Cough Mystery

I rode my horse last Wednesday and had a normal ride. Due to work and weather, I was unable to ride again until Saturday. He warmed up fine, but when I asked for a lope, he started coughing deeply. He had a snotty nose (yellowish). I immediately got him home and took his temp, it was 100.8. He coughed a few times and maybe seemed a bit down.

Sunday, I hopped on long enough to get a video of the cough. He had a smaller amount of nasal discharge, but coughed pretty quickly into the ride. Again, I only rode long enough to get a video of the cough. Temp was normal.

He saw the vet last night. Cough is much more frequent, nasal discharge is watery and a tad bit of mucus. No fever. Vet pulled blood, which was normal, lungs are clear. Breathing seems normal. He gave him several injectable antibiotics and told me to monitor for the next four days.

The horse was coughing in his stall and while eating this morning. Slight discharge. Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Has he been exposed anywhere to strangles? Is he UTD on vaccines? I would keep an eye on him and take the temp daily at a minimum.

He is vaccinated and he has not been anywhere with a Strangles outbreak. Vet was not concerned about it either. It’s just a weird cough with clear lungs.

Was he coughing while you were tacking up, or just once the ride started? Does he only cough while eating. Or also when hanging out in stall? Any food particles come out nose?


Maybe to something that made a recent appearance.

How old is the horse?

I’ve ridden only one horse with a deep, pretty constant cough, and she was the only horse of over 35 horses at the stable to have the cough.

Several years earlier my riding teacher asked me to rehabilitate this mare (“frozen by arthritis”). She had problems back then but did not have a terrible cough.

Until one winter. She developed this really deep wracking cough. Her whole body shook, her breathing got labored, and the coughing was LOUD. My riding teacher asked me to go on riding her (30 minutes, 2x a week, 95% walking) so the mare would get the considerable mucus out of her lungs.

A few years ago the stable stopped getting rye grass round bales, replacing them with other types of hay. The cough went away, and at around 40 years old this mare is still shuffling around. I stopped riding her a while ago, and now she parades around the farm, cough free, hanging out with her boyfriend.

He is 16 years old and has been overall healthy. On Saturday, he was only coughing when we were loping. Sunday, I noticed it when he was walking around the pasture. He does cough while eating and I have not noticed any food. Unsure of allergies. The weather has been wonky with a week of 75 degree weather to 30’s 40’s. No new things that might provoke an allergy. No round bales and no new hay supplier.

He gets 12 hours of turnout and we have an open shed row barn. Tonight there is little nasal drainage. The little bit there is clear. He coughed twice while eating, and maybe it was not as deep (I am hopeful???)

Scope him. Possibly a guttural pouch infection.

1 Like

If he is not better in a few days I plan to. What are the symptoms?

Yellowish or white discharge. Possible coughing or making a noise while working.

How is the hay fed outside? Where is it stored? There could be higher than usual counts of mold spores or bacteria. Even if it was limited to one or two bales it can take some time for the immune response to sort itself out.

1 Like

Hay is feed in his stall and is stored in a fully enclosed barn off the ground. I only heard him cough once this morning and discharge is clear. I am hoping that we are about to turn a corner. I am lunging him tomorrow and if he is still coughing, he will get a recheck on Friday. We are preparing for the World Show in about a month and I only have a short time to decide to scratch or not :confused:

1 Like

My mare had a bacterial lung infection with no fever. She started with coughing under saddle and then it progressed to yellow mucus. Did you get blood work done to see if there’s an infection? IMO allergies is usually not yellow mucus.

1 Like

Yes, it was normal. The vet was stumped. He seemed better the past two days but this morning I heard him coughing as I walked to the barn. He coughed a lot as he ate. The mucous is now clear or white and he seems to sneeze the cough. I guess it back to the vet :confused:

Maybe viral? My vet did mention she occasionally sees viral infections in horses who are vaccinated and don’t leave the property or are isolated. I’d think you’d see something in the blood work but maybe not?

FYi: I am bypassing my regular vet and taking him to Auburn next week for full diagnostic,


Good luck! Hope you find some answers.

Thanks. As karma would have it, at bed check, his nose is completely dry. I will do light exercise later this week. Even if he is better, I will still take him just for peace of mind.