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Why Does My Horse Roll?
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [1997]


A horse rolling in the pasture
© Cheryl Sutor


Why does my horse roll?

Horses roll for four different reasons: For pleasure, For self maintenance or grooming, to relieve pain or discomfort, or for rest. If your horse is not in a situation where rolling is dangerous or innapropriate, allow him to roll. It is one of the few personal pleasures a domesticated horse has, so let him enjoy it and don't worry about your wasted grooming job!


How do I know when my horse is about to roll?

He will show one of the following characteristics: pacing in circles, blowing the dirt with his nose, pawing at the ground, slightly bend his knees or lean to one side. If you are in a situation (like at a horse show, or while you are riding), and it is innapropriate or dangerous for your horse to roll, be sure to watch for these signs and correct the behavior before he actually lays down to roll.


Why does my horse roll just after being untacked?

Horses roll just after being untacked to ease the irritation of drying sweat, by drying the sweat with dirt. This dirt acts as an extra layer of protection against biting insects.


Where do horses like to roll?

Horses in a herd usually share the same spot for rolling. They will normally return to the same spot to roll every time. When you see your horse blowing the ground with his nose, he is checking that the rolling spot is free from debris and that there is adequate amount of dirt for comfort.


Bay horse, safely rolling in sand
© Katie Flood


Did you know...

The way a horse rolls is an indicator of its health. A healthy horse with a good, strong back will vigorously roll from one side to the other without standing up first. When the healthy horse stands up after a good roll, he will usually go for a nice run and may buck a few times. Many horses with high set withers will lay down and vigorously roll on one side, stand up, and immediately lay down to roll on the other side...no need to worry because this action is healthy. The horse must stand up because his conformation does not allow him to roll completely over.

An unhealthy horse or one with a weak back may roll on one side very briefly then get up and walk away without immediately laying down to roll on the other side. Some unhealthy horses will refuse to roll at all. If this is the case, talk with your veterinarian and have him check your horse's back for soreness and/or other problems.

Most Equine Chiropractors believe that rolling may correct vertebral subluxations naturally. They have noticed that horses who have the freedom to roll and run free often have less chiropractic problems. By allowing your horse to roll, you may be preventing some future health problems!

Rolling plays a very important roll in your horse's health. When he rolls, he is stretching all the muscles in his spine, neck, barrel, flanks, and buttocks. Rolling helps maintain his body's flexibility and health. Many horse owners regularly turn their horses out individually in a sand arena to roll. A well-kept sand arena is a very safe place to roll and horses love it!





All content on this website is Copyrighted © 1997-2002, Cheryl McNamee-Sutor,
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This article was published on: 1997. Last updated on: 1997.