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


Staring Into Space, Seems Unresponsive


Healthy horses are generally very inquisitive and alert animals. When they are very ill or in pain, they often lose their interest in their surroundings and sometimes stand quietly with their face in a corner or appear unresponsive to stimulus.

Illness and conditions that affect the brain also can appear this way. In this case, the brain condition causes a direct depressive effect on the "personality center."

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the horse seems not quite right, or eating less than normal in addition to this sign.
    • If the horse has no appetite and is obviously depressed.
    • 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse's ability to walk both circles, their temperature, pulse and respiratory rates. Offer a small amount of palatable feed to test appetite. The most common cause of this behavior is mild abdominal pain (colic), but pain of many types and conditions involving different body systems can result in this behavior as well. Contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

They may advise you to take a "wait and see" approach or suggest that they examine your horse right away, depending upon the situation and severity of the signs. A vet can evaluate other neurologic function to try to determine if this behavior results from a neurologic disease or a disorder of other organs systems.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is the horse's appetite?
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • When did you last notice the horse behaving normally?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Will the horse walk freely in hand or do they resist?

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