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


Down with Limbs Tipped Up, Cast


A "cast" horse is down on their side, with their limbs positioned against a wall or fence in such a way that they cannot rise. They are stuck. Horses should not remain cast for any significant length of time. A horse's great weight can cause damage to skin, muscle and nerves. Blood pressure and respiration in down horses is poor.

A cast horse might be suffering from other problems too. The question is always why the horse became cast in the first place. While sometimes it is just an accident, often there is an underlying reason. Often, abdominal pain (colic) causes a horse to lay down repeatedly, finally getting cast. Sometimes cast horses struggle, causing additional trauma and exhaustion.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • 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.
    • If you are unable to get the horse to its feet.
    • When the horse is back on its feet, it still seems not quite right.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Once the problem is resolved it is still wise to evaluate the horse's general health and management to ensure there is no underlying problem.

your role


What To Do

If you are able to safely help your horse to stand, do so. If possible assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and immediately share your findings and concerns with your vet. If you cannot safely help your horse rise, simply comfort them and keep them calm until your vet arrives. Be sure to stay behind any down horse's back and away from the limbs.

What Not To Do

Do not allow your horse remain cast for long without either helping them or calling a vet.
Do not assume that a horse is "just cast". Always question whether there might be underlying colic or other reason for being cast.

your vet's role

While your vet may be an expert at getting down horses up, they also assess the situation and the horse to see if there are underlying reasons for their being cast in the first place. They use physical examination, along with the response of the horse to being righted, to determine further diagnostics or necessary treatment.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Describe the situation to me.
  • Do you know of any reason why the horse may have become cast in the first place?
  • Do you notice any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Do you know how long the horse has been cast?
  • Have you tried to help the horse already?
  • What happened when you tried to help the horse?
  • With your horse now up, have you performed the WHE?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite otherwise?
  • 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