Avoiding metal drains and manhole covers comes naturally to me, and I’m sure it has been drummed into many riders when they were young. Some horses naturally pick their way past, and others slide a shod foot over them nonchalantly, and others are oblivious.
Have you ever thought about why you need to avoid these? I always thought that man hole covers were slippery so shod horses should avoid them at all costs, and then drains have the gaps in so there’s a slim chance a horse could catch a foot and trip over.
Let me tell you what happened to my Mum and her friend to give you another reason to avoid metal covers at all costs.
The two of them were hacking out their Welsh cobs and were on their way home up a fairly fast road. It’s two lanes, with a white central line which is an improvement over most of their hacking lanes, but cars tend to whizz around the corners.
There’s also a pavement on the inside of the bend, which is often used by horse riders to get out of the way of a fast vehicle. Yes I know we shouldn’t, but which would you prefer? Standing on a pavement or squashed?
Mum led onto the pavement and without realising walked over a manhole. Then suddenly there was a shout and crash. She turned around to see her friend on the floor, and her horse with a leg down a gaping hole. The metal cover had cracked and given way!
Mum’s friend got up immediately, unhurt, and her horse scrambled up to reveal broken knees. And by broken knees I mean the old fashioned term of scarred knees, caused by an exhausted horse buckling at the knees. Anyway, the mare seemed okay apart from being shaken up, and as it was a fair way back to the yard, Mum’s friend remounted and they walked steadily home.
Once home they hosed the front legs off and irrigated the wounds well; I think they found some bute, but then left the mare overnight. I think she was turned out to encourage her to keep moving and reduce swelling, but she might’ve been left stabled to help keep the wounds clean – it’s one of those options which depends on the individual horse, time of year, weather, personal preference, as well as numerous other factors.
The mare’s knees did swell up and needed cleaning for a few days but she wasn’t lame. I think they had a very lucky escape to walk away from an accident like that.
Mum later went to look at the manhole cover and they deduced that it must have been damaged by a lorry mounting the pavement and then Mum added a few more straws to the camel’s back walking over it, and then it gave with the next footfall. They covered it with a convenient cone and reported it to the council.