Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Circling Compulsively in One Direction

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 this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • 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.

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

  • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
  • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

You notice a strange pattern over time. When left alone and even when turned out, your horse seems to walk in a circle consistently to one direction. The horse does not seem anxious or upset.

Compulsive circling at the walk generally results from some type of brain disease. Blind horses also tend to circle compulsively in one direction, either as a means of directing the good eye forward or, if blind in both eyes, as a behavioral trait associated with fear or anxiety. Horses that compulsively circle may also have impaired vision or balance, and may hit obstacles or be generally unpredictable or dangerous.

WHAT TO DO

When in doubt or if this sign has come on suddenly, do not handle the horse unless you must.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet performs a physical examination, neurological assessment and other diagnostics to determine the reason for the circling.

NOTE: This observation is associated with Rabies, which is very rare in horses but does occur. As a precaution, wear gloves when handling a horse exhibiting this sign.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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