A horse is defined as a large, four-legged animal with a flowing mane and
tail of long, coarse hair. Domestic horses have always been an important part of
human life. Years ago, horses were a part of everyday life; they were needed for
transportation, agricultural use, and in battle. Today we have cars, tractors, and
tanks, but horses have remained as a close companion to people. Horses have a very
complex body that needs constant care. The most important structure in a horse's
body are its legs, unfortunately the legs are very delicate and become lame easily
from bone fractures, joint disorders, and ringbone.
In order to be able to care for a horse when it is ill one needs to know how the
horse normally looks and acts (Smith 63). A daily exam should be done on the horse
to look for soft swelling, thickening of tendons, hard lumps, and any areas of heat
A check to see if there is a strong digital pulse on the pastern should
also be done; that would show increased circulation which leads to inflammation
(Smith 63). Hooves also need a very thorough examination (Smith 63). The jaw,
neck, withers, and shoulders should also be checked for any sensitivity (Smith 64).
Any abnormal enlargements or hollows in muscles should be looked for (Smith 64).
A good test for sensitivity in the back is to press along the spine; the horse should
hollow its back, but not flinch (Smith 64). Hips can be checked by pressing the
tailhead, if the horse does not swing his hips something may be wrong (Smith 64).
Look for any changes in posture, like pointing a foreleg, holding a leg to the
side, resting a leg on a toe, or leaning backward or forward (Smith 61).