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


Lying Down & Paddling


Paddling in a horse that is lying out flat indicates an inability to raise the head, or abnormal brain activity (seizure), or both. Horses with severe neurologic or neuromuscular disease may paddle. They may be minimally responsive, or may be hyper-sensitive to your presence, touch and sound.

Paddling with inability to rise is usually indicative of a severe disease with a poor prognosis, regardless of the cause. This is especially true if the horse is down for longer than a few minutes.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

Call your vet immediately.

Stay away from the horse's limbs as you could be seriously injured. Assess and comfort the horse from their backside only. Provide shade or protection from the elements if it is safe to do so and until your vet arrives.

What Not To Do

Do not get in the way of the limbs of a down horse in this state. You can be seriously injured.

your vet's role


Your vet evaluates the horse in its position on the ground. They may try to get the horse to rise, in order to evaluate its ability to do so. Depending upon this initial evaluation, they will probably suggest other diagnostics and treatments aimed at trying to get the horse to its feet.

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 strange behavioral signs.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?
  • Is the horse vaccinated for Rabies, Encephalitis and West Nile virus?
  • When was the horse last vaccinated?
  • Has there been a traumatic incident that you know of?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP