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


Accident, Horse Trapped in Water or Mud


Call 911 and your vet immediately when faced with this situation, and before you begin to help the animal. Emergency responders may not know how to handle large animals. Your vet can help coordinate rescue attempts and ensure the health of the animal.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

Keep the following points in mind:

- Getting in the water with a panicked horse is dangerous. Put your safety first.

- If a horse is stuck in a pond or pool, attempt to get a halter and long lead on it and lead it toward a shallow area or to steps where it can walk out. In a larger pond or lake, a boat can be useful for this, but it can also be dangerous as it can be capsized by a struggling horse.

- An inflated inner tube around the neck or under the head may be helpful in deep water to ensure the horse keeps its muzzle clear of the water and can breathe.

- For horses that are stuck in mud or quick sand, a large diameter (3/4"-1") cotton rope can be tied with a bowline around the girth and over the withers can provide some forward assistance without putting pressure on the belly.

- Do not ever pull a horse out forcefully by the head or neck.

- For horses that have fallen into a septic tank or heavy mud, heavy equipment may be needed to create a trench or clear dirt away to allow the horse a path out.

- For horses that have fallen into swimming pools, consider draining or pumping the water out to the point that the horse can safely stand.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to handle this emergency alone.

Generally, ramps are more of a hindrance than help. They are rarely strong enough to support the horse's weight and may break, worsening the situation.

Avoid sedating a horse in this situation unless the horse is secured in a sling with its head out of the water.

your vet's role

Your vet knows how to handle large animals in stressful situations. They are also the only individual who knows how to evaluate the health of the animal. In addition, in some cases horses will need medication, nursing care, sedation or general anesthesia. Only a vet can do these things safely.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?

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
more treatments

further reading & resources

Related References:

Kellon E, Dr. Kellon's Guide to First Aid for Horses, 2nd ed. Emmaus: Breakthrough Publications, 2005.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP