Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Stands with Hind Limbs Crossed

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

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

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

  • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.

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

  • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.

Normal healthy horses rarely stands for any significant length of time with their hind limbs crossed. It is a vulnerable stance, and a horse usually quickly rights itself after a brief moment in this position. This reflexive response relies on long nerve tracts that run through the spinal cord to the brain and back to the muscles that control posture and limb placement.

This observation is commonly associated with a neurlogic deficit or spinal cord injury. It is also an uncommon stereotypical behavior. I have seen horses that crossed the hind limbs and a few that crossed the forelimbs. As with many stereotypical behaviors, it seems to intensify when the horse is anxious or distressed.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), looking for other abnormalities, especially in movement. Walk the horse forward a few steps and turn the horse to both sides. If you cross their hind limbs, how long do they stand in that position before they right them? Consider the context in which the horse is showing the abnormal foot or limb placement.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Share your findings and concerns with your vet, who will perform a neurologic evaluation on your horse. Other diagnostics may be needed to further identify the problem. If it is behavioral in origin, your vet may suggest management changes.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

RELATED REFERENCES

Bathe AP. An unusual manifestation of nettle rash in three horses. Vet Rec 1994;1;134(1):11-12.

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