My husband and I were both led to believe that once a horse is down, we should give up on them. Four years ago, our then 28 year old arthritic horse was down in the pasture 3 days before Christmas Eve. He couldn't get up . . . We gave him water and hay and covered him with blankets, hoping he could get himself up or that we could keep him comfortable until he passed on. The days came and went; he kept eating and drinking and would try to get up but just couldn't. Since he was trying so hard, we couldn't bring ourselves to call the vet and have him put down.
On the third day (yes, no fooling it was Christmas Eve), we felt we had to try something. After looking everywhere on-line for advice, we couldn't come up with anything so decided to just design something ourselves and try to get him up . . . What did we have to lose.
With the use of some nylon straps, cable hooks and a Bobcat, we were able to pick him up. . . He was a little stiff and shaky from being down so long, but he walked away to join his friends. We both cried we were so happy!
Anyway, since that fateful day 4 years ago, he lays down about once a month and can't get back up . . . As you can see from the video link, he has gotten really good about getting picked up and you can see the stiff hind leg straightening out slowly.
Don't give up if your horse is down; just get the right tools. Make sure you have help the first few times, as your horse may be scared by the sound of machinery behind him. We also held on to the halter the first few times to help him balance; now he's an old pro at this. Also, we have quick disconnect loops on the straps and hooks in case there is a problem.
This works on our horse since he is older and quiet and calm; keep this in mind if deciding to try this with your horse. Every time we do this, he appears so grateful, it is worth it to us!!!
Hope this helps another horse out there!