It is understandably upsetting when your horse is recumbent (down) and cannot rise. If you have a horse that is down, properly handling and restraining the horse may prevent further injury to the horse or people trying to help. Regardless of the cause, these horses can be dangerous to themselves and humans, so handling techniques are good to know. Dr. Rebecca Husted, from Large Animal Emergency Rescue, spoke at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, saying that recumbent horses are difficult to safely restrain and are often in dangerous places when this occurs, such as horse trailers or small stalls. It is easy for the person or the horse to get injured. Because of the danger, it is a good idea to have protective equipment available such as helmets, boots, and gloves.
If you have a down horse in a cramped space, call your veterinarian to sedate the horse to decrease the chance of injury. It can be difficult and dangerous to sedate these horses and sedation drugs may not be as effective due to the horse’s increased stress. Placing a pad or blanket over the horse’s head helps to prevent damage to the head and eyes, and hopefully decreases their fear. Avoid standing in dangerous areas such as directly in front of the horse, between the horse's legs, or behind the horse since the horse could still paw or kick while lying down causing injury. The goal is to try and get the horse sitting sternal so they can then stand up easier. Although previously it was common to put a knee on the horse’s neck and tip the nose up to keep the horse from trying to stand, this can be dangerous. It is recommended to put a halter on the horse and hold a lead rope while standing, placing your foot on the horse’s upper neck, and tipping the nose of the horse up with the halter. It can be stressful to manage a down horse, but with these tips, you can improve your safety and help your horse.