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Canotila
10-09-2011, 09:15 AM
What are visible signs that a horse is exhausted? People always write about horses getting "froth" on their flanks when they've been running hard. Do they really? What does it look like? Smell like?

Do horses act different when they're really tired? What is their body language like?

Thank you for your time.

firedrake
10-09-2011, 11:45 AM
Off the top of my head:

Sides heaving
Staggering
Sweating - the froth tends to come from where tack is rubbing against the horse's skin, so around the saddle and girth and where the reins are in contact with the neck. Also between the back legs. It's white and slimy. It's hard for me to describe the smell of horse-sweat. It's very distinctive and I'd recognize it blindfolded.
Head down
Nostrils flared.

WriteKnight
10-10-2011, 01:46 AM
Firedrake nails it pretty much. I've seen horses froth around the chest as well, especially if you're using a breastplate - or if they've got a long maine. Also if their coats are longish.

You're talking about riding a horse to exhaustion, no? Yeah, heaving, head down, staggering. The sequence at the end of the new True Grit pretty well demonstrates riding a horse to death. (And no, they didn't harm or drug the horse - horses can be trained to stagger, and fall on cue. Frothing them up is part of the art department's job)

Horse sweat is very distinctive. Almost sweet, as it is from an herbivore. Pungent for sure.

Fenika
10-10-2011, 03:36 AM
Just keep in mind that some horses may froth long before they become exhausted, especially if they are ridden with contact (mouth).

shaldna
10-10-2011, 01:30 PM
What are visible signs that a horse is exhausted? People always write about horses getting "froth" on their flanks when they've been running hard. Do they really? What does it look like? Smell like?

Do horses act different when they're really tired? What is their body language like?

Thank you for your time.

There are two types of 'froth' - mouth froth and sweaty froth.

Mouth froth is produced in the mouth and is common in horses who are working correcting in contact. Some horses produce more of it than others, and you'll find that horses who play with the bit more produce more.

Sweat froth is white and sticky and smells very heavy and sweet and a little sharp. It mostly occurs on the chest and between the back legs, and looks like the pic below
http://imagebank.ipcmedia.com/imageBank/s/SWEATY%20HORSE%20web.jpg

This would be an indication that the horse is working very hard.

Other signs of a tired/ exhausted horse are flared nostrils showing red/pink, lack of enegry - head low and unwilling to go forward, they may seem off balance and stagger a little, but this can have more to do with dehydration than overwork - horses go through a serious amout of water when they sweat.

Nuwanda
10-11-2011, 07:21 AM
This is all really good information! I'm glad you asked this. I remember froth looked a lot like lathered up soap and it smelled like hot skin and organic stinking mulch, leather from the saddle and wet blanket all combined. A down right exhausted would have wobbly legs and walk with locked knees. Really staccato and forced in movement. It has been a while since I've had time with one though, but that's what I remember.

Canotila
10-11-2011, 09:14 AM
Thank you so much everyone.

A couple more questions for anyone that doesn't mind taking time to answer.

Dude is under a serious time constraint to get out of the area. If he doesn't, he and the horse are dead anyway.

However, he really likes his horse and needs it to travel a while longer once they're out of the danger area. He knows he's going to have to practically ride the horse to death to get out in time. How would an experienced rider pace the horse to cover the most ground while giving the horse the easiest time possible? If a horse is super exhausted would getting off and walking alongside it make any difference at all? Or would it be more productive to completely stop and rest for 10-15 minutes, then get back on?

Also, if a horse in that condition did collapse, how long would it last if nobody was around to put it out of its misery?

The horse is a rustic mountain horse (think kabardin type), and they're traveling mostly downhill if that makes a difference.

Nuwanda
10-11-2011, 06:37 PM
I think it would be better on the horse to walk along beside it, the rider is only added pressure on the back and kidneys. I think the lasting of the horse would depend on its age, but if it is used to mountain travel it might last longer.

