Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Staring Into Space, Seems Unresponsive

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

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

  • If the horse seems not quite right, or eating less than normal in addition to this sign.
  • If the horse has no appetite and is obviously depressed.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C), or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Healthy horses are generally very inquisitive and alert animals. When they are very ill or in pain, they often lose their interest in their surroundings and sometimes stand quietly with their face in a corner or appear unresponsive to stimulus.

Illness and conditions that affect the brain also can appear this way. In this case, the brain condition causes a direct depressive effect on the “personality center.”


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse’s ability to walk both circles, their temperature, pulse and respiratory rates. Offer a small amount of palatable feed to test appetite. The most common cause of this behavior is mild abdominal pain (colic), but pain of many types and conditions involving different body systems can result in this behavior as well. Contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.


They may advise you to take a “wait and see” approach or suggest that they examine your horse right away, depending upon the situation and severity of the signs. A vet can evaluate other neurologic function to try to determine if this behavior results from a neurologic disease or a disorder of other organs systems.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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