What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Kicked or Bitten by other Horse, Witnessed


Aggression among herd-mates is a natural part of equine social behavior. Spinning around and kicking, or biting others is a frequent part of this. Usually horses are not severely injured by these interactions. Occasionally though you will actually see your horse sustain major trauma as a result. The most common severe injury sustained by a bad kick is a fracture.

You may be amazed when they you seemingly severe trauma that results in minimal damage. Conversely, seemingly minor trauma can cause severe injury.

You can learn a lot within a few minutes of an injury. For 30 seconds, you may see a horse grimace or limp in pain, then walk out of it. Failure to bear weight after a few minutes or when lead can signal a more severe leg injury. The most frequently injured areas are the limbs, resulting in lameness. Fractures from kick do occur.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • 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.
    • If there seems to be pain, swelling or lameness.
    • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Obviously, if you feel your horse is seriously injured, contact your vet immediately.

Otherwise, take a few minutes to observe the horse. Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention the the area that you think was injured. Lower leg injuries tend to be the most serious.

Walk the horse first in a straight line, then a small circle each way, particularly focus on lameness. If there is an area that seems injured or swollen, assess it, photograph it and describe it to your vet. You may talk to your vet about giving the horse a dose of NSAID (like phenylbutazone), which might help reduce swelling and pain. Ice or cold water may also be helpful.

your vet's role

If the horse has sustained a significant injury, then your vet may advise that they see the horse rapidly in order to determine its significance. In that case, they will evaluate the specific area(s) of injury and the horse's general health. X-ray, ultrasound and other diagnostic tests may be part of the approach, depending on nature of injury.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice any swelling or other abnormality in the area?
  • Can the horse bear weight on all the limbs and walk forward fairly normally?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP