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How to Tell If a Horse is a Bleeder

When it comes to equine health, one of the most concerning issues is the presence of a bleeding disorder. This can arise in any horse, but certain breeds are more prone to the condition than others. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a bleeders can help you diagnose and treat the issue quickly and effectively, ensuring your horse’s well-being.

What is a Bleeder?

A bleeder is a horse that suffers from a condition known as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). This is a condition where blood vessels in the horse’s lungs burst and bleed due to increased exertion. The condition is usually most severe in horses that are pushed hard during exercise, such as race horses and show horses. While any horse can suffer from EIPH, certain breeds are more predisposed to the condition, such as Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Arabians and Quarter Horses.

Signs and Symptoms of EIPH

The signs and symptoms of EIPH can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In most cases, however, it is easy to recognize the presence of a bleeder. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of EIPH:

• Increased respiratory rate – horses with EIPH will typically have an increased respiration rate, especially after exercising.

• Coughing – horses with EIPH will often have a harsh, dry cough.

• Blood in the nostrils – this is the most obvious sign of EIPH, as blood will often be visible in the nostrils after exercise.

• Exercise intolerance – horses with EIPH will often be unable to keep up with the rest of the field during racing or show events.

• Poor performance – horses with EIPH may also exhibit poor performance during exercise, as the condition can cause fatigue and breathing problems.

Tests for EIPH

If you suspect your horse may be a bleeder, it is important to seek veterinary advice. A veterinarian can perform tests to confirm the presence of EIPH, including:

• Endoscopy – this involves inserting a small camera into the horse’s nose and throat to look for signs of bleeding.

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• Blood tests – these can detect the presence of protein in the horse’s blood, which can indicate bleeding in the lungs.

• X-ray – this can show the presence of fluid in the lungs, which is an indication of EIPH.

Treatment for EIPH

If your horse is diagnosed with EIPH, the veterinarian may recommend a number of treatments to reduce the severity of the condition. These may include:

• Medication – anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators can be used to reduce inflammation and improve breathing.

• Surgery – in some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the affected tissue.

• Rest – rest is important to give the horse time to recover and reduce the risk of further bleeding.

• Diet – a diet high in protein and fatty acids can help to strengthen the walls of the horse’s lungs.

• Supplements – certain supplements, such as vitamin E, can help to reduce inflammation and improve the horse’s overall health.

Prevention of EIPH

The best way to prevent EIPH is to take steps to ensure your horse is in peak physical condition. This may include:

• Regular exercise – regular exercise is important to keep the horse in peak condition and reduce the risk of EIPH.

• Balanced diet – a balanced diet is essential for maintaining the horse’s health, as well as ensuring it is getting the nutrients it needs.

• Adequate rest – giving the horse plenty of rest after exercise is important to prevent EIPH.

• Regular checkups – regular checkups with the veterinarian can help to ensure the horse is in good health and identify any signs of EIPH.


EIPH is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a horse’s health and performance. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a bleeder can help you diagnose and treat the condition quickly and effectively. Taking steps to ensure your horse is in peak physical condition, such as exercising regularly and providing a balanced diet, can also help to reduce the risk of EIPH.