Would the rider not take the time to shoot it? That would say a lot about his character and the gravity of the situation.

emmyshimmy
10-11-2011, 08:02 PM
Don't forget hot. You can feel the horse's heat radiating. The froth is generally not smelly, but horse sweat is smelly.

Determination
10-11-2011, 08:25 PM
Walking the horse in between would be best. You would never just let a horse that has worked hard stop and stand. This can cause 'tying up' a painful condition where their muscles stiffen and they are unable to move.

LadyA
10-11-2011, 08:58 PM
If a horse has their winter coat, sometimes it goes into sweaty little curls. Their coat also darkens with the sweat. They froth between the (for want of a better word) bum cheeks, below the dock, which isn't as dodgy as it sounds...
Sometimes they get a bit snotty too.

Canotila
10-12-2011, 03:20 AM
I think it would be better on the horse to walk along beside it, the rider is only added pressure on the back and kidneys. I think the lasting of the horse would depend on its age, but if it is used to mountain travel it might last longer.

Would the rider not take the time to shoot it? That would say a lot about his character and the gravity of the situation.

I'm trying to come up with a plausible scenario that will spare him having to kill his own horse since it's already much darker than intended. Plus he's already had some serious loss and I don't want to send him over the edge at the beginning of the story.

So the horse has to die. They get attacked. Would it work if the horse rears up and falls over, then tries to run away while the rider is defending himself? I'm kind of hoping that if the horse was tired enough and then frightened out of its wits badly enough to try and run, it might collapse on its own and have expired by the time he found it again. If necessary it could get wounded in the attack to hurry things along.

Thanks Determination! That's extremely helpful. Thanks again for the additional sensory info everyone.

Nuwanda
10-12-2011, 05:30 AM
So the horse has to die. They get attacked. Would it work if the horse rears up and falls over, then tries to run away while the rider is defending himself? I'm kind of hoping that if the horse was tired enough and then frightened out of its wits badly enough to try and run, it might collapse on its own and have expired by the time he found it again. If necessary it could get wounded in the attack to hurry things along.


All of those sound like good results to what you want, but don't hurry it or you'll end up cheeping the poetic moment. Is it a western or just a story with horses? I'm just curious :D

jeseymour
10-12-2011, 05:54 AM
Walking the horse in between would be best. You would never just let a horse that has worked hard stop and stand. This can cause 'tying up' a painful condition where their muscles stiffen and they are unable to move.

Actually, no. Here's a good link on Tying Up: http://www.vet.k-state.edu/depts/vmth/equine/medicine/tying.up.htm

Tying up is a muscle problem related to exercise intolerance and has nothing to do with not properly walking out. Not walking out, or putting a horse up hot, can cause founder though. If your exhausted horse survives this he might founder just from the overexertion.

If they want to cover a lot of ground without destroying the horse, he should trot rather than gallop. See endurance racing as an example.

jeseymour
10-12-2011, 05:56 AM
Oh - one more thing - how fit is the horse? The fitter the animal, the less foamy sweat you'll get. In a fit horse, the sweat will be more like human sweat, thin and watery. In an unfit horse, you get a lot of foam.

Fenika
10-12-2011, 06:01 AM
If you're trying to make it not-dark, why can't the horse just run the wrong direction? Say into the fire swamp :D

If you want the horse dead, go for it. A minor to minor-moderate wound would only add to the stress of the horse (and make it run faster to get away). A serious wound could ofc cause it to bleed out as it runs.

The horse could break it's leg right before it would drop from exhaustion anyways (clumsy, stumbles, snap).

Keep in mind most horses only run so far before thinking 'wait, I don't see that lion behind me any more, I guess I should slow down and see if it's kewl' so you need your horse to drop within about a mile or so.

And really, imo, not killing your horse but leaving it to die is MUCH darker than mercy killing. Even a knife to the artery, while not pretty (and a bit dangerous), is much better. Or at least try and go chicken shit and watch the horse die anyways if time allows. Just walking off is cold if he has time to find the horse to begin with.

