Protect your horse’s hips

Take a few simple precautions to reduce your horse's risk of door-to-hip collisions.

Teaching your horse to walk calmly into his stall or through other doorways isn’t just a matter of enforcing good manners, it will reduce his risk of potentially serious injury to his hips.

Consistently enforcing good ground manners will reduce the risk of a horse hurting himself or his handler during turnout.

A horse who rushes through a doorway and bangs his hindquarters on the door, gate or wall can bruise the area or even break the bony process we call the hipbone. These types of injuries can lead to short-term soreness or long-term lameness depending on the force and angle of the collision. What’s more, if the horse brushes against a protruding latch or other sharp feature of the door, his skin can be lacerated or deeply punctured.

Most of the time, however, door-to-hip collisions do nothing more than scrape a bit of hair off and cause some brief soreness. If your horse runs into a doorway, check the area for full-thickness skin wounds and extreme tenderness, then trot him to look for signs of lameness. If you find any of these, consult with your veterinarian.

If your horse looks fine, check him again 12 and 24 hours later. If he has developed any soreness or lameness by then, he may have injured himself more than you first thought and a call to the your veterinarian is in order.

You can prevent most doorway injuries by taking a few precautions. Start by regularly reinforcing good ground manners, insisting that your horse follow you calmly through doorways without barging ahead. Also, make sure that you open all doorways fully when horses will be walked through. Finally, ensure that all latches are pulled back flush with the doorway when open. Ideally, the latches will be designed and installed to never protrude beyond the door itself, but if they are not, you’ll want to be extra cautious that they don’t pose a hazard.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #471

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