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


Manure is Hard or Dry


The last 10 foot section of the equine intestine is the small colon. One of it's main roles is to create fecal balls, and remove water from them in order to conserve water. There is a wide range of manure consistency (from soft to firm) that is considered normal, and the occasional production of somewhat dry manure is probably not a cause for concern.

That said, very hard and dry manure can be a sign of dehydration or illness. For manure to become hard and dry, the large and small colon must have extracted excessive water from it. This happens when a horse is poorly hydrated.

Similarly, in a horse suffering from an underlying illness, manure may sit in the colon for a longer-than-normal period of time. Water is extracted by the colon during this time and the manure is dryer once expelled. Harder, drier manure is also more commonly seen in the winter, when water consumption decreases.

  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
    • 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 heart rate, intestinal sounds, gum color, capillary refill time, skin pinch on the shoulder, attitude and appetite.

If the horse seems normal otherwise, you can try stimulating thirst with commercial electrolytes or small amounts of salt added to grain. You may monitor manure production for awhile to see whether it becomes more normal. Always contact your vet if you are concerned or if you notice other problems.

your vet's role

Your vet assesses the general health and hydration of your horse using a physical exam and they will also examine the manure. They might suggest additional diagnostics to assess hydration, or recommend management changes to increase water intake. They may also recommend feeds that have a bulk laxative effect, like psyllium or bran.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice the horse showing signs of any other problems?
  • Does the manure currently look different than usual for your horse?
  • Does the horse's appetite and attitude seem normal?
  • Does the horse have constant access to fresh water?
  • What is the horse's diet?
  • Are you supplementing feed or water with electrolytes?
  • Has the management changed?
  • Has the water source changed recently?
  • Has the hay changed recently?
  • How much water is your horse drinking per day?
  • 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
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP