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"constipated" horse - anyone seen this before?

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    "constipated" horse - anyone seen this before?

    My horse (10 yo TB/TK gelding) has this frustrating idiosyncrasy that I'm increasingly convinced has a physical cause. Please help!

    Before he passes manure while working, there is this whole lead-up time where he gets crooked, cranky, and hopelessly un-forward. He's a forward-moving horse normally, but when this is going on, he's sticky and resistant and at times will flat-out refuse to move beyond the walk. But when he finally poops, a minute later he's back to normal - forward and light to the leg.

    I've never seen or heard of this in another horse before - has anyone else? Other info:

    - He's done this since as long as I can remember (I bred and raised him), but it's much worse lately and seems to take over every ride. Used to be something occasional, and wouldn't take as long.

    - I have NEVER seen him pass manure while moving, under any circumstance.

    - Manure is normal, once he finally produces it!

    - He had colic surgery for a large colon impaction six years ago. No recurrence since.

    - The behavior is consistent with different saddles, and even without a saddle

    - If I dismount, I can get him to move forward with more success on the longe, but he still goes crooked and swishes his tail/holds it funny. He'll move, but he's definitely not happy about it.

    - He drinks water frequently. He has 24/7 turnout, eats grass hay, whole oats, and a V&M supplement.

    Any ideas as to a physical cause that could make it painful or difficult to pass manure? Is there a safe, mild laxative I could try feeding to see if it makes a difference? Thanks in advance for your insight!


    Why don't you ask the vet?
    Off Topic Discussion about Life, Interests & Politics


      It's probably something gone funky deep within the innards of his intestinal tract. Definitely consult a vet.
      Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!


        Definitely, my vet is coming out soon and I'm having her check this out. Just wanted to see if others have experienced this before or might have some other clues or ideas.


          I wonder if there's maybe a sore spot, like a neuroma or something, in the old surgical site?

          Definitely keep us posted, and I hope it's nothing serious. Normal poo is a good sign, though.


            Hmmm ... yes, that could make sense. I'll put that on the list of questions for the vet. Thanks for bringing it up.


              Wow - I ride with a woman whose horse acts the same way. We can always tell when he has to poop!


                My first horse was like this. I used to say that I could tell when the poop was still up by his ears. Just our silly joke about the amount of time he wasn't 100% focused on me and what I was asking. It started out subtle but I could feel it -- then, as the load approached the exit, he was downright obstinate and felt like he was wearing cement pants.

                He wasn't a show horse and I never thought of asking the vet -- also, he never had colic issues or any other internal upset so I wrote it off as a quirk. I'll be curious to see if the vet has other ideas or things for you to try (then I will feel guilty about my poor old boy!).
                Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.


                  This may seem like a silly question, but how does he behave before passing manure when not under saddle?

                  I only ask because my 22 year old gelding has never mastered the art of walking and pooping, and preferrs to pick where he wants to desposit it, and gets a bit annoyed when either riding or being handled interfers with the whole process. He has no physical issues, but will get a bit cranky if being ridden and he has to go (and he will lock up the brakes when he has to).
                  There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


                    It started out subtle but I could feel it -- then, as the load approached the exit, he was downright obstinate and felt like he was wearing cement pants.


                    Ha! Downright obstinate and wearing cement pants says it perfectly. Guess I am glad to hear that mine isn't the only horse in the world with this issue!

                    Of course I don't want to there to be some nefarious underlying cause, but on the other hand, it'd be great to find a solution because it's really interfering with our training lately. I'm scratching my head now wondering if there is a seasonal association to how exaggerated this is. I have to start taking notes. (An aside - just thought now of how that conversation would go with a non-horsey friend, explaining why it's a normal and logical thing to keep a diary of a horse's bowel habits.)

                    MunchkinsMom - to your question about how he behaves when not under saddle: If I'm working him from the ground I can tell when we're in pre-poop mode. Swishing tail, sticky about forward. A little better than under saddle but it's there.

                    On his own time, I never noticed any strange rituals, but I can tell you that he never poops on the move. He has some areas he generally uses but is not one of those neat-freak horses who keeps a tidy potty area.


                      I'll be curious to what your vet says.

                      I know people say that horses are not calculating but..

                      one of my friends made a big point to always walk her gelding around when she started him if she thought he had to poop. She'd let him meander about.. not doing anything really.. for a LONG TIME. The time got longer and longer. And longer. And he was really pissed when she would finally put him to work. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen, but she had a horse who would NOT poop U/S and she was determined that this one would. Talk about one extreme to the other....
                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                        Could it be related to discomfort in the abdominal musculature,which could be more pronounced when being under saddle?
                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                          Originally posted by equiclick View Post
                          - If I dismount, I can get him to move forward with more success on the longe, but he still goes crooked and swishes his tail/holds it funny. He'll move, but he's definitely not happy about it.
                          I'm sorry, I'm giggling to myself, because I put myself in your horse's shoes for a minute, imagining that I had to "go" and someone was making me walk. I would be walking funny too!

                          Hopefully there is no underlying medical issue, and that he is just picky about where and when he has to go.
                          There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


                            well, this isn't really related, but I've had my horse for 8 years and he has never pooped undersaddle. In the cross ties before and after yes. On a 5 hour conditioning ride, nope.

                            My horse does have a hay belly that came up in one day. The vet diagnosed a displaced colon and cecum and in it's new position it had space to expand. Amazingly never (knock on wood really hard) caused a colic and vet says it happens all the time with out people knowing about it. It becomes a problem when it twists while in the process of displacing.. big problem.

                            Like I said, not related, but a tid bit of my horses wierd digestive tract.


                              My first trainer told me horses are perfectly capable of moving and pooping (can't stop when the predators are chasing you), so they don't need to stop in the middle of a hunter round. I suppose they prefer to stop, though-seems that way when I'm on a trail ride.


                                I might wonder if ther isn't an adhesion from the surgery causing some momentary discomfort, but you say he's alsways been like that...
                                "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


                                  I'll share a funny related story sort of on the lines of what EQ was saying...

                                  My first horse, the real Buck, is a heavy drinker and pees a lot. When I was a new owner, I thought it a courtesy to, in addition getting up off his back (stand up in saddle), allowing him to graze a bit while he peed. Huge mistake.

                                  Calculating mustang that he is, it didn't take long for him to figure out that every time he peed he got to snack. So he began to save his pee. It started as him peeing 2-3 times on a 3 hour trail ride, then 4 or 5, then 6 or 7. Not seeing the pattern, I panicked the day he stopped to pee 5x in 30 minutes on a trail ride. I was really upset thinking he had kidney problems and was riding home to call the vet. He stopped again to pee on the way home, I was upset and didn't let him graze that time and oh boy was he ticked off! Bing bing bing, lightbulb went off I was a sucker!

                                  I've always been really bad about kicking my horse on when he has to go (I'm stupidly meek about it, I wouldn't want someone kicking ME while I went), so, I have always had horses that will slow down or stop to go to the toilet. The clever ones will dawdle too, to waste time... the really clever ones will have to go just when work is cooking along, I swear it breaks the momentum of the school purposefully. I absolutely believe horses can be calculating in their toilet habit.
                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                                    What are you feeding him? Beet pulp helped pull water into my broodies intestinal tract and kept her from impaction....worked like a charm. I swear by it.
                                    The rider casts his heart over the fence,
                                    the horse jumps in pursuit of it.

                                    Hans-Heinrich Isenbart


                                      My late gelding did something similar. He'd just stop to poop and then let out a huge grunt. He did not have normal looking poop though (cow patties), and the vet thought he had an "old colon".

                                      He did this since I met him in his teens and it was no biggie for me. After all, I wouldn't want to be jogging and pooping at the same time either


                                        Totally familiar with this situation... After a few years of trying feed changes, various supplements, etc. I had great success with Chinese herbs and acupuncture. Since I can't even begin to properly explain the TCVM reasoning for this, the best Western diagnosis was that the nerves that were supposed to tell a certain part of the intestine to contract were not working properly so hence the horse felt "full" but had trouble passing the load. Mine also never, even when nervous, passed manure while on the move. But even when I knew he really needed to "go" because he would feel like his pelvis was tilted up and would go slightly off on the right hind... if I just stopped and walked he almost seemed to forget about it. But once we we trotting or cantering the tail would be really high and occassionally my trainer could see the fecal ball coming, but it would get sucked back in... Finally, he would come to a grinding halt, sometimes grunt, and poop fairly normal consistency poop but an extraordinarily large volume. After a little walk break he would resume the work without the right hind issue nor the high tail and tilted pelvis...
                                        When the right acupuncture points were treated with B12, the difference would be miraculous - like immediately. It would last about three weeks, but now with regular treatment seems to be trending better... He still can't poop on the move, but it's never more than a minute of "Oh, he must need to poop" and then the deed is done as opposed to twenty minutes of frustrating, uncomfortable work. I did find that when he was really bad, not working him did result in colic so the work did help.
                                        All the feed changes never really made a difference nor did the supplements and believe me I tried them all... Going with his pelvis tilted did affect his back/SI joints so we also treated those with Sarapin once we figured out how to solve the pooping issue. Good luck with this frustrating and embarrassing problem. For two years we've been chasing GP dressage which is near impossible when your horse can't "sit" because he is busing pushing up and backwards and coming to a grinding halt even in the midst of an extended canter... Also waaay embarrassing!!