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


Stretching Forelimbs Far Forward & Dipping Back


Normal healthy horses occasionally stretch this way, and it is not indicative of any problem. Some horses do it frequently. This is the so called "downward dog" posture.

However, horses experiencing abdominal pain (colic) may stretch this way as a means of seeking relief. In this case, their hind limbs are often stretched out behind them too (see that record). This behavior may also be seen in horses with sleep deprivation. In this case, the horse appears to be falling asleep in this posture.

  • 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 behavior is persistent and the horse seems to be distressed.
    • If you notice signs of colic, along with this sign.
    • 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 Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.

your role


What To Do

Take some time to carefully observe the horse, in attempt to determine whether this is normal behavior for them. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their attitude and appetite. Look for any other signs of illness or abnormalities. Walk your horse forward a few steps to see if their response is normal, turn both small circles. If you are having trouble determining whether this behavior is normal or not, or your horse is exhibiting any other abnormal signs, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet observes this behavior carefully to determine whether it is appropriate or could suggest illness. they do this through careful evaluation of general health, and looking for other signs that might suggest a problem.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP