What, again? Of all the horses in the barn, yours is the one that’s managed to find the one stray piece of baling wire in a 5-acre turnout. So much for that competition next weekend. Oh, yes, and so much for that new bridle/jacket/small appliance/home decorating item you were about to buy. Junior’s vet bills will have to take priority—again.
Last month he was the one that got his hoof caught in the one hole nobody had noticed in the wall no horse ever stands by. Before that, he was the one that scraped the skin off his cannon bone on who-knows-what in a sand paddock. And since you’ve had him, he’s been the one horse in the barn that’s managed to smack his head on a sky-high door frame, get tangled in his own blanket, snag his lip on a gate latch, and roll onto the half-buried horse shoe your friend’s horse threw two weeks ago that no one had been able to find. The list goes on, and you ask yourself, why is it always my horse?
Sound familiar? Before you lock him in a padded stall, and before you start scolding him for not playing nicely like everyone else, remember this: You’re not alone. Even if it feels like it, your horse isn’t the only one who needs to be Bubble-Wrapped. There always seems to be one in every barn … and there are lots of barns out there. So that makes for plenty of horses finding trouble.
In this article we’ll speak with sources who have experience with accident-prone horses to get their take on how to manage these special characters. And we’ll place particular emphasis on best ways to avoid problems—for his health and your wallet—in the first place.
Oh, he’s a character all right. And his preponderance for getting into trouble might actually be related to his character. The accident-prone horse might be a naturally curious horse, says Léa Lansade, PhD, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research’s behavior science department, in Tours. Essentially, if curiosity kills the cat, it might also be pretty good at injuring the horse.
“I can’t say exactly why, but it’s quite probable that the most curious horses are the ones most likely to get themselves in these situations where they’re always hurting themselves,” she says. “Since curiosity is a personality trait, then there’s certainly a link between these tendencies and personality.”
Christine Aurich, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian who owns a Bubble-Wrap-worthy horse, agrees. As head of the Graf Lehndorff Institute, in Neustadt, Germany, and professor of artificial insemination and embryo transfer at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, in Austria, she sees a lot of horses. But her very accident-prone chestnut gelding stands out both in personality and capacity for trouble.
“He’s curious, he’s funny, he’s intelligent, and he just gets bored very easily,” Aurich says of her 11-year-old homebred German Sport Horse, Stromboli. “He likes to play and find things to play with. But that means I end up having to treat injuries two to three times a year.”
Stromboli is also a very tall horse, standing 18 hands. And she believes his height could contribute to his risk. “Many owners I know with tall horses say they have to deal with a lot of accidents,” Aurich says. “Getting up and down is harder, and it’s a longer way to fall. They take up more room when they roll and have these long legs able to run into things. Their gaits are big and beautiful but swing more, cover more ground, and make them go faster, so they’re more susceptible to traumatic injury. In fact, everything with them just seems to be more … traumatic.”
Of course, some horses, like some people, might be naturally clumsy, regardless of height, she adds. They might also be more prone to injury if they’re overly playful or pastured with a horse that is.
Herd rank might play a role, as well, says Rebecca Gimenez, PhD, president and primary instructor at Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, in Macon, Georgia. A lower-ranking horse can injure himself trying to get out of the way of higher-ranking horses. In a sense, she says, these lowly horses are almost “forced” to be accident-prone—especially if they get stuck, for example, between fencing and a dominant horse.
A compounding factor could be coat color, says Aurich. Chestnuts, like Stromboli, have more sensitive skin and an increased risk of infection. So when they injure themselves, they might be more prone to developing wound infections.
This article continues in the February 2019 issue of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care. Subscribe now and get an immediate download of this issue, including this in-depth feature on how to keep your Bubble-Wrap-worthy partner as healthy and safe as possible.