If your MC doesn't try to help the animal stop suffering, or damn well try, you mega alienate me as someone who sympathizes with animals. Same if he left a baby with a fever to die with no wolves circling in (and even with wolves circling in, that's a nasty way for a baby to die, Classics be damned!)

Fenika
10-12-2011, 06:13 AM
Actually, no. Here's a good link on Tying Up: http://www.vet.k-state.edu/depts/vmth/equine/medicine/tying.up.htm

Tying up is a muscle problem related to exercise intolerance and has nothing to do with not properly walking out. Not walking out, or putting a horse up hot, can cause founder though. If your exhausted horse survives this he might founder just from the overexertion.

If they want to cover a lot of ground without destroying the horse, he should trot rather than gallop. See endurance racing as an example.

Didn't read the whole article, but not just exercise intolerance: http://www.equi-therapy.net/equi-therapy/horse-veterinary/azoturia-symptoms.shtml

And cooling down is important for preventing tying up as well.

Nuwanda
10-12-2011, 06:17 AM
Tying up is a muscle problem related to exercise intolerance and has nothing to do with not properly walking out. Not walking out, or putting a horse up hot, can cause founder though. If your exhausted horse survives this he might founder just from the overexertion.


Founder is when the bone pushes through the frog right? Thanks for posting that link :)

Determination
10-12-2011, 06:25 AM
Exactly Fenika! The article you linked to says this :


Another variety of this equine muscle cramping occurs at the end of very strenuous exercise such as racing.

I've owned horses for fourteen years - although as any good horse person knows there is always something new to learn and I'm always learning!

Canotila
10-12-2011, 06:52 AM
If you're trying to make it not-dark, why can't the horse just run the wrong direction? Say into the fire swamp :D

HA! If only. :)

I definitely agree with you on the mercy killing (and so does the MC). A mile or so would be about perfect distance-wise. He tries really hard to find his horse, and I just really hoped it would be plausible for the horse to be already dead by the time he reaches it. He's injured pretty badly himself, so it's more like, gotta find my horse, gotta find my horse... aww crap he's dead. *Sad. Curl up next to horse and expect to die too* I wish I could give more details but am hoping to submit the finished story to a contest and don't want to mess it up by getting too specific. Probably am just being paranoid though.

The horse is in darn good shape, so it sounds like he might not sweat foam all that much after all.

Thanks for the links.

BellaRush
10-16-2011, 05:38 AM
What is the climate? A horse in uncontrolled circumstances can die of heat stroke. A horse doesn't have to be exhausted to lather - you'll see racehorses going to the post lathered behind their hind legs or on the neck where the lines make contact. It's from nerves/excitement. A fit horse that is exhausted doesn't necessarily lather, but a fit horse can die from heat stroke if it is not recognized and/or treated promptly.

Founder is not an acute condition - it develops over time, beginning with acute laminitis.

And recent research on tying up has brought a lot of new insight into the condition. Google "exertional rhabdomyolysis" for more up-to-date info.

And....a horse can lose a lot of blood before it dies from bleeding out. I had a horse sever an artery once, and the vet, and subsequently the surgeons who operated to repair the artery, assured me she was nowhere near in danger of that, though the way the blood pumped out of that injury was pretty dramatic!

Of course the horse could have a heart attack....that's not uncommon, and would be very believable under extreme exertion. Allows you to have the MC find the horse already dead, and not have to euthanize him/her. :(

Fenika
10-16-2011, 06:46 AM
Founder is the lay term for laminitis, which can be peracute to chronic.

And yeah, a big puddle on the floor is nothing to a several hundred lb hooved animal. I've watched some calves bleed after castration.

Fenika
10-16-2011, 06:54 AM
Actually, something irked me about founder vs laminitis so I looked it up. We are both right. They can be exchanged or founder (to sink below. In this case the bone from the walls of the hoof, driving through the sole) can result from laminitis (inflammation and unzipping of the laminae or layer that holds the bone to the wall)

Founder can still be acute in extreme circumstances and laminitis can be chronic, often leading to nasty deformity.