Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Licking More Than Normal

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If this behavior persists without an apparent cause.

Occasionally, horses develop the habit of licking their owners or handlers. These horses often also lick their surroundings, stall walls, feeders, etc. While this can seem to be an endearing habit, it might be indicative of a problem.

Incessant licking may be an attempt to create saliva, and in some cases it may be related to the presence of gastric ulcers. Horses that do not have access to salt may also engage in this behavior. Horses may also lick out of boredom. Licking also can have no seeming cause and occur in otherwise apparently normal healthy horses.


Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), as well as their feed and management. Ensure the horse has access to salt and mineral and good quality hay and increase turnout.

If the horse continues to lick excessively despite these changes, or shows any other signs of illness or disease, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.


Your vet will observe this behavior and assess management and the environment. A physical examination is always important to assess general health. If the behavior is extreme, or accompanied by other abnormalities, your vet may recommend additional diagnostics to determine whether this behavior is associated with gastric ulcers.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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