Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Manure is Hard or Dry

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.
  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

The last 10 foot section of the equine intestine is the small colon. One of it’s main roles is to create fecal balls, and remove water from them in order to conserve water. There is a wide range of manure consistency (from soft to firm) that is considered normal, and the occasional production of somewhat dry manure is probably not a cause for concern.

That said, very hard and dry manure can be a sign of dehydration or illness. For manure to become hard and dry, the water balance within the lower intestine (colon) is such that there is a net outflow of water from the manure back into the circulation to restore the blood’s hydration.

If a horse is suffering from an underlying illness, manure may sit in the colon for a longer period of time, and is dryer once expelled. Harder, drier manure is also more commonly seen in the winter, when water consumption decreases.


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, intestinal sounds, gum color, capillary refill time, skin pinch on the shoulder, attitude and appetite.

If the horse seems normal otherwise, you can try stimulating thirst with commercial electrolytes or small amounts of salt added to grain. You may monitor manure production for awhile to see whether it becomes more normal. Always contact your vet if you are concerned or if you notice other problems.


Your vet assesses the general health and hydration of your horse using a physical exam and they will also examine the manure. They might suggest additional diagnostics to assess hydration, or recommend management changes to increase water intake.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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