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


Stretching Body Out, Front Limbs Forward, Hind Limbs Back


Horses often stretch for comfort, as we do. When a horse places its front limbs forward and its hind limbs back while raising a hind foot off the ground and stretching it rearward, this is usually normal. However, stretching with both hind limbs back can also be a sign of abdominal pain (colic), especially if the behavior is repeated multiple times in succession.

  • 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Test appetite with a handful of hay. Watch your horse carefully for a few minutes, looking for other signs of abdominal pain.

Try to differentiate between normal stretching, which occurs infrequently and lasts only a few seconds and often is in combination with lifting a hind foot, and stretching that is associated with abdominal pain, which may occur more frequently, last longer and be accompanied by other colic signs. Horses that stretch in abdominal pain often look back at the side too. But keep in mind that stretching could be the only sign that you will see.

If you determined that this was normal stretching, simply monitor your horse for awhile. However, if if you have any doubt about whether this behavior is associated with abdominal pain, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet's primary concern is to rule out conditions causing colic as the sign of the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is this normal behavior for your horse?
  • Does the horse's appetite and attitude seem normal?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Does your horse have a history of colic?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Have you changed your horse's feed or management lately?
  • Is the horse up-to-date on vaccinations, deworming and dentistry?
  • How old is the horse?
  • Are any of the other horses at the facility showing signs of abdominal pain (colic)?

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP