The Horse

FEB 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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16 February 2019 The Horse | He's "Special" Oh, he's a character all right. And his preponderance for getting into trouble might actually be related to his char- acter. The accident-prone horse might be a naturally curious horse, says Léa Lansade, PhD, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Insti- tute 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 capac- ity for trouble. "He's curious, he's funny, he's intel- ligent, 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," Au- rich 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 peo- ple, might be naturally clumsy, regard- less 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 Strom- boli, have more sensitive skin and an increased risk of infection. So when they injure themselves, they might be more prone to developing wound infections. Can You Provide Too Much Protection? As tempting as safely tucking your horse away from all possible harm might be, it might just make things worse. In fact, overprotection might be at the root of the problem, says Gimenez. "I often wonder how many horses aren't looking out for themselves because the owner tries to take over managing the horse's ev- ery step," she says. "Sometimes I think we make it so safe that it's actually less safe." If you're making your horse's world extra safe by "taking out every rock and tree and low spot in the pasture," she says, you could unintentionally be teaching him to be accident-prone. "Mine have access to the woods, the pond, the trees, and hills, and they have places to go that don't have big holes to fall in but are interesting. They have to think about staying on the trail or watching where they put their feet." THE ACCIDENT-PRONE HORSE Stromboli's size (he's 18 hands) and natural curiosity mean he has a penchant for finding trouble. COURTESY DR. CHRISTINE AURICH If curiosity killed the cat, it might also be pretty good at injuring the horse

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