he still likes to eat, and gave me attitude once he was up. But he's not my horse, so it's not my call. The owner is aware of it, that's all that can be done at my end.

Daydream Believer
Apr. 5, 2009, 10:59 PM
I agree, but he's kinda on the line on it.. he still likes to eat, and gave me attitude once he was up. But he's not my horse, so it's not my call. The owner is aware of it, that's all that can be done at my end.

I'm not being critical..just making an observation. I know how hard it can be to let one go. I just lost a beloved old dog this week and it was so hard to quit trying and know it was his time. :cry:

sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:05 PM
I'm not being critical..just making an observation. I know how hard it can be to let one go. I just lost a beloved old dog this week and it was so hard to quit trying and know it was his time. :cry:

I definitely understand. He's not at the point where it's like, "Oh my goodness, why is that horse still around?" At least he's still got some appetite (right after I got him up, he went to eat!), bosses around his pasturemate, etc.

Thanks for the advice, though. Sounds like my best bet was to call the BO and just hope he answers. We have a loader that could be used to lift him in a sort of sling, but I'd not be comfortable doing that myself.

Equsrider
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:15 PM
I had a boarder with a huge 17.3 percheron/TB that had bad hips.He'd been in my care for almost 10 years so I knew his problems well.At about age 13 he began having problems getting up, just like you described...After several incidences of that scenario out in the pasture I came to be thankful it hadn't happened in his stall. Sadly at the age of 15, it happened! I went out to feed in the AM and he was down in his stall in serious distress. He had obviously tried so hard to get himself up for quite some time.When i went in his stall I left the door open and he struggled again to get up moving himself half out of the stall.I called the vet out and she said she could get him up, but that perhaps it wasn't the best thing to do for him.I agreed. I called the owner and asked what she wanted to do and she asked my opinion.Needless to say we put him down...right there, half in and half out of the stall!! What followed next was Horrible as you can imagine!!I feel your pain. It is a scary situation and heartbreaking as well, but your safety comes first. If you're alone and can't get him up call the vet, he can come and assess the situation and call the owner if need be to discuss a course of action...

sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:18 PM
I had a boarder with a huge 17.3 percheron/TB that had bad hips.He'd been in my care for almost 10 years so I knew his problems well.At about age 13 he began having problems getting up, just like you described...After several incidences of that scenario out in the pasture I came to be thankful it hadn't happened in his stall. Sadly at the age of 15, it happened! I went out to feed in the AM and he was down in his stall in serious distress. He had obviously tried so hard to get himself up for quite some time.When i went in his stall I left the door open and he struggled again to get up moving himself half out of the stall.I called the vet out and she said she could get him up, but that perhaps it wasn't the best thing to do for him.I agreed. I called the owner and asked what she wanted to do and she asked my opinion.Needless to say we put him down...right there, half in and half out of the stall!! What followed next was Horrible as you can imagine!!I feel your pain. It is a scary situation and heartbreaking as well, but your safety comes first. If you're alone and can't get him up call the vet, he can come and assess the situation and call the owner if need be to discuss a course of action...

How horrible. This oldster lives outside, thankfully. His shelter is big enough where there would be no getting stuck anywhere. Thank goodness for that!

So sorry you had to experience that. Those 5 minutes of getting him up were like an eternity for me, I can't imagine that entire ordeal you went through.

silver2
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:28 PM
If they can't get up all the way but can roll up on their chest you can prop them in that position with straw bales while you get more help. That allows them to rest semi-upright and maybe eat and drink a little before trying again. It also keeps them warmer if they're down in the mud or cold and you can even put a blanket on as long as you have someone to stand there and keep an eye while you use the phone.

LarkspurCO
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:34 PM
I don't know if it was correct, but when my horse was in severe pain and could not get up on several occasions, this is what I did:

Approached from the back side and put a halter and lead rope on him (he was resting sternal). Held the lead rope near the end and moved around to face him, looking at him more or less head-on. Yelled and screamed at him to get up. When he got his front feet out and planted, I set back and held onto the rope and and applied a steady tension. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough traction to help him pull himself up. He's a big boy and I'm not all that strong.

This was in the pasture, not a stall.

greysandbays
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:36 PM
There's two kinds of "can't get up": 1) Can almost make it, and 2) Not Gonna Make It.

