Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Kicks at Belly or Abdomen

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

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

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

  • If you are convinced that this is abdominal pain (colic).
  • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.
  • If the behavior continues but the horse has good appetite, attitude and shows no other signs of colic.
  • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.

Kicking at the belly is a classic sign of abdominal pain (colic) but there could be other reasons for this behavior too. In some cases though, horses may be responding to skin irritation, usually from insects. Male horses may be responding to sheath related irritation, and lactating mares experiencing udder pain will kick at this area also.

WHAT TO DO

Take some time to carefully observe the horse for a few minutes, looking for other signs of abdominal pain like pawing, stretching, flank watching or wanting to lie down. If you do not notice these signs, assess the sheath or the udder (as appropriate), and look for insects or signs of skin irritation of any kind. Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, gum color and intestinal sounds. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. When in doubt, if belly kicking continues, assume that this is a sign of abdominal pain and call your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

If this behavior repeats, without a visible cause on the skin surface, your vet strongly considers the likelihood that the horse is experiencing abdominal pain, and the goal of the exam will be to rule this out. In most cases, there will be other signs of colic too.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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