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


Head in Corner or Against Wall, Head Pressing


Horses that are depressed or experiencing abdominal pain (colic) will often stand with their head in the corner of their stall. In contrast, this observation refers to a horse that is actually pressing their head firmly and compulsively against a wall. This is rare behavior, and is usually associated with severe neurologic (brain) disease.

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 this sign.

Horses showing true head pressing will usually show other signs of brain disease such as depression, loss of appetite, wobbliness, apparent blindness, among others. Horses that are dying of other causes, such as intestinal rupture, for instance, may also engage in this behavior.

  • 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 signs are more intermittent and mild.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

If safe to do so, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Halter the horse and try to get it to walk. Assess its ability to walk. Test appetite by offering a small amount of palatable feed. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not handle your horse if it appears unsafe to do so. Horses engaged in this behavior can collapse and injure handlers.

your vet's role

Your vet starts with a physical and neurologic assessment. Blood work may be indicated. Horses in liver failure show this sign, and blood work can be diagnostic for liver disease.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice any other problems with the horse?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Was there any event that you recall that lead to this new behavior?
  • What happens when you try to lead the horse?
  • 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.

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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)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP