Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Stretching Body Out, Front Limbs Forward, Hind Limbs Back

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

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

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

Horses often stretch for comfort, as we do. When a horse places its front limbs forward and its hind limbs back while raising a hind foot off the ground and stretching it rearward, this is usually normal. However, stretching with both hind limbs back can also be a sign of abdominal pain (colic), especially if the behavior is repeated multiple times in succession.


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Test appetite with a handful of hay. Watch your horse carefully for a few minutes, looking for other signs of abdominal pain.

Try to differentiate between normal stretching, which occurs infrequently and lasts only a few seconds and often is in combination with lifting a hind foot, and stretching that is associated with abdominal pain, which may occur more frequently, last longer and be accompanied by other colic signs. Horses that stretch in abdominal pain often look back at the side too. But keep in mind that stretching could be the only sign that you will see.

If you determined that this was normal stretching, simply monitor your horse for awhile. However, if if you have any doubt about whether this behavior is associated with abdominal pain, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.


Your vet’s primary concern is to rule out conditions causing colic as the sign of the behavior.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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