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


Difficulty Reaching Nose Down to Ground To Eat


Horses with pain in their necks or withers may not be able to reach towards the ground for feed or water. The most common reason for this is pain from an intra-muscular injection in the neck, however traumatic injury and a variety of other conditions can also cause this observation.

  • 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.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the problem is very mild and does not seem to be causing much harm to the horse.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse's ability and willingness to move forward and circle in both directions. Also check the horse's rectal temperature, attitude and appetite.

Examine the neck methodically, gently pressing into the muscle, feeling for swelling, heat or pain response. Try to gently flex the neck to each side. Compare responses and appearance on left and right sides.

If the horse received an injection in the neck muscle in the past 48 hours, assess the injection site for swelling, heat or pain. If you know what medication was given, take note of this reaction for future reference.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet. Meanwhile, provide feed and water at shoulder level so that the horse does not have to reach down.

What Not To Do

Do not neglect to provide feed and water at shoulder level.

your vet's role

Your vet may advise you to use cold therapy or suggest medications or other treatments for your horse.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • To you knowledge, did your horse have an accident or injure itself lately?
  • Has the horse recently received an intramuscular injection in the neck?
  • Has the horse been vaccinated recently?
  • Do you notice swelling on either side of the horse's neck?
  • Have you given your horse bute or an NSAID?
  • Did a veterinarian give the injection(s)?
  • What technique did you use to give the vaccines?
  • If you did the vaccinating, have you done them before?
  • Do you notice swelling at any injection site?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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