Horses are talented at getting themselves hurt. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways. A horse lays down in a puddle to cool off, only to find there is no traction, and the suction from the mud is holding in down, making getting up impossible. In this article, we will discuss what to do if your horse is stuck in the mud.
What to Do First
If you find a horse stuck in the mud, immediately call emergency services (911 in the United States). Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc. offers training for nationwide and international emergency response services, such as fire departments, rescue squads, law enforcement agencies, emergency management, county, and state emergency response teams and animal control officers. You can contact them about available classes or hosting a class on their web site. Next, please call your veterinarian.
Horses are prey animals. They have survived for thousands of years by running away from predators. A horse trapped in mud will panic and work themselves to exhaustion trying to get out. Injury can be muscle strain, broken bones, or even death. Suppose the horse is lying on its side, approach from the back, away from the legs. If he is upright, with his rear end stuck, try to approach from the side.
What to do While You Wait for Help
Keep the horse calm. It is vital that the horse remains as calm as possible and does not go into circulatory shock. Circulatory shock is a failure of the cardiovascular system to provide enough oxygen to the organs and tissues. It can quickly lead to death.
Keep the horse’s head elevated above the mud and any water. You could use a board or hold the horse’s head. But do not use the halter or bridle to stretch the neck if it can be avoided.
What Help Will Do
Once help arrives, they will work on getting the horse something solid for traction. This may be a commercial rescue board or simply a piece of plywood. In some cases, gravel may need to be added.
Next, they will decide on the best and safest way to get the horse out. If they decide to pull the horse forward, they will put wide straps around the barrel, and possibly behind the horse’s rear end. Pulling from the barrel and rear encourages the horse to move forward while protecting his neck and spine from further damage. A horse should never be pulled out by the tail, legs, or neck. If the rescue team decides the horse needs to be lifted, they will put straps around the horse’s barrel. The straps are attached to a piece of machinery, such as a crane or backhoe. The horse will then be lifted out of the mud. The horse is usually sedated for this.
The horse will probably be wobbly at first and get their momentum back quickly. However, it is crucial that your veterinarian does a full exam.
Advice From Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc
In an interview with Horse Nation Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc had the following advice:
These are the most common five mistakes horse owners make when responding to emergencies:
- Assuming they should be the animal handler:many horse owners or horse-lovers who respond to a scene are far too emotional to be right up close and personal with the horses in these situations. As an analogy, just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you would be invited to help paramedics and firefighters working on your child.
- Getting too close to the animal:horse owners tend to overestimate how much their animal “loves them,” and then anthropomorphism leads to dangerous body positioning and extrication approaches. Animals don’t think in these situations; they react. Although the horse may not intend to injure you, it can easily do just that in a struggle to save itself.
- Believe that if the animal is just “lying there” that it will not move:animals will initially struggle to the point of exhaustion, appearing to relax in an attempt to catch their second (or third, or fifteenth) wind. The slightest stimulation may initiate another period of thrashing, and triggers the time in which many animals more seriously injure themselves.
- Assuming a rescued animal is OK after rescue:once the animal is removed from the incident and it walks off and eats some grass, many people assume the animal is OK when in fact, its condition is about to spiral downward. Stress-induced conditions can kill the animal. Appropriate and immediate treatment can help a horse — an amazing example is Neville Bardos’ story, who was injured in a barn fire and recovered to be named the USEF International Horse of the Year.
- Exhibiting the Ostrich Syndrome, or “it won’t happen to me”:statistics show that the two most common emergencies that occur for horse owners are trailer wrecks and barn fires. Next is a horse getting trapped in or on mud, fences, ditches or other around-the-farm situations from which they cannot extricate themselves. These events happen very commonly to horses on farms large and small, wealthy and poor, well-run and not so well-managed. They can happen to you! Educate yourself in ways to minimize injury to your animals, and increase your riding time with your horses.
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When our horses get hurt, we want to help. However, pulling a half-ton animal out of the mud by yourself is impossible and dangerous to you and the horse. Luckily, there is training and equipment available for emergency services and veterinarians to help us out. If your horse is stuck in the mud, be sure to stay calm, keep the horse as calm as possible, and ask for help.