You are probably tired of me saying that horses are creatures of habit and that they will basically follow the same pattern every day. If your horses are in stalls at night, when you arrive in the morning, hopefully the same time each day, or as close to the same time as possible, you will notice that each horse will basically be standing facing pretty much the same direction in the stall. If they sleep at this hour, when you arrive they will probably just be getting up to greet you and have breakfast. If your horses are out at night and come in during the day, usually because of hot weather, then they will be standing at the gate waiting, or if they are grazing they will more than likely be in the same area of the pasture. Many horses seem to eat, then drink and often take a nap. This is why, when I was involved in breaking yearlings, we brought them in from being out at night, gave them a light breakfast and they were looking to take a nap; that’s when we would start schooling them (of course we did give them a short amount of time after eating to digest their food). Babies are easier to break and teach when they are tired. They are more agreeable and less likely to want to start an argument. When I was training Thoroughbreds, I knew immediately as I started to walk through the barn, that one of my horses was not well because there was a change of habit, not to mention the cloudiness in their eyes and the lethargic way in their movements. If you make it a habit to take just a few seconds of your time every day, go to every stall and say good morning to each horse, you will not only be surprised at the response you will receive, but you will be able to detect signs of illness.
When working on a farm, as I was doing stalls or schooling horses, I was constantly looking at my horses, checking and watching the horses that were turned out. Every opportunity I had was spent walking through the barn checking each horse in the stalls. Horses can become sick very quickly and need immediate attention. Probably your first fear is colic. Horses cannot regurgitate, meaning if they ingest something that is poisonous to their system (things such as moldy hay, or moldy feed or different plants out in the field), they cannot vomit and get rid of it as we can. They must eliminate anything harmful to them through their bowels. Unfortunately, one of the first things that happens to a sick horse as with colic is that he or she cannot pass any feces. This is one of the things that will cause the horse to become toxic. Impaction is also a huge problem meaning that there is a blockage in the intestines, hopefully not from their intestines becoming twisted. Helping a horse as quickly as possible can make a difference. Waiting until the horse is rolling around, getting up, going back down immediately and rolling around, thrashing around hurting him or herself is not a good thing. Being quick to respond to any illness with a horse is imperative. It may help your horse to recover much quicker and if you do have to call a vet you may be able to avoid your horse having to make a trip to the clinic. Sending your horse to a clinic is very expensive but if it is unavoidable and is highly recommended by your veterinarian, the sooner you go the better.