How can I hopefully prevent my horse from getting cast? What can I do if he does get cast?
A horse that is cast is awful to see - and even harder to listen to. Cast is a fancy word for stuck - as in stuck up against the wall with legs pinned between the wall and the belly. You will likely hear the hooves smashing and sliding along the wall as your horse searches for a way to right himself.
How can you prevent this? There are a few options out there for you to consider. First, it’s important that the bottom few feet of your stall or pen walls be solid. And I mean solid. No slats, no openings, no gaps, no cracks. This does not guarantee no casting, but it helps to prevent legs and hooves from getting stuck and mangled in pipes or wire. A solid surface also gives your horse a chance to get a foothold if he is cast, which may help him right himself. Pipe corrals can be modified by adding wood to the bottom of the pens.
For the most part, there are two types of horses out there - those that cast themselves all the time (I have known a few), and those that do it once in a lifetime (also known a few of those, too.) I once helped a cast horse stuck on a slight hill, she was stuck with legs uphill in a HUGE field and didn’t have the sense to just roll over. Luckily, her attempts to get up moved her body so that she was finally able to put the front legs out and get up. This is not so easy in a stall.
Banked stall walls encourage your horse to sleep in the middle.
You can start by banking your stall walls. This is only more expensive in the initial set up - you are not removing and adding the walls on a daily basis, so the amount of shavings you scoop with waste isn’t any more than a flat stall. Banked walls create a bowl for your horse to sleep in, and the banks can help prevent his legs from getting totally stuck if he rolls into the wall, as he won’t be able to roll over that far.
There are also some wall attachments that you can use. These are typically 3 or 4 feet high off the ground, and mimic banked stalls, except they are made of a durable material. They stick out 8 inches or more from the stall walls, and are usually angled in a manner similar to shavings banks. These have the advantage of also providing grip for your horse, often the stall walls are slick and horse shoes and bare hoofs can’t find a grip to push off from. Other stall wall attachments are just a strip, which provide the grip. My preference is the angles and grippy stall wall attachment, this is more of a preventative.
A more antiquated form of prevention is the use of a tie stall, in which the horse is simply tied so he can’t lay down near the wall! There are some modern tie stall systems in which there is more freedom to move and lay down, just not near the wall.
Adding some sort of grip to the stall walls is also an option, but best if used in conjunction with banks. Just using grippy rubber mats has worked in some barns that I am familiar with. If you have a pipe corral, consider creating a solid lower perimeter of wood and then cover with rubber and banks.
You can also use an anti-cast surcingle, which your horse would wear all the time in the stall. It is designed to prevent your horse from rolling over, so it would not work if he decided to lay down with feet and nose to the wall. (Let’s hope he’s smarter than that…)
If for some reason, you find your horse stuck, there are a few schools of thought out there. One is to hook the legs with rope and pull your horse over. JUST NO. I’m going to say that this is the easiest way for you to get seriously hurt, and please don’t ever try this. Here’s why. You are reaching over a 1,000 lb animal with flailing legs to tie ropes to it. Then, you are flipping it over, which puts the flailing legs directly in your lap. Please don’t try this!!
Instead, grab mane, neck, forelock, whatever you can, near the poll and pull towards the center of the stall. What you are doing is allowing the hip to act as a hinge, and you are using the neck as a lever to allow the front legs some space. This also keeps you out of the way of these legs. (Remember that a horse gets up front legs first).
Call your Veterinarian and describe the circumstances to get a treatment plan. Even if all seems fine, your horse may have been cast for hours and may benefit from some treatment. Many horses appear fine once up, but have serious injuries after being cast. This is especially true if you find your horse cast in the morning, you have no idea how long he has been stuck. Please just call the Vet!
It’s also a good idea to talk with your Veterinarian and team mates about their suggestions for dealing with a cast horse. Having a plan ahead of time is the best thing to do!