Every day, do a daily horse checkup. This first impression of your horse can tell you a lot about her general condition.
Is she agitated or apathetic? Uninterested in her favorite horse treats? Look at her posture and behavior. Experience will help you interpret many of these subtle equine behaviors, but trust your gut if you think there’s a problem. You probably know more about horse health than you think!
When you feed her in the morning, check to see if she finished her last meal. If she didn’t finish her feed but will eat her horse treats, there may be a problem with the feed or the bucket. Clean the feed bucket and offer some fresh horse feed. If she refuses all feed and treats, it could be colic. Call your vet and refer to our Horse Colic Preparedness Report.
Do a body check whenever you bring her inside. If she is outside all the time, do a body check at each feeding. To do a body check, scan her body from head to tail. Use your hands and eyes, looking for cuts, swellings, heat or anything abnormal.
Pick out her hoofs, feeling for heat during the process. Heat in a hoof should be watched carefully. Do not allow this condition to persist beyond 24 hours. Call your farrier or veterinarian immediately if the heat seems excessive. Check for loose shoes if she’s wearing them. Hooves grow at different rates at different times of the year, so your farrier’s schedule may have to be adjusted occasionally. Look for bruising or wounds. Give her hooves a sniff; stinky feet can be a sign of equine thrush.
During the spring and summer, keep a close eye on skin problems. Skin disease can spread quickly if you don’t start treatment immediately.
Grooming is a good time to check for potentially serious conditions. Clean around the eyes, ears and nose and check for anything unusual. Discharge? Watery eyes? Keep YOUR eyes open! Work your hands down her legs, looking for swelling or irregularities.
When you bring her in from the field or turn her out, watch to see how she moves. Is she walking normally? Does she seem to be favoring one leg? Look for obvious swelling or wounds. Check her hooves for rocks. If there is no obvious source of lameness, stall your horse and call your vet. Until you have a clear and accurate diagnosis, do not ride your horse.
Being mindful of your horse’s condition and behavior during routine daily chores is often the first line of defense against illness or injury. Spending a few extra minutes doing a daily horse checkup to note any abnormality may identify a simple problem that could turn into a much larger one.