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


Kicks at Belly or Abdomen


Kicking at the belly is a classic sign of abdominal pain (colic) but there could be other reasons for this behavior too. In some cases, horses may be responding to skin irritation, usually from insects. Male horses may be responding to sheath related irritation, and lactating mares experiencing udder pain will kick at this area also.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are convinced that this is abdominal pain (colic).
    • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.
    • If the behavior continues but the horse has good appetite, attitude and shows no other signs of colic.
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Take some time to carefully observe the horse for a few minutes, looking for other signs of abdominal pain like pawing, stretching, flank watching or wanting to lie down. If you do not notice these signs, assess the sheath or the udder (as appropriate), and look for insects or signs of skin irritation of any kind. Using a light, carefully observe the skin of the whole under-belly, looking for areas of hair loss or swelling. Then feel this region carefully. Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, gum color and intestinal sounds. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. When in doubt, if belly kicking continues, assume that this is a sign of abdominal pain and call your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that this is anything other than abdominal pain.

your vet's role

If this behavior repeats, without a visible cause on the skin surface, your vet strongly considers the likelihood that the horse is experiencing abdominal pain, and the goal of the exam will be to rule this out. In most cases, there will be other signs of colic too.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • If not, do you notice anything irritating this area?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does your horse have a history of colic?
  • Have you changed your horse's feed or management lately?

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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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP