Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Horses going lame

Horses going lame

I turn yet again to the ingenuity of the HASA equine experts... I need to make a couple of riders, out in the middle of nowhere in the Eastemnet on horseback, unexpectedly vulnerable to attack by a bunch of Orcs (few and disorganised, because they're fleeing from Eomer and co's attack on them at the borders of Fangorn, but Orcs nonetheless, and cross.) I assume that normally, riders on fit horses would just outrun a few Orcs? and I don't remember Orcs being archers of any kind; so the most likely way I can think of to put my riders in difficulties is for one of their horses to inconveniently go lame just before the Orcs smell them out. (The riders could of course just both get up on the fit horse and ride off, but that would mean leaving the lame one to be eaten by orcs, which they're not keen to do.) So... if I want a horse, despite being ridden by someone v competent, to suddenly go lame enough to be unable to outrun Orcs out in the Eastemnet (which IIRC is roughish short-turfed ground, rather than the very lush plains further south), what can I feasibly do to it? Would treading on a sharp stone, or a discarded arrow-head, or just putting its foot in an unseen rabbit-hole do? And how long would such an injury disable the horse for? I've also put this up in the Research Questions discussion on the HASA forums, btw, and unless anybody minds I'll copy across there any useful info you lot can give me... Cheers Az

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

Jillian Baade said this in reply over on the H-A list, and I hope doesn't mind my copying it here: "A horse may become suddenly lame for most of the reasons people do: Stood on something, hoof sore. Like a sharp stone. This is called stone bruising, where the horses's shoes don't protect the sole of the hoof. Injuries such bowing the tendon (common in race horses moving at speed). This is only curable with long periods of complete rest. Such things as pulled muscles in shoulders, hips, legs and backs. Badly fitting gear, too great a load placed on a young or elderly animal. (Not likely in a horse orinated society such as Rohan) Basically, a horse moving across rough ground, especially at speed, has the possibility of injuring it's back or legs or feet, and thus becoming lame. This is not necessarily bad horsemanship; fleeing a bad situation at high speed across uncertain terain could cause this."

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

Hi Az OOh, I LIVE for horse questions Anyway, I like the suggestion of a stone bruise.How lame do you want the horse to be? In my experience, bruised feet can result in anything from mild to severe lameness (severe especially if the bruise causes an abscess in the foot) You indicated rough terrain for the setting. Just like people, horses can step in holes or step wrong on uneven ground. This can result in a strain/sprain of the various joints of the lower leg. I could see a lameness and localized swelling in the pastern joint or fetlock of the horse (kind of like a person turning their ankle) this could slow the horse down for a while, and definitely make him lame, but, barring any complications, the horse should be able to make a full recovery with time and rest, and not be the fault of the rider. Granted, they probably shouldn't have been running accross uneven ground in the first place, because of a risk of those types of injuries, however, in a life or death situatation it's definitely a risk you take. I could see some remorse by the rider for being forced into a situation where his horse was risked in such a manner, but sometimes that can't be helped. I found a link for a marked diagram of the basic points of the horse's anatomy, just to let you know what I"m talking about when I use terms such as "pastern" or "fetlock". It's not the best picture or diagram in the world, but it should give you a rough idea of the general anatomical structures. http://www.equisearch.com/care/anatomy/conformation061597/ Hope some of this helps Feel free to ask away if you have other questions! Cheryl

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

I imagine you want a severe lameness since it is inhibiting the flight of your Rohirrim. A horse mildly off can still run. It might not be good for him to be galloping when lame, but it's better than Orc scimitars. I'd also go with a stone bruise, since that can cause severe lameness if it is severe enough, but horses can recover from it. If you want a more severe injury, the horse could fracture any bone in the leg or foot, which could be a result of stepping wrong on a rock or in a hole. The rider probably wouldn't know that this was the injury since these things can only be diagnosed with x-rays, but the horse would go suddenly and unexpectedly dead lame. It is my feeling that M-e people were a little less insane and overprotective about their horses than people today. If the horse is a work animal and your only mode of transportation, you can't be giving him four days off every time he seems sort of sore. They were probably less picky about footing, especially since much of the time they lived under siege and I doubt any captain of any army said, "The footing's nice and soft here. Lets have a talk with Morgoth/Sauron about having that battle here." I don't think you have much of a choice over when and where your enemies attack you.

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

It is my feeling that M-e people were a little less insane and overprotective about their horses than people today. I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. As horse soldiers, I see Rohirrim being very attentive to their horse's needs, but there are certain realities of their way of life that have to be considered. The lameness would have to be more than just "a little off." Cheryl

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

OOh, I LIVE for horse questions That's good, means I don't ever feel bad about asking Anyway, I like the suggestion of a stone bruise.How lame do you want the horse to be? In my experience, bruised feet can result in anything from mild to severe lameness (severe especially if the bruise causes an abscess in the foot) As Gypsum pointed out, in the short term it's got to be severe - it's got to stop the horse running for its life (literally, since the Orcs are gonna eat it if they get hold of it), so that one of the riders stays with the horse to defend it (hero huh? But he's got a bow and can use it to keep the orcs at a distance, and there aren't many orcs and they're already demoralised, so it's possible they'll give up if he makes their life difficult for long enough) while the other rider goes for help. Now, in fact the other rider is not going to be able to get any help to them in time - but I'm then positing that some of Eomer's eored, chasing straggler Orcs across the plain after their attack under the eaves of Fangorn, go far enough to spot our stranded horse and rider and rescue them. So the question then is, having lamed horse sufficiently that it couldn't run, would it a couple of hours later be able to at least limp? Or do I have to give up and have the Rohirrim put it out of its misery in the interests of getting themselves back to the eored before any more orcs potentially show up? That is a fab link by the way, which will go straight in my bookmarks to aid in my sounding-like-I-have-a-clue-where-horses-are-concerned project - is it in the URL Library? Thanks so much, Az

