Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Accident, Horse Fell through Ice

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    Do not attempt to rescue your horse yourself because the danger of falling through the ice is too great. Likewise, your solo efforts may only cause your horse further stress. If your horse’s head is out of the water and they are breathing and alert, simply try to keep them calm. Generally, horses can swim but if they are fearful or have never been in water before they may exhaust themselves in panic.

    Call your vet, 911 and animal emergency response team (if there is one in your area). Work with this team to ensure a safe rescue of your horse. Depending on the resources available to your rescue team, you may be asked to provide a variety of items, including mats, rope, straps, pulleys, or other heavy equipment, such as a tractor. You may also consider gathering together blankets to dry off your horse and begin to warm them once rescued. If possible, the best solution is to cut a path at least 3 feet wide through the ice to a shallow area where the horse could walk out.

    Your vet will ensure that the rescue team’s handling of your horse is appropriate and, to the extent possible, not injurious. They will work to keep the horse calm and cared for during the episode. After the rescue, your vet may conduct a full physical exam on your horse to determine what kind of injuries were sustained, if any, and try to help prevent or lessen the full impact of illness that may result from the accident.

    If your horse was trapped in the water for a long time or sustained any gross trauma, nursing care may be required. Depending on your horse and the nature of the accident, behavioral issues may result.

    What Not To Do

    Do not attempt to handle this emergency alone.

    Do not sedate the horse.

    Do not pull the horse out by the head, because injury can result.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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