View Full Version : horse health

08-30-2010, 11:06 PM
So, I know a lot of horse people, but not one of them would I dare ask this question to. They would never look at me the same way again.

If you wanted to intentionally make a horse lame, how would you do that? I am looking for both (relatively) humane and cruel possibilities. Are there ways to do that without killing the horse?

The horse in my story is unshod, and old but not unfit. Someone is about to ride away on it and someone else desperately wants to prevent them from leaving, but is not quite up to killing outright. This is in the middle ages.

Sorry if this has come up before. I believe there are a good number of horse questions in this forum, but I felt this one might be unique.

08-30-2010, 11:20 PM
One of the 'Don' novels by Mikhail Sholokov had a scene where an old cossack didn't want his horse taken by the army. He drove a nail somewhere through the horse's lower leg, beneath the knee. Damned if I can remember where. But as soon as the army left, he removed the nail and the horse was fine.

Kenra Daniels
08-31-2010, 02:46 AM
A stone lodged tightly in the 'frog' of the hoof could make the horse lame as long as the stone is in place. A stategically placed nail in the 'quick' of the hoof could do it too. The nail would be my choice because it would heal pretty quickly once removed and the risk for permanent damage is relatively low. A sharp blow with a hammer to the sole of the hoof, causing a deep bruise would lame the horse for a longer period of time.
If you wanted to permanently damage the horse, inducing founder or laminitis, by overfeeding grain would be pretty simple. Laminitis in the acute stage is laming, though once that stage passes, with proper hoof care, horses can live a relatively normal life.

08-31-2010, 06:59 PM
Why is the horse unshod? Was it not used for work? What's the terrain of your area? Shoes, in most circles, are considered crucial hardware for any horse in work. At least in the front.

There are too many ways to lame a horse, and usually the horse does a fine job of it themselves!

Minor, but significant: As mentioned above- a nail to the white line, a Small bruise, whack them in the muscley part of the hindquarters (muscle heals fast but you'll limp pretty good for a few days. Hitting the meaty part of the back end prevents damage to nerves and tendons and joints)

Potentially lethal (over days or weeks): Target those joints (infection) tendons (particularly low down where tendons are massive) and nerves (higher the better if you want a dead horse). Cause mechanical or dietary laminitis. Hoof abscess (okay, these will heal in time, but a nasty one could cause laminitis in another foot if not treated and left to rot)

Break a leg.

Wedge something under the shoe. Pull the shoe before a big bruise occurs. Twist the shoe.

Trim the horse just a little too much over the sole. Tenderness will last about two days, and shoeing won't help.

Teach the horse to limp on command.

Whack a non critical bone- the wing of the coffin bone, a splint bone. Horse will be lame but most likely heal fine in time (a month or more for a fractured wing of the coffin bone. Note this isn't weight bearing but hurts. And someone coming in might think it's an abscess brewing).

If you actually want to lame the horse to death (tendon, joint, nerve in particular), send me a rep to come back and elaborate.

Another is a 3 inch nail in the back of the hoof. In those times they had no good way to get it out and prevent infection of the navicular bursa. Even today it's not a great prognosis after surgery is done to correct it.

08-31-2010, 07:38 PM
Thanks so much for your input. I thought I would post a few more details, and see what you think.

The horse is a retired warhorse owned by a single father who used to be military, now he's a poor widow farmer with a teenage daughter. He clings to the past and won't use the horse for work even though he ought to, but rather treats it more gently than he does himself or his daughter.

Their kingdom is being overrun by an invading army and the three of them end up in a city with the army on the way and they need reinforcements, so the man volunteers to be one of the riders sent out. There's a blacksmith who is about to take the horse away to shoe it before he goes, but the daughter is so distraught over the idea of him leaving her alone in the city that she goes to the stable and is considering damaging the horse somehow as a means of preventing him from going.

So, overfeeding isn't really an option, nor I think is mis-shaping the toe or probably even taking a mallet to the underside of the foot, although that's probably something she would do if she felt the horse would let her. They have always had an antagonistic relationship, so he probably wouldn't let her pick up his foot. Sounds like a solid whack to anywhere between the knee and the top of the hoof would make it limp long enough to be unrideable for a couple days, or a sharper blow to the muscle underneath the rump if he tries to turn around and kick her? (Could a girl punch hard enough to do that, or would you need to hit it with something?)

With medieval-grade vetrinary medicine, could a horse with a broken leg be saved, or would it automatically be put down?

08-31-2010, 09:52 PM
With medieval-grade vetrinary medicine, could a horse with a broken leg be saved, or would it automatically be put down?

It depends upon the city's food sources. [sarcasm]

Kenra Daniels
09-01-2010, 01:55 AM
A beloved companion animal might have been put to pasture to see if it would heal for a non critical fracture like Fenika mentioned.

Where I live, very poor rural area, even with modern vet medicine, a horse with a serious fracture would likely be put down. I've seen horses with non critical ones put out to pasture in hopes they would heal, often resulting in permanent lameness.

It's unlikely the girl would be able to punch hard enough to lame the horse by punching a muscle. If I was writing it, I'd probably have her whack him around the top of the hoof. There would be some swelling and heat, and since he's a much loved horse, it's unlikely he'd be ridden far that way. The father wouldn't know what's causing it so would fear the horse having some serious issue that would only get worse on the road.


09-01-2010, 05:28 AM
Old gypsy trick. (And film trick too for that matter.)

Take a long hair from the tail - that will match the color of the fetlock.
Tie the hair TIGHT up around the base of the fetlock.
The horse will constantly lift and 'fetch' the leg - trying to get it off.
Can't be easily seen - will 'look lame'.
Will not be discovered by a cursory glance.
WILL be found my someone diligently checking for it - so it won't work if they have time to check.

09-01-2010, 05:42 AM
A boxer would have a hard time whacking a horse hard enough to make it limp. Not just due to sheer mechanics, but b/c horses can take a little bit of a beating and walk it off pretty quickly (they kick each other all the time). A girl would need a really solid hammer or similar to deliver a strong blow to a small focal area.

Going for 'anywhere' between the knee and the hoof is damn risky. Chip injuries may not heal (heck, even hairline fractures sometimes go wrong long term). A nasty blow to the tendon can cause fibrosis and long term lameness.

Plus, no horse is going to let you get a second crack at them if the first hit wasn't strong enough to get the desired result ;) A hammer to the haunches is risky for getting yourself kicked, but not too risky, depending on the horse. Plus it can be done OVER a stall door or something VERY solid.

Which reminds me- your chick does not want to end up like this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnaW62uKwg8
(turn down your volume- the sound effect is added in and meh...)

Write Knight has a great suggestion but I'm wondering if your gal is smart enough or was able to pick this trick up from somewhere?

09-01-2010, 04:14 PM
One of the 'Don' novels by Mikhail Sholokov had a scene where an old cossack didn't want his horse taken by the army. He drove a nail somewhere through the horse's lower leg, beneath the knee. Damned if I can remember where. But as soon as the army left, he removed the nail and the horse was fine.

but IN REAL LIFE the horse would have been lame for several days at least, possibly weeks, and the likely resulting infection (most probably tetanus) would kill it.