Four Things To Consdier When Your Horse Stops Eating

It’s always scary when your horse stops eating. Unfortunately, I’ve been through this with all three of my horses. One time they even did it at the same time! The type of not eating I’m talking about is when their eating either gradually slows till they’re eating a much smaller amount than normal. The second type is when they stop eating all together but over a period of time. If your horse suddenly stops eating from one meal to the next call your vet immediately, as this could be a sign of something life threatening.

It’s important to know your horse’s regular eating habits. My mare is naturally a very slow eater. It takes her forty-five minutes to eat her grain, and can take her until her next meal to finish the first one, but she always finished it. So when she starts leaving excessive amounts of feed behind (like in the cover photo) I start to worry. 

If my horse has stopped or slowed eating over a period of days there are a few things that I check for. Check out the list below, but remember you should always run things by your vet.


If my horse stops eating and is acting strange the first thing I check for is colic. Colic in horses can be fatal and should be treated immediately by your vet. Colic is essentially a stomach ache that can be caused by a variety of things. Signs of colic include lack of interest in food, biting at their stomach, sudden dropping to the ground and violently rolling, and no stomach sounds. Check out this article to learn more about colic.


If you’ve ruled out colic, the next thing you should check for is signs of illness. The first thing I check for is fever. Just like in humans fever is a sign something is wrong in you’re horse’s body. In addition to fever check your horse’s other vital signs if you know how so you can report them to the vet if needed. Also check for signs of coughing, sneezing, and discharge from the nose which might indicate your horse has picked up some sort of virus. If you notice anything abnormal about your horse’s vital signs or any signs of a virus you should call your vet.


This is something that should definitely be considered when your horse’s eating habits change. A history of ulcers is a good indication that ulcers have resurfaced. When my horse got diagnosed with ulcers she was eating maybe half her normal amount, and had no other signs of illness. This isn’t something you should treat on your own, and you should definitely call your vet. Ulcers can be an expensive and reoccurring battle for you and your horse. To learn more about ulcers check out this article


Now this is the one I’ve had the most experience with, well that and ulcers, but if your horse isn’t eating check to see if they don’t like their food. Has their food changed anyway? Is there something in their hay that shouldn’t be there? Have they just stopped liking their food? This last one has happened to me on numerous occasions. If you suspect this the best way to test for it is to offer your horse a different type of food.

For example my mare recently stopped eating well, we suspected ulcers as she’s had those before. When the treatment didn’t work, my vet came out to do a full work up and we found that there was a thistle in her hay that she didn’t like. It wasn’t toxic, she simply didn’t like eating it (it was pokey). We offered her a different hay and she chowed down without a second thought. It was such a relief, and an easy fix.

While it’s nice to know the possible reasons your horse might not be eating, it’s still important to have them looked over by your vet to rule out anything serious.