Horsekeeping can be a tricky business. Horses can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well, running a fever, or are generally not happy. So it’s up to us caretakers to watch for the nonverbal clues that our horse may not be feeling well.
Get to know your horse’s habits and note when they change. Almost every horse has a routine-they may urinate before they eat, sleep in a particular corner, or prefer one type of hay to another. Develop a feel for those habits and you’ll know a lot about your horse.
Habit 1: On a daily basis, note how much, the texture and color of your horse’s manure. If it changes-becomes watery, or there’s less of it, or it’s somehow discolored, check your horse’s vital signs and consider putting a call in to your veterinarian.
Habit 2: Watch the patterns your horse creates in his stall bedding. Is he circling? Pawing? Long stripes of disturbed bedding may indicate that he’s pawing-a sign of potential stomach upset.
Habit 3: How quickly does your horse eat? Does he finish his entire meal at once or prefer to eat in a more leisurely fashion? If his eating habit changes suddenly for no apparent reason, check it out.
Habit 4: How does your horse behave in the pasture? Does he graze alone or with his group? A change in pasture habits may indicate that something isn’t right.
A good handle on your horse’s behavior will help you notice changes before an illness becomes serious.