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


Shifting Weight from Limb to Limb, Treading


Treading almost looks like walking in place. A type of treading can be a stall vice, a variation on weaving.

However, treading is also common in horses experiencing foot or limb pain in both front limbs or hind limbs, or in all four limbs. It is most classically seen in horses with laminitis in all four feet. These horses may try to stand but can only tolerate pain on an individual foot for a second. So they quickly shift weight back and forth among the feet. It can also be seen in horses with neurologic disease and pain elsewhere in the body.

  • 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.
    • If the horse is reluctant to move, along with this sign.
    • If the horse seems stiff, or digital pulse is present.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse seems to be moving freely, and has a normal appetite and attitude.
    • If this behavior persists without an apparent cause.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), especially looking for lameness, limb swelling or heat or digital pulse in the feet. Generally, horses that are in limb pain will be reluctant to move forward when led in hand. If you find that the horse is reluctant to move forward in hand, and you think the behavior is a result of pain, call your vet immediately.

If you think your horse is engaging in this behavior as a stall vice, you can try to solve the problem with changes in management. Provide long stem grass hay in larger quantities. Provide consistent exercise or turnout, companionship or diversion. If your horse continues to tread, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet starts with a physical exam, and other diagnostics to determine whether this behavior is pain-related or a behavioral habit.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse move freely in hand?
  • What happens when you turn the horse sharply left and right?
  • Do you notice any other problems?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Have there been any management changes?
  • How is the horse stabled or managed?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?

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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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP