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


Obvious Stumbling or Tripping, Even when Not Under Saddle


Frequent tripping or stumbling when not ridden is rare. It is usually associated with severe neurologic disease, or any end-stage body-wide disease. Non weight bearing lameness or sudden blindness might rarely appear this way. Horses with conformation or chronic lameness causing the flight of the hooves to be near to the ground tend to trip more.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the horse has no appetite and is obviously depressed.
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
    • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to 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 Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • 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 the problem is mild, you may assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

However, if the problem is severe and you fear the horse may suddenly fall, call your vet immediately and do not handle the horse until your vet arrives. If possible, move the horse in a stall with secure fences or walls, on even footing. You may consider treating the horse as potentially contagious until your vet advises you otherwise.

What Not To Do

Do not examine or handle your horse if it seems unsafe to do so.

your vet's role

Your vet institutes emergency treatment while simultaneously evaluating general health and especially neurologic function.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • How severe do you think the problem is?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Does the horse have a history of any illness or condition?
  • Has anything changed in the environment, feed or management?
  • 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
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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