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


Lying Down More Than Normal, or Getting Up & Down


Every horse is an individual and some spend more time lying down and resting than others. That said, if your horse seems to be lying down more than normal, it may be an indication of abdominal pain (colic), especially if you get them back up and they quickly lie down again. Horses that are in abdominal pain may also appear to stagger, making a person think that their horse is actually collapsing rather than lying down to escape pain.

Horses may also lie down excessively when it hurts to stand (severe lameness in multiple limbs and especially pain in multiple feet).

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If this is a new behavior and you fear it is due to a physical problem.
    • 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 this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

If you feel safe handling the horse, assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, gum color, intestinal motility, digital pulse and rectal temperature. Monitor the horse for a few moments. Offer a handful of feed that you think they would normally eagerly eat. Take note of the response. If the horse tries to lie down again over the next 5-10 minutes, or you notice any other of the signs of abdominal pain, contact your vet immediately with your findings and concerns.

If the horse is lying quietly, let them lie until your vet arrives. If the horse is rolling or is up and down repeatedly, your vet might advise you to walk the horse until they arrive.

What Not To Do

Do not examine or handle your horse if it is not safe to do so. Horses in colic pain can collapse to the ground quickly, injuring handlers.

your vet's role

Your vet will try to rule out the conditions causing colic (abdominal pain) as these are the most common reasons for a horse to suddenly lie down more than normal or to repeatedly get up and down. History and physical exam findings help us to understand the nature of the problem and to determine the best diagnostic tests needed to get more information and to allow the best treatment.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What happens when you get the horse up?
  • Does the horse lie back down again after it has gotten up?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does the horse have trouble getting back to its feet, or is it staggering or unsteady?
  • Will the horse walk freely in hand or do they resist?
  • 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

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
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP