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


Sores on a Down Horse


Generally, any horse that lies down for longer than 24 hours for any reason has a poor prognosis. Horses simply are not made to be down for extended periods. Their massive weight causes damage to tissues, including muscle, nerves and skin. Skin injury results in ulcers or sores.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • Any down horse that is unable to rise is a veterinary emergency.

your role


What To Do

Never nurse a down horse for extended periods of time without talking to your vet and knowing what you expect to gain by this approach. The underlying disease needs to be identified and treated, or the horse should be euthanized.

Down horses should be rolled from one side to the other every few hours to help reduce development of sores. Generally, horses do better kept propped on their chest (sternal) than lying on their sides for extended periods. Forgiving, clean, deep bedding is critical to the management of down horses.

Sores may be treated with basic wound care and topical antibiotics. Infected sores (swelling around the wound, pain to pressure, or increased drainage) may require additional care, possibly systemic antibiotics and bandaging.

What Not To Do

Do not treat a down horse for extended periods of time without veterinary involvement.

your vet's role

Sores developing on a down horse is a sign of chronicity. Your vet evaluates the underlying disease process and reconsiders the merits of continuing therapy in light of the development of sores.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice the horse was down?
  • Has the horse had other problems to your knowledge?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Have you been advised by a vet that treating the down horse is a humane and sensible approach to the
  • What is the horse's rectal temperature?

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