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


Stretching, Dropping Penis, Trying to Urinate


This behavior is often assumed by horse owners to be caused by a condition affecting the urinary tract. In fact, it is more commonly a sign of abdominal pain (colic) in geldings and stallions. Male horses in abdominal pain often stretch, posture to urinate and dribble small amounts of urine.

As expected, this behavior can also be a sign of conditions affecting the urinary tract and other body systems. Horses with urinary conditions like bladder stones and large "beans" may also posture this way.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are convinced this is a sign of colic (abdominal pain).
    • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
    • 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 Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • 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.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Watch the horse carefully for a few minutes. Look for other signs of abdominal pain and consider the horse's attitude and appetite. Offer a small amount of hay to test appetite. Examine the appearance of the penis and sheath, looking for any abnormalities and note the color, quantity and appearance of the urine.

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, mucous membranes, and intestinal sounds. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

Keep in mind that sometimes this is the only sign of colic that you will see.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that this is a urinary tract problem. Do not use diuretics without your vet's guidance.

your vet's role

Your vet will rule out colic as the cause before focusing on the urinary tract as the cause for this behavior. If colic is ruled out, they will also assess the urinary tract (bladder and urethra).
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Does your horse have a history of colic?
  • Have you changed your horse's feed or management lately?
  • Are you able to see or feel a bean or mass near the end of the penis?
  • Do you notice any swelling of the sheath?
  • Do you notice any abnormalities of the penis or sheath?
  • What is the appearance of the horse's urine?

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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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP