Older-Horse Health: Lying Down

Should you be worried when your older horse lays down a lot?

Should you be worried when your older horse lies down a lot?


I have a 22-year-old gelding that is always the picture of health. Lately, he’s been lying down a lot. There does not appear to be any lameness or signs of colic when he gets up. Could this be age related? He has been eating, defecating and urinating well with lots of gut sounds.


This sounds like an age-related event to me. Oftentimes, older horses will have arthritic joints. While they may get around just fine, they spend more time than they did as a youngster lying down. From the information offered in this question, it certainly doesn’t sound like colic, and obviously the horse is well taken care of by loving owners.

Another reason that I see horses lying down more often than normal is laminitis.

In this case, it doesn’t sound like this horse would be at risk for laminitis, but for other horse owners reading this column, keep laminitis in mind when you have a horse that becomes acutely stiff, doesn’t want to move, rocks back on his hind legs in an effort to relieve pain on his front feet or lays down a lot when he normally doesn’t. This is always a reason for a veterinarian to examine your horse as soon as possible.

— Dr. Jennifer Schleining, Ames, Iowa, member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.

10 thoughts on “Older-Horse Health: Lying Down”

  1. I have a mare that is 12 yrs. old, is their a shot you can give them to prevent them from going into heat.

  2. Clarinda-

    I doubt that there is a shot to prevent going into heat, but you can get your mare spayed if you know that you will never breed her. Also, there is a procedure of putting a sterilized, large marble into the vagina of a mare. It prevents them from going into heat. I do not recommend doing this yourself, but instead have a vet do it for you.

  3. Yes there is a shot that can be given there is also a liquid that can be given by mouth daily. My vet WOULD NOT even give me the liquid to carry home as it is unsafe for women of all ages. The shot will last about 3 months but has to be given at just the right time by the vet. It is like the DEPO shot that
    women take for birth control.

  4. Another method for keeping your horse from going into heat is the marble method. It doesn’t seem to be used much in IL butI bought a horse from Kentucky that had this done. It made a big difference in her personality and the cost is less than having shots done.

  5. My old man is lying down a littl bit these days he will be 30 in 2 weeks i took him to my minnies paddock today after he got up there in the float he walked around for 10mins then decided to lye down but he lay down lyke he looked lyke he was dead look.then he got up and has been doing it a bit at his normal paddock to the guy that owns the grazing where he normally stays said, he is not fat or skinny just right for a old man. is this normal he lyes for awhile then gets up

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  7. my old man had been lying down for almost 2 days he eats after I walk him but vet says he is over 30 (wow) no one had a clue he is now losing weight and u can tell he is getting old and has a leaky heart valve [vet checked} I have offered him to msu for their vet
    program was this the right thing to do? he Is member of our family

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