‘They won’t stop horses getting cast’: vet’s warning over bedding banks

An equine vet is warning horse owners that building banks against the sides of a stable will not necessarily prevent a horse from getting cast.

Dr Kieran O’Brien, a senior vet at Penbode Equine Vets in Tavistock, Devon said although it is traditional to bank the bedding, “the evidence suggests this will not usually have any beneficial effect other than providing some protection if a horse does become cast”.

“They are almost entirely decorative, and may be making things worse,” warned Dr O’Brien.

Other downsides to banking bedding are that fungi will grow in the undisturbed areas.

These can release spores into the stable air, which are breathed by the horse and might cause airway inflammation, pointed out Dr O’Brien.

The experienced vet and H&H contributor posted his bedding article on the practice’s Facebook page, and thousands of people viewed the post.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response,” said Dr O’Brien.

Some commenters suggested banks were created not to cushion the horse when it gets cast but to encourage the horse to lie in the centre of the stable.

“Video recordings of sleeping horses have shown when they are rising they often make a rolling motion when they stand up. This could explain why they are found cast against the side of the stable in the morning, often in spite of the presence of banks” said Dr O’Brien.

To prevent casting he said the best solution is to fix a wooden batten or rubber anti-cast strip about one metre from the floor around the stable walls.

The horse’s feet will be able to get a grip on the strip, and it can then push itself away from the wall.

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“People will still use banks for cushioning effects but it’s important if you do use them the bedding in the banks is kept fresh so fungi don’t proliferate there,” he said.

The size of the bank is also important.

“The bank won’t stop a horse getting cast unless it is very big and wide, and most are neither,” Dr O’Brien said.

Do you agree, or do you build banks for other reasons? Email hhletters@ti-media.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and address; letters may be edited).

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