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Why Do Horses Cast and What Can You Do About It?

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After adding new stall shaving, I often return to find my horse lying against the wall, thrashing about and trying to get up. This behavior, known as horse casting, can be scary, especially when it happens to your best buddy. But what causes a horse to cast, and how can we address this behavior?

Horses cast for different reasons, including lying down too close to a stall wall or other object, experiencing medical issues or pain, being kept in poor conditions, or experiencing stress or anxiety. When a horse casts, it lies on its back and thrashes about to get up, which can be dangerous for the horse and anyone close to it.

This article examines the various reasons behind horse casting and provides practical tips for preventing and managing this behavior. By understanding the causes of horse casting and taking steps to prevent it, we can help ensure the safety and well-being of our horses.

What is horse casting, and why does it happen?

Horse casting is when a horse lies on its back and thrashes around, trying to get up. It typically happens when a horse is lying against a wall with its feet in the air and kicking. This can be scary to witness because often, the stuck horse struggles violently, kicking the stall walls, which could cause it to get severely injured.

Picture of a horse casting and man trying to flip him.
Rolling a cast horse.

Here are several potential causes of horse casting:

  1. The most common cause of horse casting occurs when a horse lays down too close to a stall wall or other solid object and can’t rise.
  2. Medical issues or pain: Horse casting can signify discomfort or pain. If a horse is experiencing lameness, colic, or other medical issues, it may exhibit this behavior to alleviate the discomfort.
  3. Boredom or lack of stimulation: Horses are social animals that require mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. If a horse is not getting enough stimulation in its environment, it may start exhibiting destructive behaviors such as casting.
  4. Poor management or housing: Horses need ample space and comfortable living conditions in order to thrive. If a horse is kept in a small, cramped space with poor bedding, it may exhibit problematic behaviors like casting.
  5. Stress or anxiety: Horses are sensitive animals that can become stressed or anxious in response to changes in their environment or routine. If a horse is experiencing high levels of stress, it may start exhibiting behaviors like casting as a way of coping.
  6. Poor training or handling: If a horse has been trained or handled poorly, it may start exhibiting behaviors like casting to express discomfort or resistance.

Below is a helpful YouTube video about horse casting.

How can I prevent my horse from casting in its stall?

It’s difficult to stop a horse from casting in a stall. Some things you can do is provide the horse with a spacious, well-ventilated stall with comfortable bedding and keep your horse at a healthy weight. Ensure it always has access to clean water; regular exercise and turnout are also important.

Also, ensure your stall wall has no gaps your horse’s feet could get stuck in. I also pack dirt and shavings from the stall floor up about two feet against the walls. Another method is to build the bottom of your stall walls, so they angle out.

And finally, there are some commercial products designed to put on your horse that will prevent them from rolling onto their back. Besides these methods, it is also essential to ensure that the horse has plenty of space and stimulation in its environment, such as toys and other mental and physical stimuli.

If the horse is experiencing medical issues or pain, it is important to address these issues as soon as possible with the help of a veterinarian. Training the horse using positive reinforcement techniques and gradually acclimating it to new situations can also help prevent stress-related behaviors like casting.

However, I’ve been dealing with this issue in one of our young horses and have tried numerous ways to keep him from casting. However, he gets excited, rolls around in his fresh shavings, and gets stuck on the stall floor. Typical preventive methods haven’t worked.

Here is a picture of him going for a jog; we pulled him up this morning. I don’t expect to ever get a picture of him when he cast because taking a photo is the last thing on my mind when he can’t get up.

Picture of a horse sleeping near a wall and in danger of casting.
Horse laying down near stall wall

How can I tell if my horse is at risk for casting?

Several signs may indicate that your horse is at risk for casting. If your horse has a history of casting, it will likely exhibit this behavior again in the future.

Additionally, horses that are experiencing medical issues or pain, boredom or lack of stimulation, poor management or housing, stress or anxiety, or poor training or handling may be more prone to casting.

Pay attention to these risk factors and address any underlying causes to prevent your horse from exhibiting the dangerous and alarming behavior of casting.

What should I do if my horse is casting in its stall?

If your horse is cast in its stall, it is important to remain calm and take steps to help the animal get up. Next, evaluate the situation; in some cases, you will need to pull the horse away from the stall wall. You can grab its legs and pull them toward the center of the stall or wrap a rope around its legs and pull.

Note that you should use a soft cotton rope, and cover their legs, so you don’t hurt them. However, you may need to flip the horse over so it’s not facing the wall. You can do this using a soft cotton rope or by hand. Just be very careful and stand back when the horse begins to stand; it may be off balance at first.

If this fails, we turn the horse, push it away from the wall, and help lift it to its feet. As the horse begins to stand, support its weight by standing on the side of its chest or stomach and push.

Once the horse stands, make sure it is stable before leaving the stall. However, when trying these techniques, be careful because your horse is frightened and can easily injure you.

If the horse cannot get up or the behavior persists, seek help from a veterinarian or professional trainer. They will be able to assess the situation and provide guidance on addressing the behavior.

Picture of my horse that cast with new shavings.
My horse that cast with new shavings

Can a horse hurt itself while casting?

A horse can injure itself while casting by hitting its head or limbs on hard surfaces. In addition, the thrashing movements of the horse can potentially cause damage to the stall or people nearby.

It is important to take steps to prevent horse casting and intervene if the behavior occurs to protect the horse and its surroundings. If you witness your horse casting, it is important to remain calm and take steps to prevent the horse from harming itself.

Is it normal for a horse to cast occasionally?

Some horses exhibit this behavior occasionally due to medical issues, boredom, stress, or poor living environments, but it is not normal for a horse to cast frequently. Suppose you notice that your horse is exhibiting this behavior regularly.

In that case, it is important to take steps to address the underlying cause and prevent the behavior from occurring. This may involve consulting with a veterinarian or professional trainer, addressing any medical issues or discomfort, providing ample space and stimulation, and implementing positive reinforcement training techniques.

horse.laying.down edited scaled
Horse laying in the middle of its stall.

Can a horse with a history of casting be rehabilitated?

It is possible for a horse with a history of casting to be rehabilitated and return to normal stall behavior. However, it is important to identify and address the underlying cause of the behavior to prevent future occurrences.

This may involve consulting with a veterinarian or professional trainer, addressing any medical issues or discomfort, providing ample space and stimulation, and implementing positive reinforcement training techniques.

By taking these steps, you can help your horse overcome its history of casting and return to normal stall behavior, ensuring its safety and well-being.

Conclusion

Horse casting refers to horses stuck on their back and kicking in an attempt to get up. It can be dangerous for the horse and people in its area. Several potential causes of horse casting include housing horses in stalls that are too small for their size, health issues, boredom or lack of stimulation, stress or anxiety, and poor training or handling.

To prevent horse casting and protect the safety and well-being of the horse and its surroundings, it is important to address any underlying causes and implement preventive measures such as providing proper care and management, providing a large stall, and ample stimulation.

If you witness your horse casting, it is important to remain calm and take steps to prevent the horse from harming itself or damaging its surroundings. If the behavior persists or you cannot stop the horse from casting, it is important to seek help from a veterinarian or professional trainer.

FAQs

Why do horses lay down?

Horses may lie down for various reasons, including rest, relaxation, and comfort. Lying down is normal behavior for horses; they will typically do so several times a day.

Can a horse die from being cast?

Yes, in severe cases, a horse that is unable to right itself is at risk of suffocating or experiencing organ failure, which can lead to serious injury or even death.