Common Equine Emergencies and What to Do


Horse owners need to be ready to confront medical emergencies concerning their animals. Horses are prone to accidents due to several behavioral traits. These include:

  • Fight or Flight Response

Horses prefer to flee from danger if possible. But if running away is not possible, they will fight to protect themselves from danger. They will resort to kicking, striking, or biting to protect themselves. In the process, they can hurt themselves.

  • Dominance Hierarchy

Horses are herd animals where there is a dominance hierarchy. If you do it correctly, you can establish human dominance without causing your horse to be extremely fearful. Horses exert domination by controlling the movement of their peers.

They also accept it when humans or another animal cause them to move when they do not want to. In the process of exerting dominance, they may hurt themselves.

  • Natural Curiosity

Horses are naturally curious from the time they enter the world. It continues for the rest of their lives. It is good to nurture that curiosity. However, it can also get the horse in danger.

Common Equine Emergencies

Due to the nature of horses that makes them prone to accidents, you need to be careful. Know how to recognize signs of distress. To do this, you need to know your horse’s vital signs and usual behavior patterns.

The common equine emergencies include:

  • Bleeding and lacerations.

  • Colic.

  • Foaling difficulties.

  • Choking.

  • Seizures.

  • Acute lameness.

  • Illness.

Bleeding and Lacerations

These are the most common of all equine emergencies. Treat them immediately, as you would a child’s laceration. Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure and tying it with a bandage. Do not remove the dressing to peek at the injury. It will halt the clotting and start the bleeding again.

Do not apply a tourniquet unless the vet says so. Otherwise, you can cause pressure damage to arteries and nerves. Call your veterinarian as soon as you notice the laceration. Tell them the location and depth of the cut.


Colic is a broad term referencing gastrointestinal pain. It is subtle and not as apparent as bleeding and lacerations. It causes gas bubbles, impaction, twists, and bowel rupture. Gas bubbles and impaction are not a big deal. Horses can walk them off as they undergo treatment with pain medication.

However, twists cause the large intestines to trap gas and food. They twist and can cause complications because they do not show any indications. The horses can rupture as a result of the above. In the end, the horse will need surgery.

Foaling Difficulties

Call a vet if you do not see a foal within the first 20 minutes of the water breaking. They will come over and help you take care of the emergency. Also, call the vet if you notice the foal is not coming out front legs first.


If you realize that your horse is choking, muzzle it and withhold food and water. Call the vet, who may use a sedative to relax the horse and subsequently the esophagus. If the choking is acute, they will try to flush it.


In all equine emergencies, make sure you contact your vet first before taking any steps.

​​​​​​​For more on equine emergencies and what to do, visit Chaparral Veterinary Medical Center at our office in Cave Creek, Arizona. You can call (480) 595-8600 today to schedule an appointment.