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First Posted
Oct 29, 2012

Neck Problems in the Horse

Have you recently noticed that your horse may be off in his gait or may be dragging a toe or forelimb? Perhaps your horse is reluctant to move forward or is stiff when trying to bend. Maybe you notice that your horse has changed his head carriage and keeps his head in a fixed low position. There are many scenarios that could cause these symptoms but neck issues may be one of them!

A full assessment of the horse must be made to exclude other possible causes such as faulty conformation, muscle atrophy or overdevelopment of muscles in a specific area, back pain, lameness, neurological issues, heat, swelling, tendon or ligament issues, stifle, even improper shoeing, etc.

"Depending on the horse's clinical signs (forelimb lameness, neck pain, neurological signs, etc.) ...narrow down the list of possible neck problems into the most likely causes for each case. For instance, neck conditions veterinarians and owners should consider with signs of forelimb lameness include:

    Note: Graham Munroe, BVSc(Hons), PhD, CertEO, DESM, Dipl. ECVS, FRCVS, of Flanders Veterinary Services, in Scotland

  • Localized muscle soreness, which Munroe said can result from an asymmetrical rider, poor equipment fit, a fall, or pulling against restraints;
  • Osteoarthritis of the small articular joints in the neck (facet joints);
  • Cervical vertebrae fracture;
  • Tumors of the vertebrae, muscles, or ligaments;
  • Cystlike lesions in the cervical vertebrae;
  • Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative bacteria of Lyme disease; and
  • Nerve root injury associated with first rib trauma or abnormalities; ...
  • Trauma to the soft and/or bony tissue of the neck or poll;
  • Inflammatory disease such as lymph node or muscle abscessation, muscle damage, spinal nerve impingement, or damage to the jugular vein;
  • Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis of the cervical facet joints or rarely, disc disease between the neck vertebrae; and
  • Rarely, tumors within the neck."
  • Diagnosing Equine Neck Conditions

Below are some possible causes related to the neck region if your horse shows neurological signs.

Consider neck problems when evaluating poor performance in your horse. Neck conditions are quite common. It should be noted that neck issues are particularly seen in Warmblood breeds.

For More Information:

Diagnosing Equine Neck Conditions
Back and Neck Problems in Horses

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