Horse with balance issues, leans,collapses and plows into my horse

Let me start off that I do feel sorry for horse I am speaking about in this post, on the other hand I am the advocate of my own horses wellbeing.

My BO took in an older horse with balance issues ( not sure the cause of balance issues or possibly combo of causes but… I know the horse was diagnosed with EPM, is said to have bad stifles via farrier and I can visibly see the amount of hock arthritis he has. :frowning:
As such when he walks his hindend is basically swinging all over the place, some times to the point it looks as if he will fall over while walking or has to “side pass " to get anywhere. While he stands he leans way over to one side looking " windswept”. I am amazed he can stand that way without falling to one side.

Also from lack of lying down to get REM sleep, he collapses from sleep deprivation

The problem now is— he is leaning on and/or plowing into on my horse on a consistent basis. ex: just walking into him when he wants to go somewhere and making him move out of the way by bulldozing him essentially ( mainly because my horse is slower walking than the other horses and the other horse will literally “walk him down” until my guy just gives up trying to walk/run away. the other horse wants to be by his side CONSTANTLY, I mean annoyingly so, like glue.

I have told the barn owner my concerns and even after I did, I get photos sent to me of my horse being leaned on with full body weight from the other horse thinking LOOK HOW CUTE! And the other responses to my concerns are " He ( my horse) can still turn around and kick him) "

I am sorry, but I know my horse won’t want to start a pecking order fight unless he is absolutely sure he can win it, and at 30yrs old with arthritis issues himself, that is not a good response to have in my opinion. The horse may be weak in the hindend but he definitely has his weight,size and bullying capabilitiy on his side vs my guy. (Heck. I can suckered punch a guy 2x my size once…but probably only once)

I do not find the BO’s pictures cute or responses agreeable.

I have lately found my horse oddly covered in wet sloppy mud ( in a very peculiar pattern, NOT looking like a normal rolling, but rather falling down ex: mud all down the FRONT of his chest, also down his shoulder,etc.)

my horse does not usually roll in wet sloppy mud , so that is so a red flag ( especially with other dry places to roll)

In my opinion it seems my horse has been on a downward spiral ever since this horse was added to the herd.

I have asked for my guy to be separated from the other horse or vice versa, but seems BO doesn’t think it is needed.

BO really has not taken the time to watch the antics of the herd.

I am at my wits end, but I think it is cruel to even think about moving a very much older horse from his herdmates that he is accustomed and the barn life he has known for many years.

I am just trying to get some ideas other than the obvious one…MOVE!

Also what are some signs that an older horse should be separated from the herd to you?

The sign you are probably asking about, other than what you stated is if your guy starts to lose weight.

I would say that if you want your guy in a separate paddock that must happen or move.

I find it hard to imagine the other horse from your description, but it does sound like a horse that is being kept alive where as it might be kinder not to.


Thank you for your reply. If you need some visualization-

Sidewinder Syndrome in Horses looks a great deal like it but that is just a term to describe symptoms not a diagnosis of the cause.

Here is a link of a vid I found. ( This is NOT the horse, but a lot like it movement wise)

That’s sounds awful! The horse is probably leaning on yours because he’s at a near panicked state all the time. He knows he can’t escape any dangerous situation. He must feel incredibly vulnerable. Is the owner a rescuer? They can take things too far and forget about the basic mental health of a horse that cannot live with the very core needs of eating, sleeping and moving away from danger. Providing security and companionship for this special needs horse should not be at the expense of your horse’s health. Your horse is too old for this extra weight. Moving him away from the other horse is necessary to keep him from being injured.


This is dangerous. Are the owners of the other horses in the herd aware of this situation? If you can get a group together to speak to the barn manager, that may have more impact. Also, if there is a vet involved (I hope there is), maybe try to have them speak to the barn owner.

Otherwise, after being ignored repeatedly, I would speak very firmly to the barn manager about my expectations for my horse’s housing and care. This may mean the end of your time at this barn, but this is a serious safety issue for your horse and the people who handle these horses.


Do you think maybe your horse is now sleep deprived / not lying down with the mud stains or do you think he’s being pushed over? I understand you don’t want to move your horse, but if the BO doesn’t recognize this other horse is a hazard and severely neurological, and if the horse’s owner also doesn’t see any of this as being not pasture sound, then I’m afraid your only option is to move. You won’t be able to change this other horse as he likely can’t help himself, and if BO won’t move him, then you will have to move yours.


Is there another pasture your horse can move to? I’d just say to the BO “I am not comfortable having my horse in with ‘insert name here’. My horse is being bullied by him and I also feel unsafe entering a pasture with a severely neurological horse. I’d like my horse moved pastures. Please let me know when this will be done and I’ll be there to assist. Thanks”

If she says no, then I’d move. It’s obviously not ideal but a severely neuro horse is a safety hazard and the fact that the BO would have one on the property around clients is just mind boggling to me. All it takes is that horse loosing control of its hind end once and she has a massive lawsuit on her hands. It’s not like she can say that she didn’t know he was dangerous.


I have seen this more than once. I would insist the owner move one or the other. If the poor horse (and my heart aches for him) goes down while leaning on yours and their legs get tangled up… I have seen IV DMSO help these horses on the very short term. It could be cervical arthritis (that was the case for the two I am familiar with). Can you ask that a vet examine this horse? It really is a dangerous situation and when it really goes south, it’s horrible.


Oh, that is so sad. My heart goes out to that poor neurological horse. :frowning_face:

OP, I think the writing is on the wall for you. If someone can be at peace and unconcerned with a neurological horse to the degree you described, they are not a person I would entrust my horse’s care in.


I would move the horse to a new barn. Your BO is aware of the situation, has seen enough to capture it on camera, and thinks it is insignificant/funny enough to send the photos to you. That is a complete lack of horsemanship, not a lack of observation skills on her part IMHO. A responsible BO would have whisked your horse (or their horse) to a new field/paddock in order to keep both of them safe, the minute they saw what was going on. A neurological horse who is known to collapse using another, senior horse to prop themselves up is a serious welfare concern, and personally I wouldn’t want my horse in the care of someone who considers such a thing acceptable.

It sounds like a very sad situation, for all horses involved. I would much rather trailer a 30 year old horse to a new, safer barn than have to euthanize him because he broke his leg being knocked down by a bully horse.

Not specific to senior horses per se, but here are things that I would consider signs a horse should probably be moved from a herd:

  • Losing weight, either because they are stressed or because they are being denied access to food by other horses
  • Ulcer symptoms appearing after the introduction of a ‘problem’/aggressive horse
  • Multiple bite wounds in a short amount of time; severe bite wounds
  • Kick wounds, especially on hinds around the hocks (In my experience it can be indicative of a bully turning around and wailing on the horse or two horses fighting for dominance)
  • Continuous aggressive/bullying/chasing behaviour, especially if the horse is ostracized/singled out from the herd by one horse
  • Being mounted by other horses; being otherwise harassed by inappropriately studly horses; being inappropriately harassed by mares in strong heat (I don’t think it’s fair when a mare refuses to leave an uninterested gelding alone)
    -Extreme rambunctiousness with certain herd mates (I do think horses should be turned out with buddies, but if they are constantly playing, play fighting, and winding up injured, they might to better with a different companion who doesn’t wind them up)
  • Being the ‘chew toy’ of the herd (if it is causing distress to the horse or owner - personally I don’t want my horse to look like they’ve been chewed on, even if they don’t mind it), being leaned on inappropriately, being knocked over
  • Related to the above point, inability to escape other horses due to poor mobility (sadly I saw this play out with a lovely senior mare, she just couldn’t ‘move’ fast enough for the younger horses. What should have been quick corrections/food takeovers would turn into severe chasing/bullying episodes until she was moved to a new paddock)

Exactly, Horses are just TOO BIG to be forced to live with major mobility issues.


If you feel that your horse is in danger of being injured, and the barn owner is not concerned or interested in rectifying the situation, your best bet is to move your horse to a different boarding situation. Sounds like this current situation has a nasty mud situation which isn’t stellar for your horse.

If the horse in question is truly obviously in need of intervention and euthanasia, being kept alive out of a misguided desire to extend life past where it should end (in your opinion), call your local SPCA and explain the situation to them- see if they agree with you when they send an officer out to take a look. Keeping seriously damaged and aged horses alive with problems like this is not in the best interest of the horse. Especially turned out with other horses in a muddy situation.

If you have not already tipped your hand to the barn owner that it is YOU who made the call, you may be able to keep your call to the SPCA confidential, and stay boarding at this farm, if this is what you want to do.


Moving the horse out of the herd means taking him away from his friends regardless of whether it’s on the same property or a different one. I’ve had to move older horses out of groups that were too rough. They’ve done so much better when they’re out and able to relax without worrying about the problem horses.

Ask yourself how you’re going to feel next week if you find your horse three legged lame because you didn’t fix the problem. I left a problem for a few days over twenty years ago and have had to deal with the resulting injury ever since. I don’t leave things any longer than necessary, and if I can do a temporary thing to deal with it while I work on a long term resolution I’ll do it.


It is very much not safe to have a neuro-compromised horse out with others. I had a horse who developed similar symptoms in her old age. Our best guess is that she had a tumor that impinged on her spinal cord occasionally. EPM was negative. When she flared, she was moved to a small sacrifice area while the vets treated her. She would recover in 2-3 days, and stay there an extra week or so before returning to her herd just to be safe. If the vets weren’t able to reverse the symptoms, we would not have hesitated to put her down.

I’d move your horse if the BO doesn’t agree to remove the new horse.


I wonder what happened?


You are the only advocate your horse has. It’s up to you to keep him safe.

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We had a 29yr old TB that began to travel sideways and was getting progressively worse. The vet and i agreed that it was neurologic and the horse was in danger of hurting himself or others so we did the merciful thing and put him down.

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