Horses often are victims of accidental injury. Their outgoing nature, social hierarchy, heightened flight response and handling and confinement by humans puts them at increased risk of trauma. A fairly common and usually catastrophic injury of horses is trauma to the head resulting in fracture of the skull.
A skull fracture can occur in several different scenarios. A horse can rear, flip over, and strike its head on the ground. One can be struck on the top of the head by a hoof during play in the pasture, or a horse can run directly into something such as a tree or low lying limb.
The most common cause of an equine skull fracture is from a horse striking an overhead object. This can be a low barn door frame, a trailer opening, or a hayloft that is not built with horses in mind. (often from converted cow barns) Please make sure that there is adequate head room for your horses in their stalls and also in the entryway to their stalls.
The head of a typical adult horse weighs in excess of 40 pounds. This, coupled with the long neck placing the head well outside the center of mass, causes the head to strike the ground with tremendous force during a fall. The speed and strength of a horse can result in severe impact of the head against an object when rearing or running.
The clinical signs in horses suffering a skull fracture included refusal to stand, seizure, paralysis, blindness, rapid eye movement, coma and death. Hemorrhage from the nose or an ear was sometimes observed. Medical treatment was usually attempted; however, the horses often died or the severity of the injury necessitated euthanasia.
Fractures can involve several of the different bones comprising the skull. The occipital bone was most commonly fractured sometimes couple with a fracture of the basisphenoid bone. Fractures of this type are typical in a horse that flips over backward, striking its head. In contrast, running into an object or being kicked was associated with fracture of the frontal bone. Other bones fractured in this type of injury included the parietal, temporal and zygomatic bones. Fractures of the frontal bone were often associated with hemorrhage into the frontal sinus and nosebleed.
It is important to recognize that horses are susceptible to this type of injury and how serious head injury can be. Special care is warranted when handling extremely nervous or “flighty” horses so that they are not put in situations or an environment where injury is more likely to occur if the horse becomes unruly or panics.
This article helps Heart of Phoenix To grow a community of knowledgeable, rational HORSE People and potential adopters who make great homes for horses in transition looking for their new address. As affiliates of the #RIGHTHORSE, we want to spread the word about good horse care and equip potential horse owners for their journey into equine adoption.