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

I'd also go with a stone bruise, since that can cause severe lameness if it is severe enough, but horses can recover from it. I like the sound of a severe stone bruise, I must say. OK, now then - remembering that this is Horses 101 as far as I'm concerned - describe the behaviour of this horse after treading on the stone to me. What's the horse equivalent of hopping up and down yelling "Ow, ow, b**ger it, that hurt!" and collapsing on to a chair? What will it look like in the next few minutes?

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

Over on the H-A list Erin also had this to say: "Greetings all ~ Everything Jillian said is a possibility for a horse going lame. The simple fact is, horses are not always the brightest lights on the porch. Once Tye and I watched a group of ranch horses running gaily in pasture, just pelting merrily along - and suddenly one of them *tripped* and catapulted himself arse over teakettle in a full somersault! Luckily the big doofus was unhurt, and just got up, shook himself, and ran off again, but YEESH! We looked at another cowboy next to us and the guy said, "And we *ride* those things..." LOL! Seriously, though, a horse carrying a rider is under strain his physiology is not really meant to handle. A good rider does everything in his/her power to compensate and help his horse, but if a horse stumbles or falls, or simply makes a bad turn or leaps in panic or excitement, things can and do go wrong. A simple mis-step into a hole, a sudden turn where soft ground gives way, a stone that turns underfoot just as he steps on it - all these things can instantly lame a horse. The lameness may pass in a day or two, or it may linger - that depends on how bad it is, just like when you or I step wrong. But the fact remains that at that moment, and for some time, you have a lame horse. Thus an injury when a horse is called upon to make sudden movement or move at speeds is not uncommon, no matter how good the rider is. Lastly, orc archers are indeed a danger, but do remember they're shooting at fleeing targets moving in excess of 20 miles per hour! *G* A running horseman won't be easy to hit. Anywho, best of luck with writing! Cheers ~ Erin"

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

It would have to be pretty severe for the horse to be able to not run. And if he were motivated enough, he still might be able to run. In the Belmont Stakes a number of years ago, one of the horses -- Charismatic -- fractured his leg and his jockey could not pull him up until the end of the race. Horses can be pretty heedless of injuries, which is how they sometimes injure themselves further. So if push came to shove and the horse was panicked enough, your Rohirrim could still flee. Depends on the horse and the situation and the injury, but I imagine Rohirric warhorses are probably pretty stoic. Then there was my mare who got her leg scraped in a trailer when her trailering companion stepped on her and was three-legged lame for like 45 minutes. By the time the vet arrived, however, she was fine. It was only a flesh wound. Another horse I knew fractured a bone in his foot but was only mildly off up front so it took forever for them to diagnose that. So you have a tough question to answer. There are so many variables.

 

 

Re: Horses going lame

As Gypsum pointed out, in the short term it's got to be severe - it's got to stop the horse running for its life (literally, since the Orcs are gonna eat it if they get hold of it), so that one of the riders stays with the horse to defend it (hero huh? But he's got a bow and can use it to keep the orcs at a distance, and there aren't many orcs and they're already demoralised, so it's possible they'll give up if he makes their life difficult for long enough) while the other rider goes for help. Now, in fact the other rider is not going to be able to get any help to them in time - but I'm then positing that some of Eomer's eored, chasing straggler Orcs across the plain after their attack under the eaves of Fangorn, go far enough to spot our stranded horse and rider and rescue them. So the question then is, having lamed horse sufficiently that it couldn't run, would it a couple of hours later be able to at least limp? Or do I have to give up and have the Rohirrim put it out of its misery in the interests of getting themselves back to the eored before any more orcs potentially show up? Ooohh, I didn't see this part of the discussion! :-) Okay, here's my input on this. One, a horse's foremost instinct is flight in the face of danger. If he gets the idea that Orcs Are Bad, he's going to turn himself inside out trying to get away. With that much adrenaline going, horses can do some pretty amazing things. So ... if you've got a horse *so* badly lamed that he cannot run at all, even when compelled by fear for his own life ... as Gypsum said, it has to be very severe. It will be more than a stone bruise: this scenario sounds more like a major tendon/muscle injury, and one that would cripple him for a long time. It would in fact be cruel to ask him to travel any distance to get him safely home. (Since of course there would be no horse trailers, LOL!) So I'd say in such a scenario, the options are slim. Putting the horse down may not be required, if it is on good grass and water, and if they think there is a chance it could survive alone. But if it can survive, they would most likely abandon it there. Unless of course they can camp there to care for it for several days, and then nurse it painfully home. Otherwise, however, if the animal cannot travel and the people cannot stay, they might leave it on good grass and simply pray nature is kind. Them's my thoughts, anywho! Cheers ~ Erin

 

 

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