For the first, sometimes (if the horse is not huge) you can help him with a good boost on the tail. For the second, you need some kind of mechanical help.

As a forewarning, many old horses will have what seems to be an isolated "trouble getting up" episode that instead marks "the beginning of the end". They seem fine when you get them up and they seem to have no trouble afterward, but just about the time you think you can stop worrying about them, you find them down for good.

sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:37 PM
I don't know if it was correct, but when my horse was in severe pain and could not get up on several occasions, this is what I did:

Approached from the back side and put a halter and lead rope on him (he was resting sternal). Held the lead rope near the end and moved around to face him, looking at him more or less head-on. Yelled and screamed at him to get up. When he got his front feet out and planted, I set back and held onto the rope and and applied a steady tension. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough traction to help him pull himself up. He's a big boy and I'm not all that strong.

This was in the pasture, not a stall.

That I could've done. I will have to remember that, thanks. :)

sublimequine
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:38 PM
There's two kinds of "can't get up": 1) Can almost make it, and 2) Not Gonna Make It.

For the first, sometimes (if the horse is not huge) you can help him with a good boost on the tail. For the second, you need some kind of mechanical help.

As a forewarning, many old horses will have what seems to be an isolated "trouble getting up" episode that instead marks "the beginning of the end". They seem fine when you get them up and they seem to have no trouble afterward, but just about the time you think you can stop worrying about them, you find them down for good.

This guy gets checked on quite a few times a day, so if goodness forbid he's down again, he won't be down for long before someone finds him.

amastrike
Apr. 5, 2009, 11:58 PM
About a month ago, my barn's 32 year old went down to roll and couldn't get up. He was laying in the mud for a while, and of course the ring he was in is right next to the road. Quite a few cars went by with the driver going ":eek:" looking at this apparently dead horse with a handful of people standing around it. But thankfully, our farrier stopped by to help. Using his method, we had the horse up in a matter of moments. Here's what he did:

1. Put three lead ropes on the horse's halter (chin and two side nose rings). Have three people holding the lead ropes standing by the horse's tail.
2. Pour water in the horse's ear.
3. As horse starts struggling to get the water out, PULL the lead ropes. And maybe have some people pushing up, too.
4. Gasp in amazement as the horse gets up.

Yes, the farrier poured water in the old guy's ear. Yes, we were a little horrified.. but it worked.

I can't imagine anyone getting a truly down horse up alone. One person just can't move 1000+ pounds of horse.

sublimequine
Apr. 6, 2009, 12:06 AM
About a month ago, my barn's 32 year old went down to roll and couldn't get up. He was laying in the mud for a while, and of course the ring he was in is right next to the road. Quite a few cars went by with the driver going ":eek:" looking at this apparently dead horse with a handful of people standing around it. But thankfully, our farrier stopped by to help. Using his method, we had the horse up in a matter of moments. Here's what he did:

1. Put three lead ropes on the horse's halter (chin and two side nose rings). Have three people holding the lead ropes standing by the horse's tail.
2. Pour water in the horse's ear.
3. As horse starts struggling to get the water out, PULL the lead ropes. And maybe have some people pushing up, too.
4. Gasp in amazement as the horse gets up.

Yes, the farrier poured water in the old guy's ear. Yes, we were a little horrified.. but it worked.

I can't imagine anyone getting a truly down horse up alone. One person just can't move 1000+ pounds of horse.

That's interesting, never heard of that! Thanks for the input. :)

So it sounds like general consensus would be to perhaps prop him up on a bale of hay until I could get someone else there to help?

CosMonster
Apr. 6, 2009, 12:12 AM
Yeah, especially if the horse is in a safe spot, the best course of action is to prop them up if possible and call for help. I've helped two horses up using LarkspurCO's method, and I think it is dangerous to do by yourself and in retrospect I wish I had just waited for someone else to get there. Both horses were really thrashing a lot and for me to be close enough to help, I was in danger of being kicked. It's horrible and scary, but as long as they aren't struggling and are safe, it is best to wait.

If they are struggling or in a dangerous place (like halfway out of a stall, under a fence, whatever), it just depends a lot on the situation--if they're almost able to get up it is probably good to help if you can do so safely, but sometimes you just can't.

ETA you posted while I was typing! So yes, I agree.

FindersKeepers
Apr. 6, 2009, 07:15 AM
The best thing to do in these scenarios is get him propped up on his chest if you can. Then if it's cool outside, toss a cooler, sheet, etc on tope of him to keep his muscles warm. If he's been struggling to get up and then gets too tired to try, his muscles will sit, get cold, and stiff from the acid build up, so keeping him warm will help prevent him from creating a new problem. Then call for help. At least 2 people is best, but the more the better. (as long as they don't crowd him and scare him)

In the handful of cases I have been around, a quick shot of banamine makes a big difference in their ability to get up. In all but 1 case, the horse easily got up unassisted 15-20 minutes after administering. But all those cases they were found seconds after rolling and realizing they couldn't get up, it was warm outside, and they didn't have any serious injuries or health issues, just were old and got their legs mixed up.

thatmoody
Apr. 6, 2009, 07:38 AM
That water in the ear trick is an old one - I remember my grandfather doing it on one of his racehorses who used to sull and lie down when she didn't want to work. This was up in Maine, and the water is COLD up there right out of the well, and Gugs (my grandfather's nickname) went and got a bottle, and poured it right into the horse's ear! She came shooting up (I was holding the leadrope, and was only about 5, and I remember it quite clearly) and shook herself, but didn't do that again. I would imagine it would electrify one!

I've had them go down, and sometimes if you can get them up on their chest they can rest enough to gather the energy to stand. Improving the footing sometimes helps, too - if they're in mud pack some shavings around them (or old carpet scraps, or anything) to give them some purchase.

Worse yet, I had a mare get stuck in some really deep mud one time when I was out working cows on the river. It took another horse with a rope to pull her out, with me screaming and beating on her the whole time. I could never have gotten her out if I'd been by myself.

sublimequine
Apr. 6, 2009, 01:10 PM
The best thing to do in these scenarios is get him propped up on his chest if you can. Then if it's cool outside, toss a cooler, sheet, etc on tope of him to keep his muscles warm. If he's been struggling to get up and then gets too tired to try, his muscles will sit, get cold, and stiff from the acid build up, so keeping him warm will help prevent him from creating a new problem. Then call for help. At least 2 people is best, but the more the better. (as long as they don't crowd him and scare him)

In the handful of cases I have been around, a quick shot of banamine makes a big difference in their ability to get up. In all but 1 case, the horse easily got up unassisted 15-20 minutes after administering. But all those cases they were found seconds after rolling and realizing they couldn't get up, it was warm outside, and they didn't have any serious injuries or health issues, just were old and got their legs mixed up.

That's exactly what happened, thanks for the input. :)

draftdriver
Apr. 6, 2009, 01:59 PM
Held the lead rope near the end and moved around to face him, looking at him more or less head-on. Yelled and screamed at him to get up. When he got his front feet out and planted, I set back and held onto the rope and and applied a steady tension. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough traction to help him pull himself up.

I saw something similar done with a large Belgian gelding who was down in deep snow, in harness. It took him a LONG time to get sorted out, but every time he tried to rise, forward tension was applied to the lead rope. He finally managed to get up, none the worse for wear, thank goodness.

Bank of Dad
Apr. 6, 2009, 02:31 PM
Thats really scary. In 1999, that happened to my 30 yr old mare, several times in a week she was down, all outside. The first two times we did the rope thing, pulled her over and she got up on the other side. The third time, she and all the other horses got out when the vet left a gate open, they went across the street to eat the new neighbor's grass. She laid down there and the new neighbor woke me at 6 am. The other horses didn't leave cause she couldnt. I pushed her up as much as possible with straw bales and tires, finally lit a piece of newspaper on fire and blew the smoke at her, and a passerby and I pulled her up. I put her in a big field and when she went down two days later, we put her down and buried her where she lay. She was the bombproof love of my life.

apcohrs
Apr. 6, 2009, 07:37 PM
My horse paniced in the cross ties and went down on a concrete aisle. We cleared OUT of the way while he flailed about, trying unsuccessfully to get traction.

After he finally gave up, we tried pulling on the lead rope, but he still couldn't get up. What finally worked was pulling on the lead rope AND pulling on his tail. He was able to get his feet under himself and got up.

Liz2642
Apr. 6, 2009, 09:06 PM
I work with an equine vet and have helped with quite a few down horses. I have never done it by myself, but at times it has been just me and the vet. I would agree with propping the horse up on hay bales and keeping him sternal (on his chest). If the horse has been down on one side for a long time, try flipping him over with lead ropes on his down legs like someone else suggested. The legs on the down side can get tired or numb if he's been down for a while. If you can get him sternal, pulling his front legs out in front of him so they are straight out instead of tucked under his body can really help. I wouldn't try anything more than this by myself. You can very easily get hurt. Machinery can be help, but only when used the right way. Here in Massachusetts, we have the MSPCA Equine Ambulance program. They are trained to help horses in these situations and are wonderful people to work with.

sublimequine
Apr. 6, 2009, 09:18 PM
I work with an equine vet and have helped with quite a few down horses. I have never done it by myself, but at times it has been just me and the vet. I would agree with propping the horse up on hay bales and keeping him sternal (on his chest). If the horse has been down on one side for a long time, try flipping him over with lead ropes on his down legs like someone else suggested. The legs on the down side can get tired or numb if he's been down for a while. If you can get him sternal, pulling his front legs out in front of him so they are straight out instead of tucked under his body can really help. I wouldn't try anything more than this by myself. You can very easily get hurt. Machinery can be help, but only when used the right way. Here in Massachusetts, we have the MSPCA Equine Ambulance program. They are trained to help horses in these situations and are wonderful people to work with.

Unfortunately I don't think we have anything like that in Illinois, especially here in central IL, out in the boonies.:(

Thanks for the advice though! :)

I love COTH. I feel so much more prepared for an emergency situation now. :)

tbgurl
Apr. 6, 2009, 09:39 PM
I've been faced with the same situation, and this is what I did, although I would NOT recommend it:

35-year-old stallion was down in his pasture and couldn't get up because he decided to lay down on a hill and his legs were pointing up the hill. I was all alone, with no idea when the BO would be back. Watched the stallion for about 15 minutes, until it became clear he was not able to even get up onto his sternum. I took two lead ropes, attached them to his bottom legs, and rolled him over so his legs would be pointing down the hill (I tried it from the uphill side, and realized I was directly in the line of fire if he flailed, so I had to roll him TOWARDS me, which scared the cr*p out of me since I envisioned him rolling down the hill at me). Then once he was pointing down the hill I realized after watching him a while longer that although he was on his sternum, he wasn't getting up on his own. This was the really stupid part. I got up next to him and pushed against his shoulder with my shoulder as hard as I could, encouraging him to stand up. He finally started standing up but had to lean on me the entire time he got his legs under himself and pushed. Fortunately he was a smallish Arab so weighed maybe 800 lbs. but at that moment I realized how dumb I was and how easily I could have been crushed, all by myself, alone at the barn. I was happy he got up, though. A few months later he went down for the last time. He was the sweetest old boy I've ever known and I still miss him.

Penthilisea
Apr. 7, 2009, 10:47 AM
I agree with all, when repeated often this can be a horses way of telling us that it is "time." I boarded with a n old warmblood who was doing it once a month, then once a week then after the third time in one week we knew it was time. He had a bad habit of lying down on a hill and getting stuck. One time he rolled up against a mesh fence. If a horse is prone to this and quiet, I would put fleece lines hobbles on all four pasterns so ropes can easily be attached and the horse can be flipped. Getting them up off their side is key- rub the legs, keep em warm, spread hay for traction, etc.

Pat Ness
Apr. 7, 2009, 11:24 AM
Agree with pulling straight back hanging on to the tail to help them balance when they start trying to get up. My vet gave me this advice when my wobbler was having problems.

mjrtango93
Apr. 7, 2009, 11:31 AM
Unfortunately getting a lot of practice with this lately, we have a 31 year old larger fellow who's owner doesn't want to admit he's checking out on her. We have found him down and stuck about 4 times in the last couple months, but he is stalled not out in pasture. The first time it took 3 people an hour to get him up, the next time it took 2 people about 30 minutes, then the last couple times we are back up to an hour and anywhere from 2-5 people. If he looks like he's been trying a while we just rock him sternal and give him some banamine, hang out like that for about 15 minutes, and then start pushing and pulling. He typically just wears out and if he gets enough of a rest can get up assisted. Just makes you feel bad doing the arm flapping, yelling thing at the poor old man, but thats all we can do to get him motivated enough to help us get him up. The last time you could tell he just wanted us to go away :no:.