Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

Can pain cause behavioural changes?
Q: My normally bright alert and intelligent horse has suddenly developed a very alarming problem.

One evening when I called him over to the field gate for his feed, he carried his head very low with his nose almost on the ground. He found the bucket and consumed the contents but seemed unable to lift his head more that a few inches.

If I lifted his bucket he would not raise his head to eat. He was not interested in anything that was not directly in front of him on the ground and he seemed wary and spaced-out. He exhibited this behaviour on a few occasions but because of its intermittent nature the vet always missed the incidents.

I have now brought him in for the winter and, to start with, everything seemed fine. But he has started exhibiting this behaviour in the stable first thing in the morning. It normally lasts two or three hours and happens a couple of times as week.

He will not let us near his head during this period. He has never had an attack out riding and I can ride him half an hour after his 'turn' with no apparent ill effects. Blood tests show nothing abnormal, his eyes have been thoroughly checked and our vet is unable to provide any answers.

A: Your horse certainly has an unusual problem! It sounds unlikely that conventional diagnosis and treatment will help a great deal. I suspect there is a muscular or skeletal problem that is for some reason causing transient pain in the head and neck region.

This may tie in with the condition being worse in the morning after a night of inactivity in a cold stable. I think you should seek the help of an experienced osteopath to investigate whether this is the cause of the problem.

If his 'turns' are more of a behavioural or psychological nature, you might consider the use of herbal calming formulae to try and ease the situation. If these are going to be successful you should expect to see results after about two weeks of supplementation.


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