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Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Horses

By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 12, 2015
It’s pretty easy to tell when a horse has laminitis, colic, or another condition that causes acute pain. Detecting mild discomfort may not be as straightforward unless owners know what to look for. Posture, attitude, and behavior are clues to how comfortable a horse may be feeling.
Horse showing signs of pain
Horses that are not in pain are usually alert. In the pasture, they will notice a human approaching, even if they have been dozing. They eat well, interact with other horses, and stand evenly on all four feet, sometimes resting a hind leg.
Horse showing signs of distress
Any changes from regular behavior may be indicative of some level of pain. Horses that are uncomfortable may seem dull or unresponsive. In the pasture, they may 
Sweating is often a sign of distress and pain in horses
keep their distance from other horses. They may stand facing a back corner of the stall and may not respond when someone walks through the barn or enters the stall. They might be reluctant to lift a hoof or move around. They could show uncharacteristic irritation when being handled or ridden. Irregular movement, frequent shifting of weight from one leg to another, resting a front leg, disinterest in surroundings, and loss of appetite are other signs of pain.
Owners who notice changes in behavior like these should have a veterinarian examine the horse. A veterinarian can evaluate signs, diagnose the cause of pain, and suggest the safest and most effective course of treatment.