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


Extending or Stretching Out Neck


Stretching (extending) the neck forward is often seen in horses with pain or injury in the mouth, throat, jaw, or neck. In rare cases, horses experiencing certain types of abdominal pain (colic) or back pain may show this behavior.

Horses with choke (esophageal obstruction) commonly engage in this posture. When accompanied by mouth distorting postures (twisting), neck stretching can be a sign of a foreign body stuck in the throat, back of the mouth, or pharynx. It can also be a sign of dental problems.

  • 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 the behavior seems extreme, or the horse seems to be in distress.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse seems to be moving freely, and has a normal appetite and attitude.
    • If the behavior continues with no explanation.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, heart rate, and the horse's attitude and appetite. Offer a handful of palatable feed to assess the horse's ability to chew and swallow.

Assess and feel the face, throat and neck for swelling, drainage or areas of pain. If you feel confident doing so and are experienced, try to wash the mouth out and assess with a headlight but recognize that you may miss a problem. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not reach back into a horse's mouth unless you are a trained professional and know what you are looking for. You can be seriously bitten.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates the horse's general health, then checks the oral cavity (mouth) for foreign material or evidence of dental problems. A diagnosis might also require a careful examination of the jaw, throat and neck.

Other diagnostics (like endoscopy or radiography) might be needed to identify the cause of this behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What medications or vaccines were given?
  • Have you given the horse any medications, vaccinations or dewormers lately?
  • Was your horse vaccinated recently?
  • When was the horse injected?
  • Has the horse recently received an intramuscular injection in the neck?
  • Do you notice swelling on either side of the horse's neck?
  • Do you notice other signs?
  • How is the horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Does the horse seem to be able to eat and swallow?
  • 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
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP