Is your horse in pain? The signs you might be missing of a horse in agony


Is your horse in pain? Horses can’t tell us they’re hurting, so its our responsibility to watch the signs.

Most of us can tell when our horse is out-of-sorts but these are a few specific signs to look out for.

Signs of a horse in pain:

horse in pain cranky behaviour

Beware the horse in pain!

  • Aggressive or out of character behaviour:

Have you ever been in pain and it’s made you crankier than usual?

It’s the same with our horses. It’s tiring for them to be in pain – so they let out their frustration by telling you to rack off. If your horse suddenly becomes aggressive or tries to bite and kick – remember they’re not being naughty (they don’t have that capability). They’re actually in pain.

  • ‘Camped Out’ Posture
The expression ‘camped out’ is used to describe a classic symptom of a horse in pain. Usually associated with back or kidney pain – this is where a horse will stand with their back legs ‘camped out’ behind them. Kind of like they’re getting ready to do a pee but never quite get there.
  • ‘Goat on a Rock’ Posture:
Opposite to being ‘camped out’ – this is where the horse has all their feet bunched underneath them. This can be an indicator of a horse in pain in their hocks, stifle or back.
  • Pinched Nostrils:
Pinched nostrils are one of the first signs of a horse in pain. The tension causes them to pull their nostrils back – and signals to other horses to leave them alone.
  • Lying down more than usual
Sometimes pain, especially hoof or leg pain will result in a horse lying down more than usual. This is because they’re trying to get the weight off their legs. Conversely, horses with hip & back issues don’t lie down as often because it’s too painful for them to get back up again.
pain in horse

Behaviour out of character can signal pain!

  • Yawning
This one’s a tricky one. Unlike humans, horses usually yawn to relieve pressure in their throat and stomach. While one or two yawns can be for the horse to stretch out tension  – if your horse is compulsively yawning then they’re not feeling good.
A horse with one or more of these symptoms maybe suffering from gastric ulcers. Check out the classic gastric ulcer symptoms here.

What to do next:

Call the vet. Once you’ve scheduled an appointment they might advise you to offer your horse some basic painkillers (like Bute). To find out more about Bute and where you can buy it online, check out this article.




About Author

Betsy OReilly, Managing Editor of Blog Abler dedicated to Equine Ulcers. Born and bred in country Victoria, Australia, is a lifelong horse owner who has dabbled in Pony Club and Horse Racing. Enjoys hearing and writing about Equine Ulcers.

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