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The effects of heavy falls on horses *H&H Plus*

A hefty fall can leave a horse winded, but how do we know if he has suffered internal injury, asks Gil Riley MRCVS

After a heavy fall, it is important to establish what, if any, injuries the horse has sustained.

If he can’t stand, he may be winded – a spasm of the diaphragm as a result of sudden force applied to the abdomen – or have a broken limb or an injury to the spine or head. A horse who is merely winded should be back on his feet within 10 to 15 minutes. If he stays down, the likelihood is that much more serious damage has occurred.

A thorough examination should identify any architectural changes to the horse’s external anatomy. Failure to bear weight on a leg could indicate a broken bone or torn muscles in the proximal (upper) limb; moving the limb may result in crepitus, a grating sound or unpleasant sensation produced by friction between bone and cartilage in a joint or the fractured parts of a bone. Injury to the pelvic musculature or the pelvis itself can render a horse very reluctant to walk or weight-bear on one or more limbs.

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