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


Leaning Against Stall Wall or Fence


Horses that are very unsteady on their feet due to weakness or failure of the support structures of the limb will sometimes lean on a fence or stall wall for support. The deficit may result from neurologic or musculoskeletal conditions, and is also seen in horses that have severe body-wide illness and shock.

Horses in abdominal pain (colic) sometimes back into corners and against walls and may press there momentarily, but they usually move around and show other signs of illness. Horses that are rubbing or scratching their rears show coordinated movement, but easily stand on their own and move away from the structure.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business 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.
    • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Observe your horse for a few moments, looking for other evidence of illness or disease. If possible, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Your vet may tell you to try and lead the horse away from the stabilizing structure to determine whether they have trouble walking or standing on their own. However, take great care when handling horses exhibiting this sign. They may be weak or wobbly and they can suddenly fall, injuring their handlers. When in doubt, leave them alone until your vet arrives.

What Not To Do

Do not handle your horse unless advised to do so by your vet and you are confident in performing this task.

your vet's role

A careful history and physical and neurologic examinations helps your vet determine the nature of the problem. Is the problem one of weakness or is it neurologic in origin? Depending on their findings, they may recommend additional diagnostics.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • When did you last notice the horse behaving normally?
  • How is the horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Do you notice other signs of disease or injury?
  • 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.

Very Common
Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP