Horse behavior and determining when to call the veterinarian

Have you ever been out at the barn for a feeding, or a ride, and found your horse
behaving questionably? Questionably could mean that they are not acting
colicky, or depressed, and they are not obviously injured, but they are not quite
right. This may have you wondering whether or not this is a serious issue that
requires a veterinarian’s attention. When in doubt, please call us! That is what
we are here for. However, here is a little more insight into why your horse may
act the way he does sometimes.

First, let’s review a little about horse behavior. Horses are prey animals. Prey
animals will try to act normal, no matter the circumstance, so that predators will
not notice them. If you are a predator (and big enough to be a threat to a horse)
looking for a meal, you are going to go for the easy target. That target could be a
horse standing quietly by himself or having trouble keeping up with the herd.
Your horse, even though he may have lived in a barn under your care for his
entire life, is still an animal that could return to living in the wild very easily. It has been proven that domestic horses will revert to feral behavior if they are
returned to the wild. Their instinct to survive is close to the surface and they will
do all they can to survive. So, for your horse to act even a little off is an indication that he is probably feeling worse than he is letting on and is just trying to mask it. In his brain (remember, it is a small brain), he is trying to act normal to prevent a predator attack.

When you find your horse acting a little off you should assess the situation. Is
your horse eating and drinking? Is he less interested than normal? What is his
temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate? Are his gums pink and moist?
Also, look over your horse’s body for any swelling, heat, or wounds. Once you
have assessed the situation, feel free to give us a call and we can determine if it
needs to be seen by a veterinarian or if we would be able to discuss treatment
options over the phone. Remember, we are never bothered by the simplest
questions. We are here to help you take the best possible care of your horses.

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