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Apparent heart attack

Hi, I’m new to COTH forums.

I just received news that our (otherwise) completely healthy 13 year old gelding died of an apparent heart attack. I am wondering if this is a common thing or if it was something that was preventable. I am extremely torn up about this event. He was a daily lesson horse but I don’t think his work load was very heavy.

Please, any advice is welcome. I am going to be researching heart attacks later. Also, how can a vet know it was a heart attack if he was already gone upon discovery?


Very very sorry. I had one that had a similar thing. I went to do barn check at night, after they had been out, brought them in, gave dinner, and he was sweating. Not lathered, and not running in his stall, but upset and sweaty. I called vet waiting for callback, took him out of stall, and as weird as it was, he didn’t want to step down on front leg, but no visible damage! Nothing hot or swollen, and would step on it. Put him back in stall, went to get Banamine, because clearly he was distressed, came back and he was dead. I can’t stop thinking about him. I had him buried without necropsy, I was just so upset, and upset how quickly everything appeared to happen.:frowning:

You’ll need a vet to tell you how they can know he died from a heart attack. I’m sure there’s typical signs.

But to answer your question, I did know one that died, apparently in his sleep. Had a PPE that afternoon, rode for vet uneventfully, passed vet and was put away. Had dinner, night check, and found dead in his stall next morning. Looked like he was simply sleeping.

Horse was 3 yrs old. Vet thought aneurism but they never did necropsy, so again, not sure how they determined that vs heart failure.

So sorry. Something like this is so traumatic. I had adopted a young mini, and one morning came out to find him dead, not a mark on him, no illness that I knew of. Vet thought maybe some type of aneurysm. Or could have been his heart, I didn’t get a necropsy done. The only other times I have lost horses were medical crises - leg fracture in the pasture, colic, etc. When it’s a mystery like this it’s a little harder to take, I think.

Could also have been an aneurysm, considering your statement about not being able to put his foot down (neuro).

I lost one of my beloved homebred babies at age 18, in what seemed like in an instance — but more violently that what you dealt with. I don’t think I’ve really gotten over it, though a fast death is better than long-suffering.

So, so sorry to hear this about your horse.:cry:

I’m so sorry this happened. :frowning:

For what it’s worth, instant death in an otherwise healthy/young horse isn’t that rare. I’ve seen it happen too many times to consider it rare, as have a lot of other horse folks I know.

Aortic aneurysm and brain aneurysms happen. Many times there aren’t any obvious signs before it happens. I’ve seen it happen quite a few times…a friend’s horse dropped right out from under her, gone before it hit the ground. Saw a turnout group running for fun all over and saw one pony drop mid-gallop…we honestly thought it had been shot. It went from an all out run/buck/fart playing gallop to hitting the ground and sliding. It happens on race tracks, at horse shows, in barns and in fields.

It just happens…and many times there’s no way to know one’s coming. It doesn’t have much to do with the care the horse receives either.

My deepest condolences to you…it’s extremely tough on the owners when there isn’t any rhyme or reason to their beloved pets being there one minute and gone the next.

Thanks Sid…That’s what I kept thinking…At least it was quick, but still miss him daily. He was my fav, and I haven’t been able to ride yet…I have others, and I have a lot of good excuses, but…they aren’t him.:frowning:

O.P. you don’t say where you are located, but there has been some feed contaminated with Monensin. It was produced by ADM Alliance Nutrition. Monensin is an antibiotic used in cattle feed that causes heart damage in horses. If you have been feeding ADM, or if you horse had access to cattle feed that could be an answer.

I know it wasn’t the feed. I heard about the poisoning. That is tragic. Especially knowing your horse is going to die, but not knowing when.

But it may have been an aneurism. It seems like this isn’t as rare as I thought it was… :frowning: ugh. I’m very torn up. I moved to Washington and he is still in Alaska. Thanks for your reply. We are having him cremated in the morning… Without a necropsy… Although, I wish I did get one… That would make this a whole lot easier to know what happened for sure…

Ugh, it seems like it happens more often than it should. Thank you for your kind words and helpful advice. Its especially hard being thousands of miles away and only being able to hear about it from a phone call… It’s terrible… I wish I was home with him… :frowning:

I recall that at the time of Hickstead’s death, there were many discussions where it was stated that horses don’t have heart attacks. Aneurysms, yes, but heart attacks no.

I am so sorry. Very traumatic. Hope you have lots of great memories of him.

Dear OP, I am so very sorry for your loss. It is so hard to lose one, and I can only imagine how hard it is when you are so far away.
My understanding is that horses do not have heart attacks in the same way that humans do, but that they can have ruptured aortas or aortic aneurysms Which, I believe is what happened to Hickstead.
This happens fairly often, to breeding stallions, racehorses, eventers… and horses at home, just playing in the field.
It is how my stallion’s sire died.
Devastating for everyone, so very sorry for everyone who has lost a horse in this way.

A friend of mine was cantering when her horse died of an aneurism. She almost broke her neck that day when he suddenly collapsed. He was dead before he hit the ground. Thank god they were not galloping but just quietly cantering around the ring. I was there watching, and will never forget it. :frowning:

I’m really sorry for your loss.

I found my healthy 9 year old dead in the field with no signs of struggle, and in a place she wouldn’t have chosen to lie down, so something dropped her suddenly. The vet said it was probably a ruptured aorta. I didn’t do a necropsy. It was a huge shock with a horse who was just coming into her prime. I’m sorry it happened to you, too.