Common illnesses


Just like us, horses fall ill sometimes, and some are more susceptible to illness than others. Learn to read your horse's signs, that way you will quickly spot when something is wrong and provide treatment.


Colic is a general term for abdominal pain. If your horse suffers from colic, you will often notice that it is acting anxious, scraping its front hooves, lifting its hind hooves and looking at its abdomen, and that it lies down to roll repeatedly. If you suspect colic, remove all feed and try to get your horse to move around. Lead or lunge it lightly, this may get the intestines going. If the pain does not go away, or if your horse is suffering, do not hesitate to call a veterinarian. Before you make the call, if it is not an emergency, it may be helpful to check the heart rate/pulse, mucous membranes, bowel sounds (a quiet abdomen is not a good sign), temperature and droppings. If your horse is too anxious to take the pulse and temperature, you should leave it. The risk of an accident is too great.

You may prevent colic by:

  • Free access to water
  • Regular exercise
  • Good feed hygiene
  • Well-soaked beet pulp and flax seed porridge may have a positive effect on the intestinal functions
  • Regular parasite checks
  • Regular dental checks

Tying-up syndrome (or Exertional Rhabdomyolysis)

Tying-up presents as the horse becoming stiff and unwilling to move, sweats, tenderness and palpitations in the muscles of the hind legs, a red tint of the urine as well as an increased breathing rate and pulse. A horse that is not regularly exercised/trained, or which gets the same food rations during rest periods and training runs a greater risk of suffering tying-up. Symptoms present when the horse starts working again after a period of rest. As soon as you suspect tying-up syndrome you should let the horse rest, put a rug on it and keep the muscles warm, offer it water and if it lies down, let it be and make its bed as soft as possible. Contact your veterinarian for advice and possibly treatment.

You may prevent tying-up syndrome by:

  • Regular exercise
  • Reviewing and planning feed rations carefully and cutting them down during rest periods. 
  • Possibly give supplements of selenium, vitamin E and B. Be careful not to give too much selenium and vitamin E however.

Founder (or Laminitis)

Founder causes inflammation in the hooves, which is very painful. The horse will be reluctant to move, and the hooves will feel warm, especially the front hooves. You can also feel a stronger pulse by the fetlock.

There are three known causes of founder:

  • Birth-related The afterbirth has not been eliminated but instead remains and causes a uterus infection that affects blood circulation in the hooves..
  • Strain-related A horse that has been lame for a longer period of time runs a risk of founder in the healthy, opposite leg because it has not been able to rest this leg.
  • Feed-related The most common form of founder is feed-related. It may be brought about by a too sudden change in feed; you should accustom your horse to a new feed over at least two weeks, which also applies to summer pasture. The horse may have been given feed that is too concentrated; it is important to regulate the rations during periods of rest or less intensive training.

If you suspect that your horse suffers from founder, you should let it stand inside on a soft and dry floor, remove all concentrate feed, keep the legs cool and contact a veterinarian. It is of vital importance that your horse is seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


A stumble can lead to a serious sprain, with symptoms like heat, swelling and lameness. Joints and tendons may be overexerted, which can cause lameness. Fractures are not very common in horses. The may be complex and therefore difficult to treat.

If your horse becomes suddenly lame, start by checking the hoof to make sure nothing is stuck in it. Feel along the legs for heat, swelling or tenderness.

If the horse is only slightly lame, let it rest and check for deterioration over a few days. If it gets worse, or if it is very lame and perhaps unwilling to stand on the leg, you need to contact a veterinarian.


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