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ADR. It’s a term used by veterinarians to describe a horse that isn’t really sick, but isn’t really well, either. The initials stand for “Ain’t Doin’ Right”. We use ADR to describe the horse that might be off his feed a bit, or seems a little depressed. It’s that horse that just isn’t him or herself. Your vet listens to your observations and starts checking all those things we are trained to do. The horse’s temperature and pulse are taken. We listen to heart and lungs, look at oral membranes, listen for gut sounds and maybe do a rectal exam. There are times when we are as thorough as we can be but still are mystified. Sometimes even ultrasounds and blood samples don’t help to pinpoint the problem. During the exam the horse may seem BAR, another short hand term which stands for bright, alert, and responsive.

When I was just out of school I would say, “There is nothing wrong with this animal.” It didn’t take me too many months to learn that just because I can’t find it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. The fact is that no one knows that horse better than you, his owner or trainer, the person who is around that animal every day. You get your clues from the little ways that a horse just doesn’t seem to be on his game. You might live with the situation for a day or two and finally call for professional help.

Stop and think about it. You and I have days when we are ADR. You don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but you just aren’t feeling right. Someone who just met you wouldn’t pick up on it. However, a spouse, relative, or close friend might be aware of your state even before you are If you go to the doctor he, like your vet with your horse, may not find a thing.

Lots of horses that are ADR will snap back in a day or two, just like you often do. Others don’t. The ADR state may be a prelude to more serious problems. Two syndromes that come to mind that may start with a horse being ADR are Lymes and gastric ulcers.

So, what do you do when your horse is ADR? First, listen to, and trust that inner voice that is telling you that something isn’t right. If you think your horse is off, he probably is. When behavior or attitude seem different, take note of it. Nothing makes a horse so much “not himself” as a fever. If you don’t have a thermometer in your tack trunk or first aid kit, get one the next time you go by a drug store. The oral digital thermometers work great for taking rectal temperatures. Take it before he gets sick so you know what normal is. If you don’t know how to get a pulse rate on your horse, ask someone who does, and get taught. Learn what a normal gut sounds like. Keep a separate loose leaf or spiral note book for every horse, and record your findings on a good day and then when your horse is in that ADR state.

Learn these skills and then your vet will be more comfortable with saying, “keep an eye on him and give me a call tomorrow.” If you have taken the ADR condition seriously early on, and your vet knows that you can accurately asses your horse’s condition, everyone benefits.


– David A. Jefferson, D.V.M

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