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




Yawning is common in normal horses, but the reasons for this behavior are not well understood. Unlike people, horses typically do not inhale when they yawn in response to a drop in blood oxygen levels. But just like us, horses do seem to yawn when they are awaking from sleep or are drowsy.

Pain may be a stimulus for yawning. Some horses experiencing abdominal pain (colic) yawn. Horses with certain neurologic diseases yawn too. I have seen horses experiencing oral or temporo-mandibular joint pain yawn.

My own horses often yawn after I remove a bit from their mouth. I also have seen horses yawn during stressful situations, momentarily resting after a period of stress.

Horses occasionally yawn when anxious in a stall, especially when they are awaiting feed. In some cases, this behavior appears to be a stall vice.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • 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 Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If this is the only sign you notice. The horse seems well to you otherwise.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

If you notice that your horse is yawning more than normal, that is a good starting point for additional observations.

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to when yawning occurs and its frequency, as well as your horse's attitude and appetite. Record this over time and be on the lookout for any other abnormal behaviors. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Taken alone, this observation is usually too broad a sign to help your vet narrow down the problem. In most cases, it is a normal behavior. However, this observation might be accompanied by other abnormalities that, taken together, assist your vet in choosing appropriate diagnostics, reaching a diagnosis, and suggesting treatment options.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • How frequently does the horse seem to be doing this?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • When do you seem to notice this behavior?
  • How frequently does the horse seem to be doing this?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP