Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Accident, Horse Trapped in Water or Mud

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

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

    Call 911 and your vet immediately when faced with this situation, and before you begin to help the animal. Emergency responders may not know how to handle large animals. Your vet can help coordinate rescue attempts and ensure the health of the animal.


    Keep the following points in mind:

    – Getting in the water with a panicked horse is dangerous. Put your safety first.

    – If a horse is stuck in a pond or pool, attempt to get a halter and long lead on it and lead it toward a shallow area or to steps where it can walk out. In a larger pond or lake, a boat can be useful for this, but it can also be dangerous as it can be capsized by a struggling horse.

    – An inflated inner tube around the neck or under the head may be helpful in deep water to ensure the horse keeps its muzzle clear of the water and can breathe.

    – For horses that are stuck in mud or quick sand, a large diameter (3/4″-1″) cotton rope can be tied with a bowline around the girth and over the withers can provide some forward assistance without putting pressure on the belly.

    – Do not ever pull a horse out forcefully by the head or neck.

    – For horses that have fallen into a septic tank or heavy mud, heavy equipment may be needed to create a trench or clear dirt away to allow the horse a path out.

    – For horses that have fallen into swimming pools, consider draining or pumping the water out to the point that the horse can safely stand.


    Your vet knows how to handle large animals in stressful situations. They are also the only individual who knows how to evaluate the health of the animal. In addition, in some cases horses will need medication, nursing care, sedation or general anesthesia. Only a vet can do these things safely.

    What Not To Do

    Do not attempt to handle this emergency alone.

    Generally, ramps are more of a hindrance than help. They are rarely strong enough to support the horse's weight and may break, worsening the situation.

    Avoid sedating a horse in this situation unless the horse is secured in a sling with its head out of the water.

    POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign


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

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


    Kellon E, Dr. Kellon's Guide to First Aid for Horses, 2nd ed. Emmaus: Breakthrough Publications, 2005.


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