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


Haircoat, Long & Curly or Wavy


A long hair coat that is retained in the warmer months, and changes in the length or appearance of a horse's haircoat are commonly associated with Cushing's Disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfuction (PPID).

PPID is a very common endocrine disease in older horses that often also causes weight loss, chronic infections, and most importantly, laminitis, a disastrous disease of the feet. Every effort must be made to prevent the development of laminitis.

Other reasons for rough hair coat include parasitism and other systemic disease, but the rule out diagnosis for this kind of hair coat (especially in older horses) is PPID (Cushing's Disease).

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse has Cushing's Disease, prompt treatment may prevent laminitis.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Groom the horse with a curry comb to see if the long hairs easily shed off, revealing a normal coat underneath. If not, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), especially take note of the appearance of the hoof walls, and feel the limbs for digital pulse. Consider the amount of the horse's daily water intake (which is usually elevated in PPID) and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

It is important to reduce high carbohydrate grain feeding (keep the horse on a grass hay diet) until your vet assesses the situation.

your vet's role

Your vet starts with a careful history and physical exam. They may recommend diagnostics to rule out PPID. If PPID is likely or diagnosed, the overall treatment and management plan will attempt to reduce the likelihood of laminitis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • Have you noticed that the horse is stiff or sore?
  • To your knowledge, does the horse have a history of laminitis?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you notice anything else abnormal?
  • What is the horse's body condition score (BCS)
  • Does your horse have a history of lameness?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP