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My horse suddenly has drawn up flanks! What does this mean?

I have a 5 yr old 15h buckskin Azteca gelding, and after lightly lunging him I noticed his flanks have drawn up on both sides. I don’t know how long its been there, but I haven’t noticed it before. I already performed the pinch hydration test, which was normal, and after I put him away, he pooped and ate hay. I love my boy, and this is probably normal, but I just want to make sure. Thanks!

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I had a young horse get this from allergies in spring. It was a heaves line and he needed allergy meds. Is your guy coughing at all?

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Nope, he had a wet nose after lunging him though.

Does he have a winter coat that’s long? Sometimes, horses drop condition in cold weather and we don’t notice it because of their coats. A little sweat helps the hair lay down and their flanks can show that they need an increase in hay. Hay keeps horses warm in the winter. Good quality hay, and plenty of it, will keep them in good weight. It can really sneak up on you if you see them every day. Their barrel makes them look fine, but that sunken flank could be a sign they need more hay. Depending on your local temperatures, you may need a 50% or more increase from the amount he gets in the summer. Increase the hay slowly and make sure his water intake is increasing as well to avoid impaction colic.


Don’t rely solely on a pinch test either for hydration.

Check his water sources and if heated make sure there is no stray voltage that is keeping him from drinking. Easy enough to get a 5 gallon bucket with fresh water and offer it to see if he is thirsty or not.

Increase his forage too.

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You couldn’t go wrong to temp him, count respirations, get a heart rate, check his gums, look at his manure. If he’s drawn up and that’s a change you’re doing the right thing to notice and gather data.

We all should have baselines on our horses when they are feeling/looking normal. When things go wrong then we have those numbers to compare.