A cast horse should always be considered a medical emergency. The sights and sounds of a cast horse struggling to free himself are hard to describe to a person who doesn’t know anything about horses. Just the word “cast” can tense up a horse lover. When a horse becomes cast, then he is prone to all sorts of injuries and possibly death. It is essential that a cast horse is freed as quickly as possible.
“Cast” is another word for “stuck.” While sleeping or rolling, a horse’s legs become caught either under a fence or up against a stall wall. If the horse’s forelegs are folded so that the knees are wedged between the stall wall and the body, then the horse cannot move. The horse thrashes about in order to free herself, but usually only winds up getting more injured in the process.
The main danger to a cast horse is damaging one or more of the legs during the thrashing about. Legs, knees, hooves and tendons can become damaged due to blunt force trauma, or even cuts and breaks should a horse succeed in kicking through a stall wall or stall partition. If a horse kicks a solid wall often enough, something is going to give. Unfortunately, it’s usually the horse’s leg.
Since horses rely on their legs more than people or dogs do, the permanent loss of the use of just one leg often spells the end of the horse’s career. If the horse’s owner doesn’t want to keep a lame horse, then the horse may be put down.
If a horse is panicked, then the entire body will be thrashing about. Some horses can get so panicked that even pain will not slow them down. A horse in a stall could get a damaged eye from bedding getting stuck in it and yet keep on thrashing. If the neck and head are whipping about, then blunt force trauma can happen to the neck or head, as well as cuts and bruises.
The spine is also under risk of injury because it is taking a lot of weight as the horse tries to free itself. The shoulder and hip that the horse is laying down on will bear most of the weight and can get scraped, cut, sprained or even fractured.
Cast horses have been known to colic or they may have been in the beginning stages of colic when they decided to lie down and have a roll. In mild forms of colic caused by gas, a couple of rolls can help relieve pain, although generally a horse showing colic symptoms should not be allowed to roll. Whether a horse has colic before or after getting cast, it is crucial that they get help immediately or they could die, especially if they are in the worst possible type of colic, twisted gut, where parts of their intestines die due to lack of blood flow.
Horses cannot lie down on their sides for long periods of time because the blood begins to pool in their lungs. If a horse is cast and no one helps to free him, in several hours he could die of suffocation.
Horse and Hound. “Coping with a Cast Horse.” Karen Combe, MRCVS. http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/horsecare/1370/60813.html
Ultimate Horse Site. “Helping a Cast Horse.” http://www.ultimatehorsesite.com/info/casthorse.html
You Tube. “The Cast Horse (Stuck in a Stall.)” Geoff Tucker, DVM.