5 Common Horse Health Problems

5 Common Health Problems Among Equines

In this article, we take a look at 5 common horse health problems you may find your horse is prone to.

Horses have a high pain threshold and can often present in good health, it’s the small changes in behaviour that can be key to uncovering an underlying illness. Other diseases are more obvious, but you still not be able to find out what’s wrong until you consult a vet.

It’s crucial to know the signs when something’s off. This article will also provide you with information on the most common horse health problems to watch out for and tips on how to prevent them.

This article on common horse health problems is a brief guide and is in no way a replacement for veterinary advice. When in doubt about your horse’s health, we strongly recommend you contact a registered equine veterinarian.

  1. Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS)

Like humans, the horse’s stomach lining can be susceptible to lesions, abrasions and other forms of damage, primarily from overtraining and stress. This condition, also known as equine gastric ulcer syndrome or EGUS, can occur when the stomach secretes too much gastric acid, damaging the animal’s stomach walls.

This horse health problem is a common cause of worry among horse owners who may observe changes in their equine’s appetite, temperament and performance. The solution is to prevent stress and change the horse’s diet. For instance, increasing forage and reducing grains can help minimise the risk of gastric ulcers in horses. If your veterinarian has diagnosed your horse with this health issue, they may administer any of these treatments for gastric ulcers.

  1. Arthritis

A horse’s body structure and activities can make it vulnerable to developing a degenerative joint disease that often afflicts humans: arthritis. As with humans, this disease is caused by worn-out cartilage. It also develops over time and impacts an equine’s movements, particularly along the joints.

Your horse’s joints may look more prominent, indicating the presence of inflammation, for example. The horse may also suffer from lameness. Reducing the risk of equine arthritis involves proactive measures such as providing enough preparation and resting periods before and after an activity. Keeping your equine’s weight manageable and avoiding riding it constantly on hard surfaces or uneven ground is also necessary, particularly if you want to keep racing horse breeds in top shape. Supplements are useful to help ease and/or minimise the severity of the condition.

  1. Colic

Colic is most often a symptom indicating digestive problems in horses. The causes may be minor, and adjustments to diet can be made. However, colic can also be fatal and more often than not requires treatment from a registered equine vet. Colic may be caused by parasite infestation, accidental consumption of sand, too much feed immediately after exercise, stress and, in rare instances, other severe abdominal problems.

A painful abdomen is one of the most telling signs of this common equine health problem. Your horse may also become restless on the ground, roll/thrash around, sweat and turn to look at its abdomen frequently.  Look out for if the horse has passed faeces and remove other feed from the stable area, including hay.

Your horse may also become restless on the ground, roll/thrash around, sweat and turn to look at its abdomen frequently.

As a preventative matter, you may gradually change the horse’s diet, do this with advice from a nutritionist or vet. Preventative measures include abstaining from feeding immediately after exercise, monitoring grass intake, regular parasite control, do not make hard and fast changes to a diet and minimising high sugar feeds. Also, ensure that your equine doesn’t have oral issues by scheduling regular dental checks.

  1. Herpes Virus-1

As the name implies, this highly contagious disease is caused by a virus and can manifest in many forms. Complications from this affliction may cause a respiratory illness called rhinopneumonitis, death in unborn horses and equine neurologic disease.

Only equids are susceptible to this disease, and it can’t be passed on to other animals or humans. However, it can stay dormant in young equines and become infectious later, especially if the horse experiences too much stress.

Preventing this disease in horses demands observing biosecurity, similar to preventing infections in humans. For instance, proper hygiene is crucial, so wash your hands before and after handling animals. Disinfecting equipment and prevent close contact with the horses’ noses. If you’re keeping several thoroughbreds in the stable, isolate those that have travelled outside the area. Actively monitor health conditions frequently.  

  1. Laminitis

Laminitis occurs when the horse’s soft tissues of the hoof, or laminae, become inflamed. It causes debilitating and persistent pain in affected horses. Your equine may experience lameness and increased digital pulses on the affected legs when this happens. In the worst cases, the animal loses its ability to stand.

There are different types of laminitis your horse may become susceptible to; hormonal, inflammatory, mechanical and weight-bearing. All of these conditions can receive a diagnosis from a vet. The vet may discuss conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to minimising the risk of laminitis, and/or other related diseases.

horse health problems- A horse with fat pads around the wither, crest and quarters.
A horse with fat pads around the wither, crest and quarters.

Using frog or frog and soles support may also reduce the risk of occurrence. In addition to a vet, a farrier is an excellent source of information surrounding the matter. A good farrier should be able to assist with corrective trimming during and after an episode.


Horse health problems can impact all parts of life, and can strike at any time. Apart from keeping the environment clean and practising correct hygiene standards for control of infectious diseases, monitoring your horse’s diet and keeping your horse stress-free can help maintain its health. Additionally, knowing the symptom can help alert you to call your vet for medical intervention. Knowing your horse’s health history and records and learning how to monitor signs can also help save lives.

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