Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Lying Down & Paddling

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    Paddling in a horse that is lying out flat indicates an inability to raise the head, or abnormal brain activity (seizure), or both. Horses with severe neurologic or neuromuscular disease may paddle. They may be minimally responsive, or may be hyper-sensitive to your presence, touch and sound.

    Paddling with inability to rise is usually indicative of a severe disease with a poor prognosis, regardless of the cause. This is especially true if the horse is down for longer than a few minutes.


    Call your vet immediately.

    Stay away from the horse’s limbs as you could be seriously injured. Assess and comfort the horse from their backside only. Provide shade or protection from the elements if it is safe to do so and until your vet arrives.


    Your vet evaluates the horse in its position on the ground. They may try to get the horse to rise, in order to evaluate its ability to do so. Depending upon this initial evaluation, they will probably suggest other diagnostics and treatments aimed at trying to get the horse to its feet.

    NOTE: This observation is associated with Rabies, which is very rare in horses but does occur. As a precaution, wear gloves when handling a horse exhibiting strange behavioral signs.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


    We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.